Call to review Woodburn drill


Belfast City Council is writing to the Environment Minister and MEA council to ask them to “urgently review” Insfrastrata’s Woodburn Forest drill.

InfraStrata currently has permission to drill an exploratory oil and gas well at the site.

However, there have been concerns at the impact of the drill on drinking water, with the reservoir supplying the Dorisland centre, which provides 705 Belfast streets with drinking water.

Two weeks ago, Infrastrata’s partner on the project, Larne Oil&Gas, pulled out of the scheme, leaving it with a £2.8m funding deficit.

At a meeting in City Hall on September 1, councillors voted in favour of asking the two organisations to reverse permission for the drill, which was granted under permitted development legislation, meaning that it did not require full planning permission.

The motion also urged Environment Minister Mark H Durkan to amend the law so that “petroleum exploration always requires full planning permission.”

The motion was passed by 28 votes to 15.

Stop the Drill campaign spokeswoman Fiona Joyce said her group was “delighted” at the outcome.

“Belfast City Council share our concerns that InfraStrata have been granted permitted development to conduct exploratory petroleum drilling at this location using harmful chemicals,” she stated.

“Significantly, the council has acknowledged that in spite of requirements under European Law to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment before the issuing of petroleum licences, no Strategic Environmental Assessment has ever been conducted by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI).

“InfraStrata were expected on site this week to start site preparation prior to drilling.

“The company have already had to have their licence extended by one year and have until the end of March 2016 to complete work on the site. We also continue to question the role of NI Water in leasing the land to InfraStrata to drill 380m from our drinking water.

“Minister Durkan has stated that the local authority can review the development at any time and we are calling for the Mid and East Antrim Council to do this now.”

The campaign group was set to met with Minister Durkan to discuss the drill on September 8.

A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council stated: “This was a matter considered by the Department of the Environment (DOE). The exploratory drilling proposed is a “permitted development” and therefore does not require planning permission.”