New Islandmagee power plant would ‘lower value’ of homes

Quarterland Road resident Kerry Smith pictured with her children Emma and Charlie Kernaghan in front of the proposed site for Gaelectric's green energy facility in Islandmagee.  INLT 42-685-SG
Quarterland Road resident Kerry Smith pictured with her children Emma and Charlie Kernaghan in front of the proposed site for Gaelectric's green energy facility in Islandmagee. INLT 42-685-SG

Plans to build a new power station in Islandmagee could have a devastating impact on the value of nearby homes, it has been claimed.

Residents of Quarterland Road fear a proposal by Dublin-based renewable energy company Gaelectric to create a compressed air energy storage (CAES) facility will see the property values slashed by at least 50 per cent.

One man said an estate agent warned him that his house would be worth “nil” during the three-year construction phase.

The green energy scheme – which represents an investment of £800m – would see the creation of underground caverns to store energy in the form of compressed air.

Salt deposits up to 1900m below ground have been selected as an ideal location for the caverns to be created, with a power station and two 40m high chimney stacks to be located directly above.

Gaelectric is not the only firm seeking to utilise the area’s unique geology. Oil and gas exploration company Infrastrata has already been granted planning permission for the creation of natural gas storage facility, also on the northern end of the peninsula.

Long-time resident Jeff Hunter has claimed the area is becoming a “dumping ground” for power stations and fears potential home buyers will be driven away by the increasing industrialisation of the countryside.

Jeff, who has lived in the Quarterland Road area for the past three decades, told the Times: “I have spoken to an estate agent and was told that my house would basically be worth nil during the proposed construction phase of the Gaelectric project, and after that I will be lucky to get half its current value.”

Jeff’s neighbour Barry Kernoghan, a resident for almost 40 years, has been informed by two local estate agents that his property could lose at least 50 per cent of its value if the Gaelectric project goes ahead.

“Who in their right minds would want to buy surrounded by three or four power stations?” he asked.

Addressing the concerns over potential devaluation of nearby properties, Keith McGrane, head of energy storage at Gaelectric, said: “We don’t accept by definition that this project will lead to devaluation. We want this development to be a positive thing for the community.

“There is a unique geothermal power facility in Iceland which has a visitor centre and is a big draw for tourists. Our proposed facility in Islandmagee could have the same attraction in terms of industrial tourism. It will be a world-leading facility and it is a tremendous opportunity for the area to be at the forefront of this innovative technology.”

The company hopes to submit its application for the project to planners by the end of November. If consent is granted, construction is scheduled to begin by 2019.

Gaelectric says the project would create up to 600 full-time jobs during the construction phase, and another 30-50 full-time roles when operational.