Northern Ireland news

Woodburn drill: Council spent £241,000 in legal costs over controversial oil exploration project

A Stop the Drill protest at Woodburn forest last year. Picture by Hugh Russell

A COUNCIL spent more than £240,000 battling a High Court challenge to a controversial oil exploration project.

A case was brought after Mid and East Antrim Borough Council permitted development rights for an exploratory borehole at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus, Co Antrim.

Drilling was carried out amid sustained protests from environmentalists in May and June last year.

But the firm behind the project, InfraStrata, finished operations and returned the site to its previous state after failing to strike oil.

The council last night said it had spent £241,000 in legal costs and hit out at what it called "grossly unfair and unjustified" pressure put on councillors and staff.

"Since the beginning of this entire process, council has ensured that every decision taken was legally sound, correct and in what our experts deemed to be in the best interests of our citizens and borough," a spokesman said.

However, the Stop the Drill campaign hit out at the council for attempting to "defend the indefensible".

"This is a scandalous waste of public money and would have been much better spent in promoting the health and wellbeing of its citizens rather than defending the interests of a private company," a spokesman said.

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