Islandmagee Storage Limited (IMSL) held a public event at the weekend to provide local people with information on its planned £400m natural gas storage project at Larne Lough.
Over 40 people attended the session at 2nd Islandmagee Presbyterian Church on Saturday, which ran for over three hours.
Those in attendance heard presentations by IMSL directors and company consultants RPS Group, covering a range of topics including the need for gas storage, the status of the project, planning conditions, the issue of brine dispersion and stakeholder forums.
The BBC’s Jim Fitzpatrick chaired a question and answer session after each presentation topic and again at the end of the event.
Speaking after the session, IMSL director Paddy Larkin said: “The event allowed the company to hear first-hand from people interested in the project. It is only natural that people and local groups will want to find out about a major project which is planned for their area and this public information event allowed us to provide the information requested face to face.”
Mr Larkin added that the company are “totally committed” to ensuring that interested parties are kept informed “in an open and transparent way”.
“Two other ongoing forums are also being kicked off to inform and involve parties affected by the project; a Marine Science Group, chaired by the Department of the Environment, which will consider specifically the marine aspects of the project; and a Community and Marine Liaison Group, which will consider the wider aspects of the project’s construction,” he added.
IMSL also plans to hold another public information event later this year.
Local environmentalist and member of the East Antrim Marine Alliance, Nigel Hamilton attended the event and told the Times he was “confident” that IMSL had been listening to the repeated requests for a transparent approach to the project.
Mr Hamilton, who is also chairman of the Marine Conservation Society NI added: “I am pleased that the public had an opportunity to get to meet the ISML directors Andrew Hindle and Paddy Larkin. In fact I acknowledged that the format for the event was run well, but lacked the significant numbers in the audience to justify the effort.
“While the presentations were well made and the panel, including their consultants RPS, attempted to answer questions in response to concerns from the audience, more questions were left unanswered.
“But to be fair to IMSL, this was an attempt to get their message across and to reassure people that they would not progress with the project until the DOE Marine Division was satisfied with the application in its entirety. Let’s hope that walking away from the event, they realise that many more people need to be informed by the process and afforded the opportunity to answer.
“The questions need to be answered thoroughly, not by supposition and guesswork or by hypothetical modelling from a another continent. The project remains elusive to the IMSL directors, in that it will be a further three/four years before full approval is either granted or refused and at that stage it will only go ahead if the £400m private investment is found,” Mr Hamilton concluded.