Court of Appeal NI hears appeal into Islandmagee gas storage marine consents

Islandmagee gas storage Canva

In the matter of an Application By No Gas Caverns Limited and Friends Of The Earth Limited for Judicial Review

The Court of Appeal NI (the Lady Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Treacy LJ and Colton J) have heard an appeal by No Gas Caverns Ltd and Friends of the Earth against the dismissal of their judicial review by Humphreys J in August 2023: [2023] NIKB 84

The decisions challenged concern the marine authorisations for the construction and operation of seven gas caverns at under Larne Lough off the coast of Co Antrim at Islandmagee with a total capacity of around 500 million cubic metres. The caverns are to be formed at a depth of some 1350 metres below sea level by a process known as solution mining. This entails the creation of cavities in a thick layer of Permian/Triassic salt by pumping seawater and causing it to dissolve. The terrestrial elements of the proposal were granted permission in 2012.

Over 4 days in May 2023, Humphreys J heard multiple grounds of challenge concerning environmental issues (including habitats issues) but dismissed them all and refused permission for further late challenges to be made.

On appeal, together with an issue of whether the existence of a community fund was and (if so should not have been) taken into account by the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, the primary issues concerned the operation of ss. 20 and 28A of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended) and the Ministerial Code and whether the Minister ought to have referred the decisions to the Executive Committee of the NI Assembly as significant and controversial and cross-cutting.

The hearing took place on 6 and 7 February 2024 and judgment was reserved.

David Elvin KC and Yaaser Vanderman represented Islandmagee Energy Ltd, (the Notice Party) before the Court of Appeal and Humphreys J.

A copy of the first instance judgment can be found here.

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