Belcoo decision ‘good news for Woodburn’

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A province-wide environmental lobby group has vowed to turn its attention to Carrickfergus after a successful campaign in Fermanagh.

Members of No Fracking Northern Ireland expressed their delight this week after Environment Minister Mark H Durkan blocked permission for an exploratory gas borehole near Belcoo.

The move is positive news for those opposed to plans for an exploration well at a site in Woodburn forest, according to No Fracking Northern Ireland’s Dawn Patterson.

“Permission has not been denied completely in Belcoo, but rather that a planning application has to be submitted, so that will delay the process,” Dawn added. “The Minister has established a very important precedent, the ‘precautionary principle’. Essentially this means that it is no longer the responsibility of the community to prove environmental harm and risk to human health but the burden of proof is now on the fracking company to establish that it won’t cause harm.”

Infrastrata, the company behind the exploration well plans at Woodburn, have indicated that their operation will not involve hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’.

The company confirmed that drilling of the well was planned for this coming winter; should oil or gas be present, planning permission would be required to export any oil or gas from the site.

However, the No Fracking campaign group have expressed concern over what methods will be used if a viable source of oil or gas is found.

“We intend to focus now on Infrastrata and the plans at Woodburn; the exploration well is classed as permitted development which is only supposed to be temporary, but the company can apply to stay at the site if they find anything,” Dawn said.

Meanwhile, fellow campaigner Aisling Cowan, from Carrick, indicated a group had been set up to link concerned residents across County Antrim. “We are currently having our own information leaflet produced and plan to go door to door and to local businesses and churches to spread the word,” she said.