Cloghan Point: campaigners vow to continue fight against £30m oil terminal redevelopment plan

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Environmental campaigners have pledged to continue their fight to stop the proposed redevelopment of a £30m oil terminal at Cloghan Point, outside Whitehead.

Campaigners are angry at a decision by Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd not to call in a planning application for the site which is located on the shore of Belfast Lough. An existing oil terminal at Cloghan Point currently stores oil reserves for the Republic of Ireland.

Planning permission was granted by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council for the oil terminal development in September last year despite almost 400 letters of objection expressing concerns over climate change, local roads, and the marine environment of Belfast Lough as well as “encouraging further dependency on fossil fuels”.

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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.

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

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.

In February, Stop Whitehead Oil Terminal campaigners 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.

Letter Issued

However, a letter issued to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council by the Department says: “It has been concluded that the application does not raise issues of such importance that their impact is considered to extend to a sub-regional or regional level and the circumstances of this case are not exceptional such as to warrant the use of the Department’s ‘call-in’ power under section 29 of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.”

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

It also stated that the borough council can continue to process the application accordingly.

Councillors were told previously by planners alternative sites have been “discounted for various reasons” and the proposed redevelopment of an existing site meets policy requirements and would have “no significant impact on the rural character”.

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.

Commenting on the Infrastructure Minister’s decision, campaigner Hilary McCollum, of Stop Whitehead Oil Terminal, said in an online statement: “We know that fossil fuel use is driving climate change. The Climate Change (NI) Act 2022 places a legal obligation on Government departments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 48% by 2030, and achieve net zero by 2050. Increasing fossil fuel imports flies in the face of this.

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“With the farming industry having already promised a slower rate of transition to carbon neutral, other sectors need to increase their efforts.”

She continued: “The lough is home to numerous sea birds, including UK red list species, as well as marine life. An oil spill or explosion would have significant impacts on Belfast Lough and beyond.

“Northern Ireland already has four oil terminals. There is no strategic or practical need for another one, the region is already well supplied. At a time of climate crisis, we need to be reducing fossil fuel imports, not increasing them. Campaigners pledge to continue their fight to stop the development. ”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter