I’ve just requested some information from the PSNI. I requested they forward the map/site plan/diagrams and other information used by them to determine which parts of the Infrastrata project are shared access and which are sole access to Infrastrata. This is one of dozens of requests for information I have made over the last number of years to various Government Departments in relation to Woodburn.
The point is, in a planning application, the onus is on the applicant to furnish all that information to the Public. One can view the planning system at work – One Department asks for more information or more time to consider an application. Another may state categorically that something is out of the question. The Public can track, and indeed make representations with regards to the suitability of the proposal for their community and can advise on the effects they believe the proposal would have on their Environment, and the impact it might have on their physical and mental well being. And all this takes place before any decision is made. Its a no brainer that better decisions are made as a result.
All of this is not catered for in Permitted Development. If at least there is one small consolation from last nights debate at Stormont it is that Permitted Development where Oil and Gas is concerned is to require planning permission (I’m not sure on whether Minerals in general are to be catered for – I believe 31 boreholes for Gold prospecting were approved without public consultation by Fermanagh Omagh district council recently.)
Another aspect that is overlooked is that if the Public have no say in the matter when Permitted Development rights are granted, and to be clear, 65000 signatures on a petition were ignored by the Minister and most other MLAs in their discussions last night, then the only real avenue left to them is to protest. This immediately puts the PSNI in the firing line.
The PSNI really need to start viewing things from this angle. ie that denying the Public the right to protest as they appear to have done on a number of occasions is further eroding confidence in their ability to Police impartially. Last night the vast majority of the MLAs who attended the debate were quite vocal in the view that the drilling at Woodburn is wrong, that its a highly risky site on which to drill an oil and gas well, that Permitted Development rights for Oil and Gas wells is wrong, and moreover this sort of development is about to be made unlawful by the Minister. The PSNI need to now take what happened in the Assembly into account in their dealings with the Community at Woodburn, because the inevitable inquiry (there will be one) will be damning should they not do so.
This is a letter I wrote to the Minister for Justice and copied to the whole Executive. The warnings were already apparent as to what was going to happen. The New Executive want Public input on their Programme for Government. To Paraphrase Jack Nicholson in a Few Good Men — its now up to the new Executive as to whether they can handle the Public Input fairly and honestly and act accordingly, the balance of history would say otherwise, but maybe this is a ‘New Deal’.