Regulator called on to green light extension of gas network in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland's natural gas pipeline should be extended to the seaside town of Whitehead without any further delay, the Utility Regulator has heard.
The regulator, led by Jenny Pyper, has been urged to make an "early and positive decision" to approve the extension.
Natural gas has been available in parts of Northern Ireland for 21 years since the Scottish pipeline came ashore at Ballylumford, but Whitehead -which is just seven miles away - was bypassed.
Now Phoenix Natural Gas has applied for an extension to bring its network to Whitehead.
Ulster Unionist East Antrim MLA John Stewart said: "I warmly welcome the fact that Phoenix Natural Gas has made an application for a licence extension to extend their existing gas network to include Whitehead.
"It is now in the hands of the Utility Regulator to assess its economic viability and give the green light to go. I am urging Jenny Pyper to make an early and a positive decision on this.
"In recent times, we have witnessed the extension of the natural gas pipeline to much smaller towns than Whitehead in the south and west of Northern Ireland.
"Yet for 21 years the raw material has been flowing in to Northern Ireland from the Scottish pipeline which comes ashore only a few miles away at Ballylumford."
He added: "There have been false dawns before, but this time there needs to be delivery.
"I have met and have been corresponding with the Utility Regulator and Phoenix Natural Gas about this for months, and am convinced about the good intentions of all concerned."