Northern Ireland

Woodburn, County Antrim: Drill site policing overtime bill £191,080

Police watch protesters at Woodburn forest Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Police have maintained a constant presence at Woodburn forest since work began in mid-February

The overtime bill for policing at a controversial County Antrim drilling operation is almost £200,000.

The operation at Woodburn near Carrickfergus, that began in mid February, has cost £191,080.

An oil company, Infrastrata, is digging an exploratory oil well for what it has said is 25 million barrels of oil.

Protesters have opposed the scheme because it is near several reservoirs. They have said it could impact the water supply.

Image caption The operation at Woodburn near Carrickfergus, that began in mid February, has cost £191,080.

Northern Ireland Water has said it is safe.

The overtime bill was released after a Freedom of Information request.

The full cost of the operation is likely to be much higher when expenses such as fuel, vehicles and use of the police helicopter are added.

The PSNI has maintained a constant presence at the site since work began there in mid-February.

Image caption The drilling operation is expected to continue for several more weeks

Environmentalists have complained about aspects of the police operation including allegations of heavy-handedness.

A number of protesters have been arrested for alleged breach of the peace and other offences and are due in court next month.

Amongst them is the director of Friends of the Earth in Northern Ireland, James Orr.

The parent organisation in Britain has issued a statement backing him. He has said he will contest the charges.

The drilling operation is expected to continue for several more weeks.

The company will then assess the results before deciding whether it wants to commercially extract any oil.

If it wants to do so, it will need full planning permission.

The PSNI said it could not provide any information on future projected costs.

"Due to the dynamic nature of such an operation there may be an upscale or downscale of police resources on any given day, dependent upon the specific operational factors and needs," a spokesperson said.

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