Drill protest prompts policy review

The site of an oil drilling operation at Woodburn Forest in Carrickfergus. INCT 21-724-CON
The site of an oil drilling operation at Woodburn Forest in Carrickfergus. INCT 21-724-CON

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has launched a public consultation on the review of permitted development rights for mineral exploration.

There had been concern locally over the potential hazards to the district’s water supply caused by drilling at Carrick’s Woodburn Forest.

The Minister said: “I have listened to the concerns of residents of County Antrim and others about the exploratory drilling at Woodburn Forest and this highlighted to me the need for change to ensure that permitted development rights for oil and gas exploration are fit for purpose.

“The existing permitted development rights for mineral exploration covers all minerals both precious and base metal and oil and gas.

“Following a call for evidence on permitted development rights for mineral exploration, the overwhelming response was in favour of change to the existing system that permits exploration without a planning application.

“This would mean that in the future under my proposals, exploration for oil and gas will require the submission of a planning application and will be subject to the full rigours of the planning process, including public consultation and environmental impact assessments where necessary.

“I am calling on the public to put forward their views so that everyone can have a say on the planning process for mineral exploration.

The development has b een welcomed by the Stop the Drill campaign. A statement said: “This decision to grant oil company InfraStrata rights to drill 380m from our water was made without consultation.”

Find the new consultation at www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/consultations/review-permitted-development-rights-mineral-exploration