I propose to take Questions Nos. 26, 31, 48, 68, 89 and 224 together.
The North-South interconnector now has full planning permission in Ireland and Northern Ireland as proposed as an overhead line. On 21 December 2016, An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the North-South interconnector in Ireland, which concluded a lengthy planning process, including an oral hearing completed over 11 weeks from March to May of 2016. On 23 January 2018, full planning permission was granted for the section of the line in Northern Ireland.
The interconnector is a key project in delivering the objectives of national energy policy, specifically addressing security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability. It will also ensure a safe and sustainable source of energy for both jurisdictions.
I fully respect that the project gives rise to concerns for a number of people, particularly those living in close proximity to the project. In February and March last year, two motions calling for an updated independent study into the North-South interconnector were passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann. To understand better the concerns of those opposed to the proposed overhead line, I met their representatives, the Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee and the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign, and Oireachtas Members from Cavan, Monaghan and Meath in February 2017. I subsequently met Oireachtas Members in May 2017 and January of this year. In addition, my officials held separate meetings with the Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee and the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign in March and April of last year.
Those engagements, together with the motions, were important in my decision to commission two independent studies into the project. The studies are designed to address the main points of the motions as well as key concerns expressed by parties opposed to the development of the overhead line. The first is an independent study to examine the technical feasibility and cost of running the interconnector underground. The three independent experts appointed commenced their work last August, held a series of meetings in Ireland in the middle of November and are now finalising their work. The second study is focused, in a European context, on the levels of compensation provided to land and property owners in proximity to high-voltage transmission lines. Its aim is to provide a significant body of independently collated information on comparative practices in several jurisdictions. It is my intention that the two ongoing studies will provide some clarity to the concerned residents of the affected areas. The results of both studies are expected this quarter and I will publish the reports and ensure they are made available to all interested parties.
Following the planning consents and the conclusion of several judicial review proceedings relating to the planning decision in Ireland, the project is an operational matter for EirGrid and ESB Networks and I have no function in it. The delivery of critical infrastructure by public bodies is provided for in legislation enacted by the Oireachtas. However, the long-standing practice of infrastructure providers, including in the roll-out of electricity infrastructure in Ireland, has been to seek to engage with relevant stakeholders and work for the largest possible level of engagement on projects. Although this consultative approach has developed over the decades through consultation and agreement, it is underpinned by the 1985 ESB-IFA code of practice for survey, construction and maintenance of overhead lines in regard to the rights of landowners.
I brought the proposals for the two reports to the Government and will have to bring the reports back to the Government. It is my intention to publish them without delay once that is done.