Cloghan Point: environmental campaigners seek ‘regional scrutiny’ of Whitehead oil terminal proposal

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Stop Whitehead Oil Terminal campaigners have joined forces with environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion to ask the Department for Infrastructure to ‘call in’ Mid and East Antrim Council’s decision to approve the development of an oil terminal.

On Wednesday, representatives from the campaign groups presented more than 200 letters from members of the community asking for the decision to be called in for regional scrutiny.

The controversial planning application for a £30m oil terminal outside Whitehead was approved by the council’s Planning Committee last September despite 400 letters of objection.

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The proposal is for the redevelopment of an existing oil terminal at Cloghan Point on the shore of Belfast Lough which currently stores oil reserves for the Republic of Ireland.

Cloghan Point. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service.Cloghan Point. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Cloghan Point. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The application seeks to provide an import, storage and distribution facility for petrol, dual-purpose kerosene, gas oil and diesel as well as the import, storage and blending of bio-fuels.

It will also involve the demolition of existing buildings and chimney stack as well as jetty modifications, vapour recovery unit, four new storage tanks and operations building.

The terminal was constructed more than 40 years ago to facilitate distribution of heavy fuel oil to Kilroot Power Station and Ballylumford Power Station in Islandmagee.

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Hilary McCollum, of Stop Whitehead Oil Terminal, said: “The proposed development has significant regional implications which is why we are calling for the Minister for Infrastructure to ensure that it receives the regional scrutiny it merits.

The jetty at Cloghan Point. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service.The jetty at Cloghan Point. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The jetty at Cloghan Point. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Slower Rate

"The Climate Change (NI) Act 2022 commits Northern Ireland to achieving net zero by 2050. With the farming industry already promised a slower rate of transition to carbon neutral, other sectors need to step up.

“Northern Ireland already has four oil terminals. There is no strategic need for another one.”

The campaigners are anticipating the arrival of “supertankers” at Cloghan Point. They are also concerned about what they claim could be the potential for an additional 300 vehicle movements daily travelling by road to and from the site.

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James Orr, of Friends of the Earth, highlighted the “delicate ecosystem of Belfast Lough, home to seals, dolphins, porpoises and otters as well as numerous seabirds including red and amber list species”. He added: “Northern Ireland deserves a clean and safe future.”

Richard Gill, from Extinction Rebellion Northern Ireland, said: “There is no justification for expanding fossil fuel infrastructure. Build a just transition of fossil fuels in Northern Ireland – we deserve better than more oil terminals.”

Terence Stitt, of the historic limestone Whiteharbour, said: “The time has come to stand up against this type of proposal, keep our A2 coast road safe and promote the beautiful assets that we have locally to the many tourists now visiting the area.”

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A spokesperson for Cloghan Point (Holdings) Limited. said: “Cloghan Point (holdings) Limited supported its planning application with a voluntary environmental statement which assured all the statutory consultees on the requisite environmental factors.

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“Consequently at the meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee on 7 September 2023, the committee unanimously supported the recommendation to approve the application.

“The application was then forwarded to the Department for Infrastructure to consider if the application would be ‘called in’. Cloghan Point (Holdings) Limited awaits the Department’s decision.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter