Infrastructure minister Chris Hazzard unlikely to intervene in Woodburn Forest oil project

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard is unlikely to intervene directly in the exploratory oil drilling project at Woodburn Forest. Picture by Aaron McCracken/Harrisons
John Monaghan

THE infrastructure minister, Chris Hazzard, has been criticised after indicating he will not be intervening directly in the case of an exploratory oil drill at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus.

The Sinn Féin minister has proposed a change in the law to require any exploration company to seek full planning permission for test drilling, but said there were "very limited opportunities for me to act in this case" as the matter was now the responsibility of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Alliance East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson said: "It was a poor move by Sinn Féin – they are an Executive party and the Executive has the power to stop that drilling."

Protesters against the proposals also expressed disappointment that the debate did not result in practical action to halt the Woodburn project.

With the exception of the DUP, representatives of all other parties spoke out against the plans during the Assembly debate.

Former Environment Minister, SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan - who was in post when the DOE granted permission rights by default after it missed a deadline to respond - said: "People are shocked, and rightly so, that something of this scale and nature was not subject to the scrutiny of a full application."

However, DUP MLAs Gordon Lyons and Christopher Stalford both pointed out that assurances had been received from statutory agencies.

Mr Lyons said: "Some people think that InfraStrata has been given a free run and the power to do whatever it wants without any consequences, but that is not the case. It is not a free-for-all."

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