SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) has welcomed the recommencement of the Planning Appeals Commission’s (PAC) Public Inquiry into the North South Interconnector.
Beginning on Wednesday 22nd February at the Armagh City Hotel, it will provide stakeholders with the opportunity to present their views on the project to the Planning Appeals Commission before a decision is made on the planning application.
The inquiry is expected to last up to three weeks, and it is hoped that a planning decision will be announced on the Northern Ireland section of the proposed development later this year.
A separate planning application submitted in the Republic of Ireland for the southern section of the proposal received planning permission from An Bord Pleanála in December 2016.
When in place, the proposed Interconnector will strengthen the all-island electricity network and provide significant benefits to consumers.
Major business and consumer organisations throughout the region are supportive of the project and have called for it to be developed as soon as possible to help reduce electricity costs, and to support the growth of the local economy.
SONI’s information office in Armagh, established in 2016 to make sure everyone has access to information about the proposed Interconnector, will be open to the public every weekday during the Public Inquiry.
Robin McCormick, General Manager of SONI said it is in the interests of everyone in Northern Ireland to see the project progress: “The North South Interconnector is without doubt the single most important infrastructure project on the island today.
“It is urgently required, and by allowing the full implementation of the all-island electricity market will result in significant savings to homes and businesses everywhere.
“It is also needed to ensure that Northern Ireland has enough electricity to meet demand in the coming years.
“The Public Inquiry is an opportunity for everyone with an interest in the project to participate in an independent planning process and we are pleased that this project, so critical to the Northern Ireland economy, has reached this stage.
“The hearing is timely and comes after the decision in December 2016, by the planning authority in the Republic of Ireland, to approve the southern element of the project.”
On the opening of the information office during the public inquiry, Mr McCormick said: “Effective engagement is a priority for SONI and we want to ensure everyone has access to all the information they need about the proposed Interconnector.
“Therefore our information office at 16 Russell Street, Armagh will be open to the public between 10am and 4pm every weekday during the PAC’s public inquiry.
“Members of our community and landowner engagement teams will be on hand to welcome anyone with questions or queries.
“The office operates via a drop-in system, but appointments outside these times can be arranged by getting in touch with SONI’s Agricultural Liaison Officer Fergal Keenan on 07966 930 844 or via email at email@example.com.
“As always I would encourage anyone with any questions to get in touch or to call in.”