Consultation opens to extend Phoenix gas network into Whitehead

Colourful homes along the promenade in Whitehead, which could soon have access to natural gas

MORE than 2,000 business and households in Whitehead on the east coast of Co Antrim could have access to natural gas for the first time, it has emerged.

The Utility Regulator has opened a consultation period looking at extending the licence area of Phoenix Natural Gas.

The proposed extension relates to the town of Whitehead and comprises of the addition of two wards, Whitehead and Blackhead.

It will allow for the construction of the pipeline infrastructure necessary to pipe natural gas to properties in the vicinity of the towns.

The capital investment for the project will be more than £3 million and, over time, it will make gas potentially available to around 2,250 domestic and commercial customers within area..

The Regulator says representations or objections to the proposed extension can be made up to 5pm on Friday June 29.

Whitehead, which lies almost midway between the towns of Carrickfergus and Larne, on the opposite side of Belfast Lough to Bangor, used to be one of Northern Ireland's premier seaside resorts in the early to mid 20th century.

The reopening of the famous Gobbins Path along the Blackhead cliff edge - which admittedly has been beset by problems - has helped draw many more people into the town in the last two year.

Phoenix, which has been operating in Northern Ireland for 20 years, already serves more than 200,000 customers.

An additional 28,000 homes and businesses in Co Down will soon benefit from natural gas as part of a £60m expansion plans by the utility firm to pipe into 13 new towns.

Annahilt, Ballygowan, Ballynahinch, Hillsborough and Spa are already connected to the network.

Construction of the pipeline continues at present in Crossgar and Downpatrick and they, along with Drumaness and Dromore, will be connected within months.

And the final phase of the programme will see Castlewellan, Dundrum, Newcastle and Saintfield connected to the network by 2019.

Speaking to the Irish News in March, Phoenix Natural Gas sales and marketing director Jonathan Martindale said: “We are delighted to be significantly ahead of schedule with this 13 towns project, with over a third of planned 350km network laid to date and five towns already connected.

“All of this would not have been possible without buy-in from local communities in the new areas in which we serve.

“Public acceptability is a key factor in the effective delivery of new infrastructure projects.

“From the outset, Phoenix has focused its efforts on embedding itself within the community in order to ‘give something back' and extend its established corporate social responsibility programme to these new areas."

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