£241k legal bill over Woodburn drill challenge

Campaigners protesting against an oil drilling operation at Woodburn Forest in Carrickfergus last year
Campaigners protesting against an oil drilling operation at Woodburn Forest in Carrickfergus last year

A judicial review into a controversial oil exploration project in Co Antrim has left ratepayers facing a whopping £241,000 legal bill.

Oil company Infrastrata carried out drilling at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus in May and June last year amid sustained protests from environmentalists, but the project ended without any fuel being found.

In August, resident Richard Irwin lost his High Court challenge against Mid and East Antrim Borough’s decision to permit development rights for the exploratory borehole.

The judge found that it was not in the public interest to further hear the application for a judicial review, as there is now no development taking place at the site, which has been restored to its original condition.

Yesterday, Mid and East Antrim Council said the legal costs to date of defending its position amount to £241,000 – stating this was “money that could otherwise have been used to improve services and facilities for residents throughout the borough”.

A council spokesperson claimed there had been a “campaign of misinformation by some” regarding Woodburn.

The spokesperson added: “The stress and pressure that was put onto elected members and council staff throughout this time was grossly unfair and unjustified.

“The level of vitriol directed at individual employees and elected members of the council by some was wholly unacceptable and inappropriate.”