Protestor ‘scaled oil rig’ at Woodburn Forest site

An aerial view of the Woodburn Forest site.  INCT 19-721-CON
An aerial view of the Woodburn Forest site. INCT 19-721-CON

A police presence is continuing at the Woodburn Forest drill site after a protestor scaled an arriving oil rig.

The incident occurred this morning as PSNI closed off a section of Paisley Road between Red Brae and New Line.

Road closure on Paisley Road.  INCT 19-731-CON

Road closure on Paisley Road. INCT 19-731-CON

Protestors, including those from Stop the Drill have maintained a presence at the site since the weekend following the delivery of drilling equipment.

Speaking about the closure of the road, Chief Inspector Stephen McCauley said: “As drilling equipment was being transported to the site at Woodburn Forest this morning, protestors carried out a ‘slow walk’ protest ahead of the convoy during which a male climbed onto the vehicle and scaled the rig.

“This action forced the convoy to stop, obstructing the highway and meant police were required to close the road to ensure the safety of the public, protestors and road users. Officers were also concerned for the safety of the male aboard the rig as well as the potential for public order issues to arise.

“Access for residents, those providing home health care provision, Royal Mail and other delivery and business workers is being facilitated.

“Police remain at the location to ensure there is no breach of the peace and to facilitate peaceful protest. While the majority of protest activity to date has been well within the law, the recent actions of some protestors have gone beyond what can be accurately described as ‘peaceful and lawful protest’.

“Where offences are being committed or where actions may lead to a breach of the peace, it is incumbent upon police to intervene and address these issues as they occur.

“We are working to have the road reopened as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, a judicial review has been granted into the handling of the oil exploration project.

It follows a hearing at Belfast High Court on Friday morning.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council was the subject of the legal challenge, which was brought forward by a local resident.

A key aspect of the controversy surrounding the InfraStrata-led project is its progression under permitted development rights (PDR), meaning it did not have to submit a planning application.

Hailing the ruling as a “massive victory” were members of Stop The Drill.

The campaign group previously alleged breaches of both PDR and the project’s Waste Management Plan, which was approved in March by MEA Council.

“[We] are delighted that the judge ruled in favour of the concerned local resident and granted leave that the judicial review can proceed,” a statement from Stop the Drill read.

“It is very disappointing that a private citizen has to force the responsible authority Mid and East Antrim Council to make a decision on a project that is so critically time dependent.”

An injunctive relief case will be heard on Thursday, May 12 with InfraStrata required to disclose their contracts.