A government department has given an assurance that there will be a full public consultation on proposed gas storage under Larne Lough.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) says that this will take place once all documents are available for review.
Islandmagee Energy, the company behind the project, has stated that it is “moving from the planning stage towards construction and final licences”. The company has also said that is sees “no reason” why a full marine licence should not be granted.
The commitment for a full public consultation ahead of the project being given the go-ahead has been welcomed by local elected representatives who have voiced concern over plans for eight underwater gas storage caverns.
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said: “I have serious concerns that the environmental impact of this project will outweigh any economic benefits for the people of east Antrim, therefore I think that a new full public consultation is only appropriate.
“There was a previous public consultation in 2012, but this is such a long time ago, it is imperative that the people of Islandmagee have another chance to have their voice heard in regards to this project.”
Ulster Unionist MLA John Stewart noted: “An approved Marine Licence, as set out in the Marine and Coastal Assess Act 2009, is needed for works beneath the mean high water spring tide mark.
“This is awarded or refused by a marine licencing panel within DAERA.
“This is too risky a project, too near where people live and with too many environmental uncertainties - especially for marine life.”