Local community calls for Rathlin Energy to honour commitment

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Local residents and North Antrim political representatives gathered at Ballinlea Hall on 29th April for a public meeting organised by Protect Our North Coast-PONC.

All the speakers were local residents from Ballinlea and Stranocum. Brian Connolly provided an update on the latest developments in the campaign.

He noted that following a very successful crowdfunder PONC raised funds to engage independent consultants to respond to Rathlin Energy’s Planning Application and Environmental Statement. Ivor Ramage from the Ballinlea Residents Group focused on the key points arising from these responses.

In their response WYG (White Young Green) Consultants said: “lt is our view that this application has the potential to result in significant environmental impact, and that certain risks have not been addressed by the Environmental Statement.”

Ivor Ramage updated the meeting on a report submitted by Professor Lawrence Dunne BSc, MSc, ARCS, PhD of London South Bank University for PONC. Concerns about the potential impacts this well could have on public health were discussed during the meeting. 43 homes are within half a mile of the Ballinlea well site and residents fear that this could be the first of many across the North Coast.

Those in attendance voiced their opposition to the plans raising numerous concerns about the impact on the local area. People strongly opposed the threat to farming, fishing and tourism. Concerns were expressed regarding regulation noting that the company breached its Environment Agency permit at its Holderness site on 19 occasions. Increased traffic on the route passing the Dry Arch and Dark Hedges was raised. It was noted that Rathlin Energy previously confirmed that no major employment opportunities would present themselves and the programme of work they envisaged would not be labour intensive. In addition, drilling rigs and specialised crews would all be brought in from overseas to the Ballinlea site. Neither would the company be offering training to enhance the prospect of job creation within the local community.

At the end of the meeting those present including MLAs Jim Alllister, Daithi McKay and Councillor Darryl Wilson on behalf of Robin Swann MLA unanimously passed four votes.

1) The local residents and Ballinlea Community present at this meeting object to the current Rathlin Energy Planning Application for Oil & Gas Exploration at Ballinlea 2 Drill Site.

2) The local residents & Ballinlea Community present at this meeting, request that Rathlin Energy Ltd. withdraw their Planning Application as the community reject their proposed Oil & Gas Exploration at Ballinlea Drill Site.

3) The local residents and Ballinlea Community present at this meeting, object to the Proposed Oil & Gas Exploration at Ballinlea Drill Site 2 and request that the Strategic Planning Service/DOE reject the current Rathlin Energy ltd. Planning Application.

4) The Local residents and Ballinlea Community object to the proposed Oil & Gas Exploration within the Licence Area, (North Coast), and request that a Moratorium on all future Oil & Gas Exploration in Northern Ireland is implemented by Northern Irish Assembly.

Following the votes the meeting called for David Montagu-Smith Chairman of the Board of Directors, Rathlin Energy Limited and Rathlin Energy (UK) Ltd. to honour the commitment he made in June 2012 in Ballinlea when he stated the following: “Our ability to function profitably or commercially in Northern Ireland will depend more heavily on one thing than on any other and that is the support of the local communities in which we work. We also would not be able to function, nor would we try and function, if we are at odds with the local communities.”

. The group recently met with Mervyn Storey MLA who has stated that he is opposed to the drill at Ballinlea. PONC noted the £10,090 raised in a two week period by 213 community members through crowdfunder to help oppose the Ballinlea 2 well application and the Hundreds of people at local meetings asking MLAs to intervene.

The group also highlighted their ongoing community survey and called on the 1400 residents who will have received a survey card recently to go online and complete it. Each card has a unique code and the survey is being conducted by an independent company on PONC’s behalf. PONC would also encourage people to continue sending objection letters to Planning. More information is available via a link on the PONC website www.protectournorthcoast.com, Facebook ProtectOurNorthCoast (PONC), Twitter @PONC_NI. #ProtectOurNorthCoast.