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Woodburn Forest returned to former state after exploratory work

A trench has been dug at the land at Woodburn Forest in Carrickfergus. Picture by Mal McCann
John Monaghan

WOODBURN Forest in Co Antrim has been largely returned to its former state after the company behind the exploratory oil drill project dismantled its site.

InfraStrata, who abandoned work at the site after finding no oil, began work to plug the borehole over the summer.

It is due to fully complete its restoration work at the site in Carrickfergus by September 16, and the land has now been re-soiled in preparation for the final withdrawal.

A trench has also been dug in the middle of the affected ground, while the extensive security operation which had been in place at the site has been removed.

The site had previously been inaccessible to members of the public, but people can now walk on the land without restrictions.

A charred bin, some tents and three planted trees accompanied by the slogan '3 for 300' are all that remain of the protest camp which was a constant presence at the site throughout InfraStrata's exploratory work.

Campaigners who rallied against the project have estimated it will take several months to replant trees cut down to facilitate the work.

The Stop the Drill group said: "We are delighted that this part of Woodburn has been returned to those who love it.

"We've learned that people can make change, challenge decision makers, win hearts and minds and create a better future for all."

The campaigners added: "Going forward we've lots of plans to ensure Woodburn Forest is replanted and protected for future generations."

The group also re-iterated its call for the amendment of legislation, currently under review, which allowed the exploratory work to go ahead without a full planning application being required.

It said: "It is contrary to the promotion of sustainable development, and undermines the foundational principles of transparency and participation in decision making...the retention of Part 16 will only lead to future conflict between local authorities, elected decision makers and the citizens they represent."

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