Decision time for contentious pylon plan that will cut a swathe through South Tyrone

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A long-awaited public inquiry into a controversial electricity interconnector is set to begin in Armagh on Wednesday.

The north-south electricity project, which will cut a swathe through South Tyrone, has been the subject of an eight year long battle by local residents.

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. They have demanded that the power lines be laid underground amid health fears.

However, SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland), which runs the electricity grid, says the interconnector is essential to ensuring the security of Northern Ireland’s electricity supply.

The interconnector has already been the subject of a public enquiry in the past.

SONI said it welcomed the recommencement of the Planning Appeals Commission’s (PAC) Public Inquiry.

Held at the Armagh City Hotel, the inquiry will provide residents and local businesses 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.

SONI said: “When in place, the Interconnector will strengthen the all-island electricity network and provide significant benefits to consumers. Major business and consumer organisations are supportive of the project and have called for it to be developed as soon as possible.”