Regulation

Complaint of planning breach at second Angus Energy oil exploration site

Lorry Weald Oil Watch

Lorry leaving an unauthorised access route to Lidsey oil site, 24 July 2017. Photo: Weald Oil Watch

West Sussex County Council has told the oil company, Angus Energy, that it must use the approved route into an oil exploration site at Lidsey, near Bognor Regis, after a complaint about planning breaches.

A lorry delivering to the site was filmed by Weald Oil Watch using an alternative route, apparently in contravention of a condition of the site’s planning permission and a legal agreement.

The film shows the lorry crossing both carriageways of the A29 to leave and enter the site via an access track, the use of which was specifically prohibited in a planning condition for highway safety reasons.

This is the second time the council has warned Angus about breaches of conditions over the access route to the Lidsey site for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

It is also the second planning issue involving the company this year.

Surrey County Council has said the company did not have planning permission to drill a sidetrack well at the Brockham site near Dorking in January this year. Angus Energy has repeatedly said it did have permission for the well. DrillOrDrop report

DrillOrDrop invited Angus Energy by phone and email to comment on the complaint about the lorry route at Lidsey. A member of staff said our messages would be forwarded to Angus Energy’s chairman, Jonathan Tidswell-Pretorius, and the managing director, Paul Vonk. The company has not responded. This post will be updated with any comment or statement from the company.

Conditions and legal agreements

The complaint centres on planning condition 17, agreed when permission was granted in 2005. This prohibited the use of a section of track – described as access to the Southern Water Sewage Works – from the A29 to the site.

Conditon 17 of Lidsey planning permission

Condition 17 of planning permission granted by West Sussex County Council

Site plan

The complaint is significant because Angus is preparing for work which, it said, would require about 70 HGV movements throughout 9-14 days. (Link to document)

In addition to the condition, the site is covered by a legal agreement, known as a Section 106. This was also agreed in 2005 and required HGVs to follow a route to the site from the junction of the A27 and A29. A plan included in the agreement showed the designated route leaving the A29 at an access road into the industrial estate at Lidsey Farm. (Link to Section 106 Agreement)

Blue route for Section 106 agreement

In a document to West Sussex County Council earlier this year, Angus said:

“All HGV traffic will follow the agreed routeing to and from the site as set out in the existing Section 106 Agreement.”  (Link to document)

But according to the video footage, filmed on 24 July 2017, a heavy goods vehicle (HGVs) used the alternative, unauthorised access (see maps).

West Sussex County Council told DrillOrDrop today:

“Condition 17 of planning permission BN/31/05 states that (in summary) no access or egress is taken via the ‘Southern Water Sewage Works access road’. The routing approved under the S106 legal agreement requires that HGVs enter/leave the site via the A29 to the north.

“The videos appear to show lorries breaching both of these requirements by not using the authorised access, and by leaving the site to the south.”

When asked what action the council had taken, a spokesperson said:

“The County Council has made contact with the operator and highlighted the requirements of the condition and the legal agreement, and the highway safety reasons for these requirements, asking them to confirm that with immediate effect the authorised access to the site will be used, and the correct route.

“We will monitor the situation to establish whether further action may be warranted.”

Approved route blocked

Lidsey concrete block Weald Oil Watch

Block to the approved route to Lidsey Oil Site. Photo: Weald Oil Watch

The approved route to the Lidsey site is currently blocked by a concrete barrier. According to correspondence between the county council and the site operator, this is not the first time this has happened or the first time that the council has had to warn Angus about using the correct route.

In October 2014, the council visited the Lidsey site and told Angus:

“The County Planning Authority is aware that there may have been obstructions in the past along the approved vehicular route to the A29 which could have prevented access. Please be aware that all vehicular access and egress to the site must be obtained via the approved route.” (Link to document)

DrillOrDrop asked the council for its view of the current blockage of the designated route through the industrial estate. A spokesperson said:

“It is for the operator to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that they comply with conditions, which in this case will presumably mean removing the blockage.”

Condition 17 of the planning permission also requires the company to put up signs which advise HGV drivers which route to take to and from the site.

In February 2014, the council wrote to the site operator:

“All signage must be erected in accordance with the conditions as a matter of urgency and all vehicles must use the approved access route to the site from the A29.” (Link to document)

Eight months later, the council’s compliance and monitoring officer said Angus was not complying with condition 17 of the planning permission:

“No signs indicating drivers of the prohibited use of final extent of the track to the A29 were present.” (Link to document)

In February 2015, Angus sent a document to West Sussex County Council saying:

“New signage will be erected or existing signage made visible, controlling the access and egress of traffic, suppliers will be notified accordingly and the route discussed with the local farmer to ensure compliance with this condition.”

But visitors to the site recently have reported that signs have been removed.

Lidsey Notices Weald Oil Watch

Sign previously in place. Photo: Weald Oil Watch

Missing Lidsey Notice Weald Oil Watch

Missing sign this week. Photo: Weald Oil Watch

New production well

Angus has permission from West Sussex County Council and the Environment Agency to drill a new sidetrack well at Lidsey. Earlier this month, Mr Vonk predicted it would produce 400 barrels a day and make the company “self-funded for the next couple of years”. (Link to Investor Conference)

He said the well would be in production this summer and was waiting for final approval from the Oil and Gas Authority and the arrival of the rig.

DrillOrDrop asked West Sussex County Council what would happen if work began at the site using the incorrect access route. The council spokesperson said:

“We will consider our response in accordance with the approved WSCC Planning Compliance and Enforcement Plan”.

This sets out how the council will respond to breaches of planning control.

The plan says the county council can undertake between one and eight monitoring visits to mineral sites a year, which are charged to the operator. More visits will be made to sites where there are “concerns about compliance”.

The council can issue a planning contravention notice, asking for information, where there is good reason to believe a breach may have occurred. Developers and landowners must legally respond to this notice within 21 days. Failure to reply or knowingly providing false or misleading information is an offence.

Ultimately, the council can require developers to comply with conditions, or stop an activity taking place through court action.

Update

(Wednesday 2 August)

The farmer who owns the access track to the Lidsey oil site told DrillOrDrop that the concrete block was placed across the track to deter people from trespassing on the surrounding fields. When a delivery is expected, the company should contact the farmer, who then moves the block so traffic can pass.

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