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Department head challenged over approval for north-south interconnector

Local MLA says residents needs and views should be 'fully taken into account'

North South Interconnector

The Permanent Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure has been challenged over his decision to grant full planning approval for the north-south interconnector.

Newry and Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan – who is Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Energy, Environment and Climate Change – met with the senior official on Monday to discuss the issue.

It was in January that full planning permission for the northern element of the 400kv overhead electricity line, stretching from Moy in Co Tyrone across Co Armagh and on to Co Cavan, was granted.

The proposed development will create a cross-border electricity line with the Republic of Ireland.

The Department in January published an 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.

In arriving at the final decision, the Department said it had 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.

Mr Boylan challenged the decision, taken in the absence of a functioning Executive.

Speaking after the face-to-face debate on the issue, the local MLA said: “I challenged the Permanent Secretary on his decision to allow this project to proceed on the current plans.

“Sinn Fein is committed to the development of a north-south interconnector, as it is an important infrastructure project that will help ensure security of supply and has an important role in the provision of the All-Ireland Electric network.

“However, it is vitally important that the views and needs of the residents in the surrounding areas are fully taken into account at all points in this project.

“Sinn Féin will continue to represent the views of residents and continue to engage with all sides to help ensure that an acceptable proposal for the interconnector can be brought forward.”

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