On 21 December 2016 An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the North-South Interconnector project in Ireland. The decision concluded a lengthy planning process which included an Oral Hearing completed over eleven weeks from March to May of 2016. On 23 January 2018, full planning permission was also granted for the section of the line that lies in Northern Ireland. Following these decisions, and the conclusion of a number of judicial review proceedings relating to the decision in Ireland, EirGrid will continue to move to the next planned phased in the project. This is an operational matter for EirGrid and ESB Networks and I therefore have no function.
Following the decision of An Bord Pleanála to approve the interconnector, I met with the local opposition groups and members of the Oireachtas in Leinster House on 8 February 2017 to listen to concerns they had.
Following this, motions calling for an updated independent study were passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann respectively. I have commissioned two independent studies designed to address the main points of the motions as well as key concerns expressed by parties opposed to the development of an overhead line.
The first is to examine the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the project. In the development of the terms of reference for this study, my officials met with the local opposition groups to get their views on the focus of the study. The study began in August 2017 and its results are expected this quarter.
The second study is focused on the compensation provided to land and property owners in proximity to high-voltage transmission lines in a European context. The results of this study are also expected this quarter. Both reports will be published and available to all parties concerned.