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Gas storage is yet another assault on the environment and transparency, says Brown

Alliance South Down Westminster candidate Councillor Patrick Brown has said major questions have to be asked regarding the future development of Carlingford Lough, following the installation of a new gas storage facility at Warrenpoint Port.

Plans by Japanese gas company Nippon to store up to 2,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide in an under-construction facility in Warrenpoint Port were revealed last week. Councillor Brown said while he welcomed investment locally, questions needed to be answered about appropriate industrial-scale development in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

“There is no doubt these huge cannisters are an eyesore in one of the most scenic parts of Northern Ireland, and begs the question how such a development has been allowed to proceed without a full public consultation. No contact was made with me as a Councillor regarding this development. In recent days, local campaigners have brought to my attention Health and Safety Executive reports, which raise significant concerns around the hazards of carbon dioxide storage.

“At Monday’s Council meeting, I raised the fact residents in the Warrenpoint/Crotlieve area were concerned about this development and therefore the Council should ensure a fair representation of their local Councillors on the Warrenpoint Harbour Authority. Given two-thirds of Crotlieve Councillors are independents, it makes sense one of these independents should be put forward by Council as a member of the Authority (the final decision is made by the Department of Infrastructure). To this end, Councillor Tinnelly nominated Councillor Mark Gibbons, and I nominated Councillor Tinnelly. However, as has become the norm on Newry, Mourne and Down Council, the larger parties voted for themselves alone to be put forward for the Authority, completely excluding independents who make up 33 per cent of Council’s elected representatives for the Warrenpoint area.

“This follows on from previous votes this year to exclude Alliance and Independents from the Party Representatives forum, an agenda-setting unrecorded Council quango where party leaders discuss major issues with the Chief Executive before they come to Council. Or when they voted us off the Strategic Projects Working Group responsible for major capital projects across the District, such as the major white elephant Newry Civic Centre, or when they excluded us from the appointment panel of the new Chief Executive. Efforts by Alliance to have these meetings audio recorded for transparency have been rejected, with the SDLP leading the campaign against enhanced transparency, claiming it was a vanity stunt.

“I am not saying the larger parties are incapable of representing us on the Harbour Authority and I welcome calls from some representatives for a public meeting on this issue, however it is too little too late and the SDLP and Sinn Féin in particular already have a poor track record in protecting the District’s natural heritage. Consider for example their support for the city-style development on the Shore Road in Rostrevor which would have a catastrophic impact on local woodland and public safety, or on ABC Council their failure to stop inappropriate wind turbine development on an ancient Cairn at Knock Iveagh outside Rathriland.

“These parties can no longer be trusted with the environment or public safety. With an election coming up, I would urge everyone to consider lending their vote to a party willing to stand up for transparency and the environment, in protest against this shocking industrial eyesore.”