Full planning permission for the 400kv overhead electricity line, known as the North South Interconnector, has been granted.
The proposed development will create a cross border electricity line with the Republic of Ireland.
The Department has today published the independent report prepared by the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) following a public inquiry into the proposal held in February 2017.
During the four day hearing, the Commission heard submissions and considered evidence from all parties before presenting its findings to the Department.
The PAC report includes full consideration of the planning issues and recommends that planning permission is granted.
Importantly, the report endorses the significant strategic importance of the development for Northern Ireland at an international, national and regional level and its compliance with planning policy.
In arriving at the final decision, the Department carefully considered and agreed with the independent report and recommendations of the PAC which states there is an urgent and compelling need for the proposed development.
The Department considered that it is in the public interest to take this decision, without further delay, given the strategic importance of the project for the region.
SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) welcomed today’s decision by the Department for Infrastructure.
SONI is responsible for the planning aspects of the project and will soon hand over to NIE Networks to build and maintain the interconnector.
Commenting on the planning decision, Robin McCormick, General Manager of SONI said working with landowners and the community will remain a priority.
“We very much welcome this positive outcome from the Department for Infrastructure,” said Mr McCormick.
“The North South Interconnector is undoubtedly the most important infrastructure scheme on the island today and will deliver very real benefits to domestic and commercial consumers.
“It has received strong support from businesses and employers because of the positive impact it will have on the economy, and from consumer groups as it will help reduce the cost of electricity.
“While we recognise this project is to the benefit of everyone, we will continue to work to ensure that it is delivered at the least possible impact to the communities and landowners who are hosting it.
“In the coming months we will hand over the project to NIE Networks who will construct the interconnector, in the meantime we will be on the ground engaging with landowners and the community, ensuring they remain up-to-date on progress and timelines.”
Ellvena Graham, President of NI Chamber, also welcomed the news.
She said: “The delivery of the North South Interconnector has been amongst the top infrastructure priorities for our members since 2009.
“We therefore welcome the department’s decision to grant permission for the project despite the lack of an Infrastructure Minister at Stormont – an action which will significantly speed up the delivery of the project.
“The North South Interconnector is urgently required to improve security of electricity supply in Northern Ireland. To this regard, the timely delivery of the proposed interconnector will allow the all-island wholesale electricity market to work more efficiently, enabling wider competition between power generators and electricity suppliers throughout the island, and therefore ensuring that future electricity prices will be as competitive as possible.
“Businesses and employers need access to electricity in the most cost efficient manner possible, and the Interconnector is key to achieving this.”
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