Protect Woodburn Forest and Reservoirs

A Community project Antrim, United Kingdom

Protect Woodburn Forest and Reservoirs

To cover the professional fees of a planning consultant and support legal costs to urgently review the decision to drill at Woodburn Forest.

Project aim: To cover the professional fees of a planning consultant and support legal costs to urgently review the decision to grant oil company Infrastrata permitted development rights to conduct exploratory petroleum drilling at Woodburn Forest, Carrickfergus. About the project: We are a group of concerned citizens campaigning to protect the Woodburn Forest and Reservoirs. 

Without asking or informing you, Northern Ireland Water (our sole provider of water) has given oil company Infrastrata permission to drill on land in Woodburn Forest. The proposed site is situated in close proximity to North Woodburn Reservoir, which is not only used as a source of freshwater abstraction but is also designated as an Area of Special Scientific Interest. NI Water have granted Infrastrata the option of a Lease for a further 25 years after the initial exploration period should Infrastrata decide they want to undertake petroleum production i.e. if the site is economically viable; the company are also granted the option to renew the Lease for a further 25 years after the first 25 years. These matters are also covered in the Draft Lease.Water from North Woodburn Reservoir supplies Dorisland Water Works which feeds over 1800 streets. This breaks down to 705 streets across Belfast, 532 streets in Carrickfergus, 576 streets in Newtownabbey, 59 streets in Larne, 80 streets in Whitehead, 4 streets in Ballycarry. Do you drink water from one of these streets?A Freedom of Information request has revealed the list of streets. Click here to view this list.

We believe that Infrastrata’s permitted development rights (PDR) should be withdrawn. Our research to date identifies major inaccuracies in the processing of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Determination and highlights a number of issues and concerns around environment impact, health and public participation/transparency. Infrastrata will use chemical mixes which contain substances that have not been properly assessed. 

We raised our concerns with Belfast City Council and as a result they passed the following motion on 1st September 2015:“That this council notes that Woodburn reservoir in Carrickfergus provides water to a significant part of the city, expresses concern that Infrastrata have been granted permitted development to conduct exploratory petroleum drilling at this location using harmful chemicals, notes that the current law governing permitted development in Northern Ireland is less robust than England where petroleum exploration requires planning permission, further notes that 75% of fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground to prevent dangerous climate change and does not regard this process as in line with the legal requirement of the DOE in Article 1 of the 2011 Planning Act to further sustainable development, expresses concern that in spite of requirements under European Law to undertake a strategic environmental assessment before the issuing of petroleum licences, no Strategic Environmental Assessment has ever been conducted by DETI and calls on the Minister for the Environment and Mid and East Antrim council to urgently review the decision to grant permitted development for exploratory drilling in Woodburn forest with a view to reversing this permission and for the Minister of the Environment to amend the law so that petroleum exploration always requires full planning permission.”We raised our concerns with the Minister for the Environment Mark H Durkan and as a result he wrote to Mid and East Antrim Council on 14th September 2015 to advise: “that the only means of potentially removing permitted development rights at this stage is for the council to carry out a further EIA screening exercise in relation to the notification, taking into account whatever further information it considers appropriate. This course of action would likely require consultation with other bodies. I would encourage Mid and East Antrim Council to give careful consideration to this matter.”We would like to engage an independent planning consultant and a legal firm to analyse our research and prepare a professional response and to act for us. The costs are approximately £12000. We would like to raise £6000 through this crowdfunding appeal to cover the first phase of this work. 

Even monitored drill sites are not safe. The Minister for Environment has admitted to systemic failure in his Department. Who will keep our water safe? Who will monitor this drill?

Please help STOP this drill and PROTECT the Woodburn Forest and Reservoirs.


You can find out more about our campaign by following us on:Facebook: @stopthedrillWebsite: www.stopthedrillcampaign.comLinks to some of the media coverage of our campaign:

Woodburn Reservoir: Belfast City Council to contact ministers over oil firm's drill plan

Infrastrata 'committed' to plans to drill for oil and gas near Carrickfergus

Click here for Belfast Telegraph article dated 31st August 2015 by journalist Chris McCulllough 


Further information


Click here to read our 19 page submission to the Department of Environment. 

In our report sent to the Minister we outline the specific chemical issues in relation to this drill and the implications of the chemical mix. The fact that the chemical characteristics of this process were not known to the Department (or if they were they were not assessed) at the time of permitted development rights being applied is a key issue. Among the most concerning chemicals/compounds which Infrastrata will use at Woodburn are Halad-300L NS and Biocide T. These are not chemicals which should be allowed under permitted development. Click to read an analysis of chemicals compiled by Geralyn McCarron (FRACGP) researcher and author.

At a recent conference we had the opportunity to ask Professor Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University, via skype, his opinion on the proposed drill at Woodburn Forest. On hearing the planned location he was very shocked and at first thought he had misheard and asked if the question was correct. He described it as ‘irrational’ and stated “Entire cities have now enforced minimum 1500ft setbacks (that’s about 400m). 
We didn’t have an opportunity to explain to Professor Ingraffea that this well is beside not only a reservoir but approx 200 m from several homes. Research has shown that people living within half a mile of gas wells are at an increased risk of health impacts such as respiratory disorders. It wouldn't even be allowed in in Dallas Texas where the setback distance is 457m. There is no setback distance in Northern Ireland.
 Click here to view his reaction. 

Professor Ingraffea is the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering at Cornell University and is among 82 prominent scientists being considered for membership on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board panel on hydraulic fracturing.