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Interconnector inquiry to get underway in city

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Interconnector inquiry to get underway in city thumbnailFergal and Orla Woods pictured with their children, are amongst those opposed to the use of overhead pylons as part of the North-South interconnector

THE latest phase of a public inquiry into the controversial North-South electricity interconnector is due to get underway in Armagh next month.

It is set to open at 10am on Wednesday, February 22, at Armagh City Hotel and continue on the Thursday and Friday of that week.

If necessary, it may also continue on Monday to Thursday, inclusive of subsequent weeks.

Last year, the initial phase of the public inquiry into the cross-border energy project reconvened in Armagh, after a four year delay.

Led by the Planning Appeals Commission, it had first opened in 2012, but was adjourned after it transpired the planning application and environmental statement had not been properly advertised.

In December, An Bord PleanŠla - the Republic of Ireland's planning appeals body - granted approval for the southern section of the £200 million cross-border interconnector project.

The two power grids would be connected by 138km of overhead lines between Moy in County Tyrone and County Meath.

A decision on planning approval for the northern section - which will be made by the Infrastructure Minister - is not likely until mid or late 2017, following the completion of the public inquiry.

However, the green-light in the south to Eirgrid's proposal - which is being overseen in Northern Ireland by System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) - is being viewed by many as a milestone for the project.

Planning permission for the northern section is being sought to carry out associated works required for the erection of the single circuit 400kV overhead line, comprising of 102 towers.

This would be over a distance of 34.1kms from Trewmount Road, Moy, to the border with the Republic of Ireland at the townland of Doohat or Crossreagh, with a further section of overhead line extending for 0.2kms across the townland of Crossbane.

Work would also include site levelling, site preparation works, amending existing access points, construction of new access points, lanes and working areas, as well as stringing areas, guarding, site boundary fencing and related mitigation works.

Associated works would also be required to amend the existing 275kV line, removing one existing 275kV tower and erection of two new 275kV towers, with works required to enable connection via a new 400/275kV substation at Trewmount Road, Moy.

Over the years, residents and landowners living along the proposed route of the controversial project have led many campaigns, amid fears the new overhead line would impact on health and the environment.

The Safe Electricity Armagh and Tyrone (SEAT) group was established in 2007, in response to plans having first been made public.

SEAT draws its members from households, businesses, community interests and represents approximately 90 per cent of landowners affected by the proposal.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Safe Electricity Armagh Tyrone (SEAT) reiterated the group's view that the cable should be placed underground.

“SEAT is not opposed to the North-South interconnector and completely understands the need for a better energy supply and the importance of a reliable service for Northern Ireland.

"However, along with landowners and affected residents on the proposed route, we are vehemently opposed to the use of dangerous high-voltage overhead pylons.

"We must not forget that nearly 6,500 people have signed a petition opposing a high-voltage overhead line.

“The reality of a series of large electricity pylons running through farmland and villages will have a negative impact.

"The size of the pylons and their frequency throughout the landscape will be detrimental to health, the value of local property, farming, and the beautiful unspoilt rural countryside of Armagh and Tyrone.

“SEAT instead proposes undergrounding the cable to reduce health and numerous other risks. This presents a modern and safe option that will not affect the health of the people."

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