Public meeting over Woodburn drill concerns

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A public meeting over the contentious Woodburn Forest exploration well project is to take place in Carrickfergus next week.

Organised by Stop the Drill, it will be held in the Windrose restaurant, Rodgers Quay on February 17 at 7.00pm.

The InfraStrata-led project was initially granted a five-year licence by DETI to carry out drilling at the rural site.

The licence was due to expire at the beginning of March.

Last month, DETI indicated it had agreed to a request from the firm to amend the requirements of the original licence, effectively carrying the project into a second five-year term.

The decision was met with criticism by Stop the Drill, which had previously raised concerns over the potential for water contamination from the site.

During last week’s meeting of Mid and East Antrim’s Planning Committee, members were advised of a February 15 start date for the scheme.

However, a waste management plan for the scheme had yet to be approved by the council, members heard.

The document covers a number of elements from well maintenance, pollution prevention, and site restoration.

Speaking at the meeting, head of planning Paul Duffy said: “The consideration of a waste management plan involves a similar process to that of assessing a planning application, in that it needs to be advertised and consultations undertaken before a decision can be made to approve or refuse the plan.”

Notice of public consultation by MEA on the waste management document, which is running until February 25, was published in the local press today (February 11).

In a statement, Stop the Drill raised concerns that drilling may start without an approved waste management plan in place.

“How can the company go onsite next week?” a spokesperson for the group asked. “DETI stated that [InfraStrata] have ‘obtained all necessary consents’ to drill; clearly this is not the case.”