Woodburn Forest: Consultation on PDR announced

The site at Woodburn Forest pictured in July.  INCT 33-730-CON
The site at Woodburn Forest pictured in July. INCT 33-730-CON

A public consultation on proposed changes to Permitted Development legislation will be issued by the end of this year, Minister for Infrastructure Chris Hazzard has said.

It follows news last week that a second extension had been granted to oil exploration and gas storage company, InfraStrata, in order to complete their restoration work at Woodburn Forest in Carrickfergus.

Anti-drill campaigners expressed had outrage after Mid and East Antrim Borough Council gave a revised deadline of September 16 to complete works at the rural spot.

Meanwhile, an initial extension of two weeks should have seen the company pull out of the site on August 22.

Stop the Drill called on the Minister to progress his earlier proposals to remove permitted development rights (PDR) for oil and gas exploration.

“According to the legislation, any extension to the 28 day window for permitted development is required to be agreed before the grant of PDR,” a statement from the group read. “Otherwise, the legislation is open to abuse. We have argued from the outset that the Woodburn exploration should not have been granted PDR for numerous very obvious reasons; this blatant breach of the 28 day rule further vindicates our efforts over the past two years to have the decision overturned.”

Responding to the calls, the Minister said: “The proposed changes to the Planning (General Permitted Development) Order (NI) 2015, including the removal of permitted development rights for oil and gas exploration, will be fully detailed in a public consultation document where the public will be invited to put forward their views.

“My intention is to issue the public consultation by the end of this year.”