Plans to roll out a pylon line connecting Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland’s electricity grids have been rejected by Armagh, Craigavon and Banbridge Council.
The council rejected the plans by a total of 17 votes to 8 with 2 abstentions and one no vote.
Conservationists, sporting organisations and local residents have criticised proposals to build the 25-mile power line with 102 pylons from Moy to the border in Co Armagh.
The interconnector has already been the subject of a public enquiry and its proposal led to the formation of local lobby group SEAT (Safe Electricity for Armagh and Tyrone), who for the past five years have demanded that the power lines be laid underground amid health fears.
The council rejection came in spite of a briefing by SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland), the company responsible for the project, to councillors before the vote.
SONI said it has reaffirmed its commitment to positive engagement with local representatives and the community.
The 28 Councillors who attended heard how the interconnector would strengthen the electricity grid specifically in the Armagh and Tyrone Region, as Mr Brennan explained: “The North South Interconnector, would be an enabler for economic development in the Armagh and Tyrone Area – by strengthening the grid here, we ensure a secure supply of electricity, which is essential for manufacturers and investors. “The interconnector would also mean that the likes of big data centres or large IT companies could tap into the grid almost seamlessly, which we know is very attractive to them.”
The planning application for the Interconnector project has been referred to a Planning Appeals Commission Public Inquiry, so the application will not be determined by the Armagh Banbridge Craigavon (ABC) Council.
Given that the majority of the transmission line is proposed with the ABC Council area, Wednesday night’s special
council meeting, which was requested by SONI provided councillors with the opportunity to hear more about the project and the Public Inquiry process.
Speaking after the meeting, SONI General Manager Robin McCormick said: “We’re very pleased to have had the opportunity to speak to the new Council and would like to thank the members for the positive engagement. SONI remains committed to ongoing dialogue with local councillors and the community.
“As discussed during the meeting, the North-South interconnector the single most important infrastructure project in Northern Ireland and indeed on the island of Ireland.
“While we are disappointed by the Council’s decision not to support the project, we understand that some people do have concerns about it. We hope that through ongoing engagement and dialogue we can allay those concerns. We would like to extend all ABC Councillors an invitation to meet the project team, to discuss the issues further.”
Ultimately the planning decision is a matter for the Planning Appeals Commission and the Environment Minister.
SONI hopes that the public inquiry can resume in early 2016.