Landowners in fresh bid to block major cross-Border electricity line 

Group challenging lawfulness of approval for North-South Interconnector 
 
A group of landowners has launched a new legal bid to block a major cross-Border electricity line. 
Papers lodged at the High Court in Belfast challenge the lawfulness of Northern Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon’s decision to approve the North-South Interconnector. In September she granted planning permission for the 400kv overhead electricity line which is to stretch from Co Tyrone to Co Meath. But campaign group Safe Electricity Armagh and Tyrone (SEAT) has branded it a “vanity project”. 
 
Approval for the scheme was given after previous consent given in the absence of a minister was quashed. SEAT is now seeking to judicially review the fresh decision taken by Ms Mallon in a case based on Northern Ireland’s constitutional arrangements. The challenge centres on legislation which enabled the infrastructure minister to give the green light to the planning application without taking it to her Executive colleagues. 
 
Passed earlier this year, the Executive Committee (Functions) Act gives ministers more power to make autonomous decisions. Lawyers for SEAT claim the proposed interconnector is a significant or controversial issue which should have been referred to the Stormont cabinet. 
 
Good Friday Agreement 
Solicitor Paul Farrell also claimed the new legislation goes against the principles of cross-community support and coalition government enshrined within the Good Friday Agreement. 
 
“The provisions of the Executive Committee (Functions) Act (NI) 2020 appear to our client as being at complete variance with the previously agreed constitutional settlement and have no regard to the Good Friday Agreement, St Andrews Agreement and the Northern Ireland Act all of which require cross-community support with Executive Committee oversight,” he said. 
 
“The Executive Committee (Functions) Act amounts to a seismic disruption of our settled constitutional framework.” 
 
Jim Lennon, chair of SEAT, added: “Grounds for review will be extended if the minister provides her reasons and we believe them to be erroneous. “We have always maintained that the North-South Interconnector is a vanity project and not one which is in the best interests of people in Northern Ireland.” 
 
The case is expected to be listed for hearing early in the new year. 
 
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