New European guidelines throw “a spanner in the works” for the proposed North/South Interconnector which would run through rural Armagh.
In light of these new regulations SDLP councillor Thomas O’Hanlon has called for an urgent response from the Northern Ireland Executive.
The guidelines issued by the European Parliment and the European Council came to light during a recent public meeting hosted by SEAT and the Blackwater Regional Partnership in the Navan Centre.
Councillor O’Hanlon explained: “During a recent public meeting held in the Navan Centre which was addressed by lead SEAT campaigners John Woods and Jim Lennon along with Monaghan Fine Gael Councillor Owen Bannigan, the local community’s on-going response to the North South Interconnector was discussed and we heard that the continued opposition of land owners in particular was vital in ensuring this project is not rammed through our countryside with ugly overhead pylons.
“However Councillor Bannigan from Monaghan revealed that a recent publication by the European Parliament and European Council, Regulation (EU) No 347/2013 which issues strict guidelines on national governments for ‘trans-European energy infrastructure, will have a significant impact on the North South Interconnector as it crosses two European jurisdictions in that the project, in the eyes of the EU, straddles between Ireland and the UK.
“The document, whilst quite technical, places very strict guidelines on national governments and project promoters, in that they have set our very clear obligations on transparency and public participation.
“The document also defines when and how public consultations can and should take place. The regulations say that consultation process should, in this case, commence in both the North and South of Ireland within two months of each other, however with no live planning application currently in the system in the Republic of Ireland this really does throw a spanner in the works for the two Governments and the two energy companies.
“The application for the ‘North’ part of this project has been in the system for quite some time, so I would in the first instance question can this current application actually go ahead given these new regulations which all Governments are obliged to adhere to.
“Secondly, this application is with our Planning Appeals Service and NIE were sent back to the drawing board because of a large number of errors in its application and that hearing has yet to be recalled.
“Given all of this I have asked that the Council’s Chief Executive write to the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister who oversee the Planning Appeals Commission, the Energy Minister Arlene Foster and the Planning Minister Mark H Durkan asking them collectively along with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Dublin Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte urgently consider the implications of Regulation 347/2013 on this project.
“They must urgently withdraw all applications and consultations, they must start the process again and in doing so, if there is a real need for a North South Interconnector then they must listen to the genuine concerns of local communities and they should underground the project.
‘This regulation has real and legal implications for this project and the governments, north and south along with the energy companies cannot ignore it, for if they do they will be flouting European Law.
“I am pleased my colleagues from across the political parties on council agreed with my request to write to the various Ministers and we await the response.”
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