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Woodburn Forest drill site protesters sense victory after InfraStrata drops writ and judicial review bid is launched

By Linda Stewart

Published 19/03/2016

Fiona Joyce from Stop The Drill, James Orr from Friends of the Earth and Majella McCarron from Stop The Drill outside court
Fiona Joyce from Stop The Drill, James Orr from Friends of the Earth and Majella McCarron from Stop The Drill outside court
The protest at Woodburn Forest

Protesters opposed to the controversial Woodburn Forest borehole have warned that the "tide is turning" against InfraStrata after revealing that a local resident is poised to take a legal challenge against the scheme.

Ten Stop The Drill campaigners opposed to exploratory oil and gas drilling close to Woodburn reservoir, which supplies hundreds of homes with drinking water, no longer face an injunction banning them from the site.

Oil exploration company InfraStrata applied to the High Court last week for the 10 people to be evicted from a forest path accessing the well site but has now applied for a discontinuance order.

Work began last week after Mid and East Antrim Borough Council approved InfraStrata's waste management plan.

The company was not required to apply for planning permission for the project.

But a local resident has now put the council on notice of his intention to commence judicial review proceedings. The next step will be to apply to the High Court for leave.

The council confirmed it had received a solicitor's letter relating to the InfraStrata scheme.

Stop The Drill said: "InfraStrata have failed in their attempt to pursue an injunction against law-abiding people. Our position has been vindicated. The company made allegations against innocent people which they were unable to substantiate.

"There is something very obscene about a company that has persistently breached environmental and planning law, yet attempts to use the law to silence their critics.

"The tide is turning against InfraStrata. We now look forward to pursuing them in the courts."

The campaign has been backed by Spotlight star Mark Ruffalo.

InfraStrata said last night it had reluctantly pursued an application for injunctive relief from the High Court after a notice asking those blocking the access road to remove themselves was ignored.

"The injunction was solely to get the protection from the court to enable our contractors to get access to the site, which had been blocked by the protesters," a spokesman said.

"Overnight on the 9th/10th March the protest camp blocking the entrance was voluntarily removed, allowing InfraStrata to gain entry to the site and commence works. This resulted in the need for the injunction being dealt with. Consents are in place, including environmental, which the company will continue to comply with fully as it constructs the site and drills the well over the coming weeks."

Stop the Drill said they were happy to help the resident who was applying for a judicial review.

"We are disappointed that none of the Northern Ireland regulatory authorities or politicians have intervened to date, and it has therefore been left to a private individual to seek justice out of his own pocket," a spokesman added. "It is hard to put in words how grateful we feel to them."

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