Northern Ireland

Woodburn Forest: Oil protester arrested after stand-off on Infrastrata oil drill

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Media captionAn environmental protestor who climbed on top of a drill being transported to an exploratory oil well has come down

A protester involved in a stand-off between environmentalists and a company which wants to drill an exploratory oil well in County Antrim has been arrested.

Mark Chapman had climbed onto a drill at Woodburn Forest near Carrickfergus.

Mr Chapman was arrested on suspicion of obstructive sitting but has been released on police bail.

Campaigners claim the well could impact the water supply. NI Water said it was confident there was no threat.

NI Water has leased the site which is within the catchment of a reservoir that supplies water to thousands of homes in Belfast and Carrickfergus.

Prior to his arrest at the site on Monday, Mr Chapman said: "I'm upholding environmental law.

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Image caption Mark Ruffalo is famous for his role in campaigning on environmental issues

"My understanding is that it is possible to commit a small crime to prevent a larger one."

His words were greeted with cheers from protesters at the forest site. He also said that he had come equipped and was prepared to chain himself to the drill if necessary.

The company, Infrastrata, is behind the oil drilling scheme.

In March, it was revealed that the rule under which the exploratory oil well got the go-ahead is to be looked at again by officials.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said he wanted to hear people's views about the use of so-called "permitted development" rights linked to oil and gas exploration.

Opponents claim the well got permitted development rights by default after planners missed a 21-day deadline to respond to the application with its views.

The Department of Environment said it decided the application qualified for permitted development status. It said had it decided otherwise it could have removed the permitted development rights and demanded a full planning application "notwithstanding the 21-day deadline".

In February, Hollywood star Mark Ruffalo weighed into the dispute.

The actor who played superhero The Incredible Hulk wrote to the authorities in supporter of protesters.

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