Is Rathlin’s new East Yorkshire gas site on top of a prehistoric village?


Location of West Newton B wellsite

Reporting by Chris Power and Ruth Hayhurst

Rathlin Energy’s new gas exploration site in East Yorkshire could sit on the remains of a medieval village or even a much older settlement, according to research for the company.

A geophysical survey carried out on the West Newton B site in Holderness concluded that features under the ground could belong to a medieval village. But they could date back to Roman or prehistoric times. More fieldwork is now recommended before work on the wellsite goes ahead.

The survey was carried out by Allen Archaeology, one of Rathlin Energy’s consultants. Its report has been submitted to the Humberside Archaeology Partnership.

The report concluded:

“The geophysical survey has revealed a number of potential archaeological features across both the wellsite and access track.”

It said there were linear features that were modern field drains. But there are also a number of “positive linear anomalies” that did not follow the alignment of the field drains.

“[These] most likely represent field boundaries and other anthropogenic features of an unknown date.”

“To the north of the site are earthworks that belong to the medieval village of West Newton, and it possible that the linear features identified by the survey relate to this, although it is equally plausible that they are of earlier date.”

The report added:

“The well site survey area appears to contain deposits of archaeological interest within its boundaries and these may need to be examined through a programme of evaluation trenching. The access road will require a narrow linear area to be stripped of ploughsoil, so it is proposed that this is monitored as part of a watch brief.”

Humberside Archaeology Partnership (HAP), in a response to East Riding of Yorkshire Council earlier this year, said:

“It is considered highly likely that any below-ground works associated with the development in this area would encounter archaeological deposits relating to occupation of the site in the prehistoric and Romano-British periods.”

HAP said the landscape in the middle part of the Holderness Plain had been “extensively exploited by Early Man, since at least the Mesolithic period”, for the past 10,000 years.

Archaeological fieldwork in the area in the past 20 years has discovered more than a hundred previously unknown features of archaeological interest, the report said. These include:

  • Iron Age, Romano-British and Anglo-Scandinavian settlements
  • Bronze Age barrows
  • Mesolithic flint-knapping sites

HAP had recommended that no work should take place on the site or access track until the county council had approved further archaeological investigation.

We have asked Rathlin Energy when it planned to dig the trenches to investigate further but the company declined to provide the information.

Other developments in East Yorkshire

Crawberry Hill According to a planning decision notice from East Riding of Yorkshire Council permission to drill and test at Rathlin Energy’s site at Crawberry Hill expired on 28th October 2015. The company, which has already said it is pulling out Crawberry Hill, must now abandon the well and restore the site. Local people reported seeing equipment being moved onto the site on 27th October which they said were consistent with capping the well.

West Newton A East Riding of Yorkshire Council has extended the public consultation period for Rathlin’s planning application for West Newton A until 17th November 2015. The company wants to extend the permission for another three years to allow it to test the well, drill another and restore the site. The application (15/03056/STVAR) details are on the East Riding of Yorkshire Council planning website here.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s nature conservation officer has made a holding objection to the application because it contained “a lack of up to date ecological information”. The officer said the application did “not provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate compliance” with local and national planning policy. The ecological report included with the application is more than three years old and the officer said there was no evidence that it, or supporting surveys, had been updated.

Updated 6/11/15 to correct North Yorkshire County Council to East Riding of Yorkshire County Council in final paragraph

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