Public consultation is now open on a key element of the controversial plan to store gas in underground caverns at Islandmagee, Co Antrim.
It follows the submission of a marine licence application by InfraStrata PLC to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
The company says completion of the entire process is expected to lead to converting the existing draft marine licence to a full one as well as updating the current abstraction and discharge licences.
John Wood, interim chairman and CEO of InfraStrata, said: “We are delighted to have maintained momentum of our flagship Islandmagee Gas Storage Project, supporting our previously advised view that the public consultation would commence during 2019. We are glad to have successfully reached this stage and look forward to successfully completing this process and formally obtaining our full marine licence.
“Now that the public consultation dates are fixed, we will be able to schedule other activities to fit in around
these dates. We will provide further project updates in the coming days.
“We continue to remain of the firm belief that there should be no reason why the existing draft marine licence will not be converted to a full marine licence after following due process. We further look forward to ramping up enabling works early in 2020.”
The company added that a full set of current and up-to-date documents has now been provided to and been adopted by DAERA.
The consultation, it noted, will run until February 2020, allowing additional time than legally required given the Christmas holiday period.
Confirming it has received an application for a marine licence for the Islandmagee Gas Storage Project, a DAERA spokesperson said: “When applications are submitted to the Department it is normal process to consult the public as part of the determination of the marine licence.
“Views should be submitted before 5pm on 07 February 2020. InfraStrata’s application can be viewed at https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/consultations/islandmagee-gas-storage-project-december-2019-consultation-ml-2812 ”
For those without internet access, documentation can be viewed at the DAERA Klondyke Building, Belfast.
Islandmagee Energy Limited, the company’s subsidiary, says it will facilitate additional drop-in sessions during the consultation period, following on from monthly sessions that were conducted from March to October this year. The dates and locations of these additional sessions will be provided in the near future through the company’s website.
The proposed development of a facility to store 450million cubic metres of natural gas, which would be fed into the grid at times of increased demand, has been strongly opposed by campaigners who allege it has the potential “to change our whole coastline”.
In February, there was a show of opposition at Brown’s Bay, Islandmagee, to the plans amid concerns over potential impact on wildlife and the ability of roads to cope with additional heavy vehicles.
InfraStrata, recently bought Harland & Wolff and will use the Belfast site to fabricate many of the components for the project. Work is expected to start next year and will employ 400 people during construction and 40 once it is fully operational.