A £3million project to bring natural gas to Whitehead has received the green light from the Utility Regulator.
The decision by the independent body responsible for regulating Northern Ireland’s electricity, gas, water and sewerage industries follows a long campaign to have the service extended to the seaside town.
It has been welcomed by elected representatives, including East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson. The DUP man said: “This is an issue for which I had lobbied Phoenix Gas and the regulator in respect of for many years and am pleased that approval has been given to undertake the investment which will mean that 2,250 domestic and commercial customers within Whitehead will have the potential to be connected to a natural gas supply.
“The capital investment will be in the area of £3million and Phoenix have indicated that by 2019 properties should be able to be connected to the gas supply.
“There is still work to be done in connecting houses in some areas of Carrickfergus which have currently been bypassed by the gas pipeline and this is an issue I will continue to press with Phoenix and the Utility Regulator.”
Echoing these sentiments, East Antrim UUP MLA John Stewart said: “This is about choice and competition in the energy market. While not everyone will want to take up the option of natural gas, and many will prefer to stay with their local oil supplier, at least the option will be there for the residents of Whitehead.”
The formal notice is published by the Utility Regulator, under Article 8 (6) of the Gas (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 and relates to a gas extension to the licensed area of Phoenix Natural Gas Limited. It allows for the construction of the pipeline infrastructure necessary to facilitate the conveyance of gas to domestic and commercial properties in the vicinity of the town and follows a period of public consultation.
Phoenix Natural Gas, which has been working with the Utility Regulator for a number of years to extend the natural gas network to Whitehead, expressed delight at the decision.
The company stated: “The construction programme is estimated to commence later this year, with natural gas being made available to approximately 2,250 commercial and domestic properties in the area over the next number of years.
“We are pleased that the project has received such strong support from local stakeholders and it’s great to see demand for natural gas in the area.
“Ultimately, this project will offer customers greater fuel choice and improve the utility infrastructure of the area. We look forward to getting the project underway and making connections with the community as we bring natural gas to this new area.”