Some of the most beautiful coastal areas in Antrim standed in the fracking firing line, including all of the breath-taking Islandmagee peninsulae. The towns of Antrim, Glengormley, Templepatrick, Newtownabbey, Ballyclare, Carrickfergus, Larne and Whitehead, small villages and communities such as Ballynure and Doagh and the awe-inspiring countryside surrounding these towns were threatened to be affected by this industry. This part of South Antrim takes in famous historic sites such as Carrickfergus Castle, also Portmuck, the Isle of Muck and Brown’s Bay – all proposed areas of special scientific interest (PASSI).
In 2011, InfraStrata was awarded a petroleum licence for an area of 663 sq km in Antrim for five years. In January 2014, the company announced its intention of drilling an exploratory well in Spring 2015 in Woodburn Forest, 400 metres from Carrickfergus Reservoir that serves North Belfast as well as Carrickfergus (see the timeline below). The situation around planning permission for this well was unclear but InfraStrata has stated that such drilling comes under “exempted development” and so, does not need planning permission. The Minister could have demanded an Environmental Impact Assessment on any such development.