Northern Ireland news

InfraStrata given grace period to clean up Woodburn Forest

The scene as work is carried out at Woodburn. Picture by Hugh Russell
Linda Stewart

THE company behind the exploratory drill at Woodburn Forest has been granted a second grace period to carry out clean-up work.

InfraStrata was due to reinstate and exit the borehole site by August 8 but was granted an extension to August 22 by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, due to the July holidays.

Now the company has been granted another extension on the grounds of wet weather and will not have to restore the site until September 16.

Angry campaigners opposed to the drilling operation, which is close to a reservoir that supplies drinking water to hundreds of homes, have called on infrastructure minister Chris Hazzard to step in.

InfraStrata was not required to apply for planning permission to drill a borehole at the forest site but instead carried out the work under permitted development rights.

In June the consortium led by InfraStrata said it was pulling out of the project after no oil or gas were found.

Stop The Drill said the permitted development rights limited the development period to four months.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: "Due to wet weather conditions an extension has been granted for the completion of site restoration works until Friday, September 16, 2016."

A spokesperson for Stop the Drill said the law states that any extension to the 28-day window for permitted development is required to be agreed before the grant of Permitted Development Rights (PDR).

"We have argued from the outset that the Woodburn exploration should not have been granted PDR for numerous very obvious reasons. We look forward to the Judicial Review case against Mid and East Antrim Council coming before the High Courts in September.

"Stop the Drill is calling for minister Hazzard to commence the process for legislative change now."

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