The High Court of Northern Ireland today heard the application of Safe Electricity A & T Limited and its director Mr James Woods for leave to apply for judicial review of the grant by the NI Department for Infrastructure of planning permission for the Northern Ireland element of the North-South Interconnector, a proposed new 400kv link between the electricity grids of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland involving some 85 miles of overhead cables and pylons. The project is the most significant energy infrastructure proposal to go through the planning process in Northern Ireland and is said to be essential for energy security in the jurisdiction. A two stage public inquiry before the Planning Appeals Commission was heard in 2016 and 2017. The Permanent Secretary in the Department for Infrastructure granted permission in accordance with the PAC's recommendations in January 2018.
The proposed grounds for judicial review allege breaches of the EU Habitats and Strategic Environmental Assessment Directives, and that the Permanent Secretary did not have power to issue the decision in circumstances where no Minister is in place due to the continued absence of a power-sharing government at Stormont since January 2017.
The Department opposes the grant of leave on the EU grounds but accepts that the constitutional ground is currently arguable in the light of the recent judgment of Keegan J. in Buick's application for judicial review  NIQB 43.
Charles Banner is appearing at the leave hearing as sole counsel for the Department for Infrastructure, instructed by them Departmental Solicitor's Office. John Litton QC and Philip McAteer of the Belfast Bar Library are also acting for the Department in the proceedings generally. John and Charles appeared for the Department at the inquiry before the PAC.
Scott Lyness is appearing as sole counsel for the developer, System Operator for Northern Ireland, instructed by Carson McDowell LLP. Scott also appeared for SONI at the inquiry before the PAC.