Dear Editor

Thank you for your most timely piece in the Ballymoney Times (August 19, 2015) “Are the Dark hedges becoming a victim of their own success?”

I totally agree with the descriptions and concerns expressed therein. Mr Art Ward’s comments are spot on! This has the potential to be a world class tourist attraction but, with the exception of the Hedges Hotel, the facilities are abysmal! Further, there is indeed the clear possibility of a very serious accident happening at or around the site as quotedfrom one resident in the article. Surely we have a duty to keep our visitors safe!

I am heartened to read that the Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council accept the “onus .... to work with others ... to try and resolve the congestion”. I would urge the Council to act urgently and include the local landowners in their discussions and plans. After all, it is a private landowner who is developing another iconic site, the Dunluce Castle!

All of the above will be further aggravated by the current planning application by Rathlin Energy to drill for oil or gas on the Ballinlea Road. From their documents presented to the Planning Service, their proposed route to the site takes them along the A26 (road works until 2017?), through Stranocum village and passed the school, passed the Dark Hedges and over the Dry Arch (single lane) to the Kilmahamogue Road crossroads. In these documents (Appendix 13.1 Vehicular Route Feasibility Assessment, December 2014) they tell us that “ during the approximate 10 week construction programme, the peak increase in HGVs is in week 5, resulting in an

additional 6 HGVs (two way) per hour.”

These HGVs are described as being 15.5m long which I believe means an additional 50 foot lorry travelling this route every 10 minutes! Reference is made to the vehicle being “required to over run the centre line. However, this is evident of existing HGVs along this route.”

That may be so but not at the volumes and frequency of traffic that they are proposing!

This is only for the construction phase and does not take acount of the 24/7 drilling operation where thousands of gallons of water containing chemicals has to be brought to the site and thousands of gallons of toxic ‘returned water’ after drilling have to be removed from the site.

I fear for the consequences of this operation on our very important tourism and agriculture industries that contribute so much to our local economy and have such potential to do more. I fear for the potential

pollution effects of the flaring of the gas found by this exploratory well.

Living just outside Stranocum,

I fear for the safety of our village and our country roads users, car drivers, farmers, cyclists and walkers.

Please visit the Protect Our North Coast facebook page at Protectournorthcoast-PONC for lots more information and to keep up with developments. Please talk about this to anyone who cares about this wonderful place we call home. Local people defeated the Lignite proposal and, hopefully, we also can do the same with this oil and gas drill.

Thank you.

Noeleen Diver