Woodburn Forest hearing postponed until next year

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A hearing on the Woodburn Forest judicial review could now be delayed until next year, Mid and East Antrim councillors have heard.

The local government authority is facing a legal challenge around some of the permissions granted to exploration firm InfraStrata over the now defunct drilling operation.

A substantive hearing had been listed for September 22 and 23; however, the dates did not suit the judge and it was postponed.

During Monday night’s meeting of the council, MEA Chief Executive Anne Donaghy said the hearing “was unlikely to be rescheduled until March 2017”.

A further statement from the council read: “A second affidavit had been prepared by the Head of Planning to update the court on the prospective works at Woodburn. The case was listed for mention on October 18, when the new affidavit would be lodged.”

Infrastrata are to engage a sub-contractor to plant replacement trees during the next available planting season, subject to agreement with the Forestry Service, the council’s statement added. “Accordingly the operations authority under Permitted Development Rights have terminated and restoration conditions have been complied with.”

Meanwhile, the financial implications of the review for the local ratepayer, including legal costs and officers’ time, was queried by Councillor Paul Reid.

Ms Donaghy replied that she would be “happy to proceed details” of costs following the final hearing.