Belfast Telegraph

Pressure group loses appeal to stop high-power electricity line across border

Opponents of a controversial cross-border high-power electricity line have lost their attempt to stop the project.

The High Court dismissed an appeal against a planning decision that gave EirGrid the green light to build a section of the North-South Interconnector on pylons over 140km of countryside from a substation in Woodland, Co Meath, to Clontibret in Co Monaghan.

Backers of the project, which is designed to link networks as far north as Turleenan in Co Tyrone, claim joining grids on both sides of the border is vital for the island's energy market.

Those opposed to it claim it will have negative environmental and health impacts.

Padraig O'Reilly, of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign, said campaigners, landowners and farmers along the route in the Republic, would fight on despite the ruling in the High Court in Dublin.

Mr O'Reilly said campaigners would need more time to assess the specifics of Judge Max Barrett's 226-page judgment.

"Our initial thoughts are that we're not surprised," he said.

"We have been here a few times and we believe this has to go to the top, all the way legally. If we lost we thought we would more than likely be appealing and if they lost they would more than likely appeal.

"So it's another step on the road and the fight goes on."

The North-South line is part of EirGrid's national project to secure supplies and modernise the transmission system in projects that could cost anything from 2.7 billion to 3.9 billion euro depending on the choices made on the voltage lines.

An Bord Pleanala approved the plan last year, citing it as the most cost-effective solution.

EirGrid said the interconnector will improve the security of electricity supply across the island of Ireland, improve efficiency, reduce costs and save customers money.

There will be 409 pylons on this line in total, including the Northern Ireland section.

Up to 250 farmers and landowners between Dunboyne and Carrickmacross back the pressure group, with one woman living about 20 metres from the proposed high-voltage line, 75 homes being within 100 metres of the lines and 150 within 200 metres.

It is claimed that landowners were being offered 22,000 euro for every pylon on their property.

A separate fund being run by EirGrid offers grants of 5,000 to 30,000 euro for community projects for towns and villages along the route.

The pressure group said a devaluation survey found that the project would wipe 350 million euro off the value of homes, land and other properties along the line.

John Fitzgerald, director of grid development and interconnection at EirGrid, described the north-south link as a critical project.

"The North-South Interconnector is undoubtedly the most important infrastructure scheme on the island today and will help deliver very real benefits to domestic and commercial customers," he said.

The planning application for the Northern Ireland end of the project went to a public hearing in February and a decision is expected in the autumn.

Robin McCormick, general manager of System Operator for Northern Ireland (Soni), said: "This project is vital to Northern Ireland's security of supply and will also significantly reduce costs to consumers across the island by improving the efficiency of the all-island electricity market."

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