EirGrid warned it faces ‘long battle’ to build North-South interconnector

Grid operator seeking right of way rather than purchase of land to erect pylons

EirGrid said it was “confident” that through dialogue “we can allay any fears that landowners may have and reach agreements that suit all parties”. Photograph: Eric Luke

EirGrid said it was “confident” that through dialogue “we can allay any fears that landowners may have and reach agreements that suit all parties”. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Many people living along the route of the proposed North-South electricity interconnector are unwilling to allow EirGrid erect pylons on their land regardless of the compensation offered, a Meath councillor has claimed.

The project moved a step closer this week when Northern Irish authorities granted full planning permission for the €228 million interconnector, which will run for 138km between Meath and Tyrone.

The cross-Border interconnector is a joint venture between the North’s electricity grid operator and EirGrid, and has proven highly contentious due to community concerns over the erection of pylons to carry the cables along the route.

Minister for Energy Denis Naughten has sought two reports on the initiative, one of which is on the feasibility and potential cost of running the cables underground, which authorities have previously said would be too expensive.

‘Serious opposition’

Meath Fine Gael councillor Gerry O’Connor said there was “serious opposition” from landowners to the project and that EirGrid faced “ a long battle to get this down South”.

“Any landowners that I’ve spoken to are not prepared to sell at any cost to EirGrid,” he said. “Meath is the heritage capital of the country, these pylons will destroy the visual landscape at a time when we’re trying to encourage tourism and economic in the development.”

EirGrid said its priority was to begin discussions with landowners affected by the project and that it would “not acquire any land for the interconnector”.

“Instead, as in all electricity transmission projects, we will seek wayleave or right-of-way agreements with landowners,” a spokesman said. “The landowners involved will receive financial compensation for hosting this strategically important infrastructure on their lands.”

EirGrid said it was “confident” that through dialogue “we can allay any fears that landowners may have and reach agreements that suit all parties”.

John Fitzgerald, director of grid development and interconnection at EirGrid, said the project had received “strong support” from businesses and employers.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Maria O’Kane said it was “unfortunate that it’s going ahead, we would prefer to see it underground”.