The developers of the Woodburn Drill Site on the outskirts of Carrickfergus have reported that they have failed to hit oil and they will now move to close up and restore the drilling site.
This mineral exploration at Woodburn has raised significant planning issues in relation to the fact that it is permitted development in NI to carry out petroleum exploration while in England all applications for petroleum exploration require planning permission. While the Department of the Environment had the opportunity within 21 days of the notification of the permitted development application to require a planning application for the development they failed to take it within the necessary time frame ensuring the proposal was accepted as a permitted development.
The Department for the Environment (now Infrastructure) has called for evidence from the general public on revising the permitted development rights for mineral exploration.
This consultation process has now closed and it is likely that the Department will now move to a position similar to England and all future applications for petroleum exploration will both require planning permission and environmental impact assessment before being permitted to proceed if the amendments are accepted by the Assembly.