East Riding of Yorkshire Council has postponed its decision on Rathlin Energy’s planning application for a new drilling site at West Newton until after the May elections.
The decision was due to be made at a meeting of the council’s planning committee on March 26th. But people who were due to speak at the meeting have been told the application will now not be considered. The next planning meeting when it could be considered will be after the general and local council elections.
The council confirmed today that Rathlin had requested a delay of the application. The company has applied to drill up to two exploratory hydrocarbon wells at the site, called West Newton B, in Holderness, north of Hull.
A council spokesman said the deferral, probably until June, follows comments on the application by Humberside Archaeology Partnership. The Partnership had called for either the withdrawal of the application or its deferral so that an archaeological evaluation could be carried out.
The Partnership’s manager, Dan Evans, said in his comment: “This site lies within an important archaeological wetland landscape dating back to the prehistoric era”.
He said there could be unidentified archaeological remains in the application area and they could be be at risk from the proposals.
“I would expect the applicant to take appropriate measures to ensure that any archaeological deposits are identified, recorded and safeguarded in advance of submitting an application for full planning permission.”
He said: “As the planning application statement contained no reference to the nature, location and extent of the currently unevaluated archaeological deposits in this particular area, I am unable to make an informed decision as to the impact this development will have on any such deposits.”
Dan Evans called for an archaeological evaluation. The results, he said, would “provide detailed information to enable an informed and reasonable planning decision to be taken”.
In a statement by Frack Free East Yorkshire, local campaigner, Jon Mager, said: “The delay until after the local elections means that East Riding Councillors will avoid possible political fall-out from a decision to let Rathlin continue their programme of work which envisages 6 wells in the West Newton area and an unknown number to follow up the Crawberry Hill site near Walkington.”
“Councillor Phyllis Pollard, who chaired the first meetings of Rathlin’s community liaison group and also chaired the Planning meeting which gave Rathlin permission to carry on testing at Crawberry Hill, also represents the Beverley Rural ward which includes Walkington, Bishop Burton and Newbald, together with Councillor Stephen Parnaby MBE, the current Council Leader.”
“Rathlin may also be banking on the implementation of the Infrastructure Act after the general election, hoping that the relaxation of regulations for oil and gas exploration, including fracking, may make it easier to carry out many more wells in the East Riding without having to deal with the concerns of local residents, farmers and other businesses.”
Our analysis of public objections to the application showed people were particularly concerned about Rathlin’s past operational record in the area. This included concerns about the impact of seismic testing, breaches of permit conditions, noise, light pollution, traffic and smells. There were also concerns about the potential impact of a West Newton-B site on local communities and wildlife.