Council legal costs a "disgraceful and unjustifiable waste of public money" - McMullan
Sinn Féin East Antrim spokesperson Oliver McMullan has criticised Mid and East Antrim Council for wasting £228,661.90 on legal costs related to controversial drilling at Woodburn Forest, Carrickfergus.
Oliver McMullan said:
“The council’s legal costs are related to its attempt to defend the decision to grant permission to oil company InfraStrata to begin exploratory drilling for oil or gas at Woodburn.
“Local people believed that this exploratory drilling on the site would be a precursor to fracking and a public consolation on the issue showed there was strong public opposition to the project.
“A campaign was launched against drilling on at Woodburn Forest and a local resident took a judicial review into the decision to allow drilling at the site.
“Thankfully drilling on the site was brought to an end after a sustained local campaign against fracking and a proposal from then Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard to change the law to require any exploration company to seek full planning permission for test drilling in future.
“Unfortunately at the time the council chose to contest the judicial review at the ratepayers’ expense, despite the strength of local opposition to fracking.
“This flawed decision has cost the ratepayers of Mid and East Antrim £228,661.90 so far in legal costs.
“This is a disgraceful and unjustifiable waste of public money spent defending the interests of an oil company rather than supporting the campaign by local people.
“Sinn Féin will continue to oppose fracking in Ireland as it has been proven to be detrimental in terms of the environment, health, agriculture and climate.
“The experience of Mid and East Antrim should ill make other councils think twice in future before they pit themselves against the interests of local people.”