Dickson: DOE mistake led to permission for drilling project

Alliance East Antrim MLA Stewart Dickson has said a mistake by the Department of the Environment (DOE) leading to permission being granted for a controversial local oil drilling project has shown the pressing need for an independent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Mr Dickson was speaking after it was revealed the DOE did not reply to a request in August 2013 for its views on the drilling at Woodburn Forest close to Carrickfergus, meaning permission was granted for it by default.

He said it was the latest in a string of poor decisions by the DOE, which was an “under-resourced and ineffective” Department.

Stewart Dickson MLA added: “The DOE needs to seriously look at how it effectively allowed permission to be granted for this project, which has the potential to poison the drinking water for people in East Antrim, while destroying part of a scenic forest.

“A strong, independent EPA would not only send out a tough message against polluters and improve the quality of life for everyone in Northern Ireland but be a major step forward in ensuring we don’t see mistakes like this repeated, with the potentially disastrous consequences they may have.

“There is an ongoing consultation on views around a potential independent EPA being established. I would encourage people to participate in it and help Northern Ireland reach its potential as a green economy.”

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