TV presenters join call on Government to block oil drilling off Bournemouth

Corallian appraisal well location

Campaigners have described plans to drill for oil on the seabed off Bournemouth as a “reckless gamble” and urged the government to block it.

The Business Secretary, Greg Clark, is considering proposals by Corallian Energy Ltd for an appraisal well, 6km from Studland and 8km from Bournemouth. The company wants to drill to a depth of 1,640m using a rig that would be 121m above sea level.

In a letter this week, TV presenters Chris Packham, Kate Humble and Miranda Krestovnikoff joined politicians, businesses, environmental groups and residents in urging Mr Clark to protect the coastline. Letter to Greg Clark (pdf)

They said:

“The consequences of a major oil spill at this location pose an existential threat to the local economy and natural environment”.

According to the letter, the Bournemouth and Poole area attracts 10 million visitors a year, who spend over £3/4 billion and support 12,000 jobs.

The drilling site, known as the Colter Prospect, is in Britain’s most important section of seabed for seahorses.

It is also in the Solent and Dorset Coast potential Special Protection Area. This is being considered for designation because of its internationally-important populations of common tern, Sandwich term and little tern.

Dorset has the UK’s largest producing onshore oil field at Wytch Farm and many of the wells run horizontally from the shore under the seabed. But Corallian said in its application there were no suitable onshore sites from which to drill. It said the rig would be used for up to 45 days, outside the main tourist season. After drilling, the well would be abandoned, the company said.

“Unnecessary and reckless gamble”

In their letter, the campaigners said ideally the Dorset coast would not support any risk from the oil and gas industry. But they said:

“offshore drilling this close to the coast, would be to take an unnecessary and reckless gamble.”

The letter said the decision to rule out drilling off the Florida coast last month acknowledged that the risks of offshore drilling in sensitive areas outweighed the benefits. It added:

“We would like to advocate a similar strategy to that introduced in Florida for Bournemouth and Poole Bay, from Swanage and Studland to the Isle of Wight.”

The letter urged Mr Clark to issue a statement so that “residents and visitors can be sure their coastal environment will be protected.”

“This will also help re-assure local business and future investors that Bournemouth, Poole, the Isle of Wight and Purbeck are safe to invest in and will never be under any threat from onshore drilling.”


Among the signatories of the letter are Dr Jane Goodall, Bournemouth Natural Science Society, Darwin Ecology, Birds of Poole Harbour, the Seahorse Trust, East Dorset Friends of The Earth and Bournemouth & Poole Greenpeace.

The letter writer, Stuart Lane, of Bournemouth, Poole Bay, Isle of Wight & Purbeck Stakeholders, said a blow-out, assessed by Corallian as low risk, would have “inescapably high” consequences.

“Permitting this application would set a precedent for future applications. Multiple drillings would multiply up the level of risk”.

  • Earlier this year, UK Oil and Gas Investments plc pulled out of its offshore licence near the Isle of Wight. It told investors one of the reasons was the “high environmental sensitivity” of the area (more details).

55 replies »

  1. Strange though that this is an area with plans to build an off shore wind farm, and also an area that is navigated on a daily basis with oil tankers bringing oil to the Fawley Refinery! Obviously risk analyses can be done for these enterprises, I would have thought it is perfectly feasible to do the same here.

  2. Fascinating, I was born near Bournemouth and spent most of my childhood exploring the Purbecks, Poole Bay, where i used to sail with friends, the Isle Of Wight and spent many happy days there, summer and winter.

    There was a plan to have an offshore wind farm just along the sound and would have been visible from Bournemouth and the Purbecks. The most interesting aspect of that, was that drilling licences were also being proposed as that part of the coast and further inland is one of the most potentially oil and presumably gas rich shale reservoirs in the country. anyone who has heard of Kimmerage Bay will tell you of the natural Kimmerage shale fires that spring up occasionally.

    I am sure the fracking fraternity will be happy to regale you with tales of the Wytch Farm oil Field and how harmless it all is. However the horizontal wells are all offshore along the sound and the history is not a accident or pollution free as some would like to suggest. I spent a couple of months re-exploring the old Purbeck haunts last year and got to talking with some old friends and colleagues and they took me out in a small boat to Poole Bay where i used to swim all those years ago. I remember then the water was crystal clear and full of fish and Crustacea, sea weed and shallow water right out into the bay. what i saw last year dismayed me, the water was murky, the animal life seemed almost absent, there were visible oil slicks and you could smell it on the water. I didn’t go swimming that day.

    There were several oil and gas drilling platforms in the bay for years and complaints of oil slicks and smell, and the wind farm project was objected to strongly enough, to be rejected on impact grounds, though it regularly resurfaces as a proposal, but so far, no go. Bournemouth is a strongly conservative held area and was so long before Bournemouth became given away into Dorset and was previously a Hampshire town. The subsequent asset stripping of Bournemouth by Dorset is a long and bitter memory and has never been forgotten.
    Then when the Thatcher government allowed benefit claimants to live anywhere, parts of Bournemouth became essentially ghettoised and anyone who knew Boscombe before those days would tell you it was an older, more genteel part of Bournemouth and that is now a notorious no go area, as indeed parts of the centre of Bournemouth now is late at night. Pottersville comes to Boscombe Falls.

    So, there is a long history of government abuse of Bournemouth and in spite of the recent demographic changes, there is still a strong rebellious anti exploitation feeling and undertow in Bournemouth.

    Of course just on the sandspit between Bournemouth and Poole is i think the fourth or fifth most expensive place to live in the world, and as such is jealously guarded by the residents to maintain property prices and values. That inevitably will have a far stronger lobbying capability than any tin pot company with the unfortunate name of Corallian Energy Ltd will be hard put to make an inroad into that hallowed turf, or rather sand.

    And then we also have all the famous people that either live there or, like i do love that Jurassic coast and would protect it to the death if necessary.

    “In a letter this week, TV presenters Chris Packham, Kate Humble and Miranda Krestovnikoff joined politicians, businesses, environmental groups and residents in urging Mr Clark to protect the coastline.”

    Stuart Lanes letter has amongst the signatories, such as Dr Jane Goodall, Bournemouth Natural Science Society, Darwin Ecology, Birds of Poole Harbour, the Seahorse Trust, East Dorset Friends of The Earth and Bournemouth & Poole Greenpeace,TV presenters Chris Packham, Kate Humble and Miranda Krestovnikoff joined politicians, businesses, environmental groups and residents in urging Mr Clark to protect the coastline.

    If Corallian Energy Ltd think they can run rough shod over these and many others, including myself, i think they will find that they have bitten off a lot more than they can ever chew, or indeed get their teeth into.

    As i have said before, we did not choose this fight, it is imposed upon us, if they really want to attempt to get this even considered, then lets see where that goes shall we?

    So Be It.

    • Hi Ryor, its when this slow invasion creeps into our home ground that we feel so much for Yorkshire, Lancashire, Sussex and all the lands and people who love this country and others and don’t want to see our heritage ruined by greed and avarice and ignorance.

      That is why i support all those who fight for their home ground, we are all essentially in the same country, on the same planet, in the same position against the insanity of the exploiters for profit.

      All the profit in the world will not return one square metre of polluted land to its original state, will not preserve one cubic metre of water from pollution, and it will not change one person who truly loves this country, and this planet and all of the natural life that is so much under threat today.

      There is a better way, and that is to emulate all the planets natural energy systems, they would have to be blind not to see that?

      Unfortunately blindness and blinkered ignorance is what we do see amongst those who would perpetrate this horror on us all for profit.

      To ignore the planets natural energy systems given freely and then go for just more fossil fuel pollution and greed is insanity beyond insanity and it will not stand up to scrutiny, we have all seen what happens when all these frauds are challenged, it is sickening to witness it, but witness it we must to be free of it.

      When the earth gives so much and only asks us to respect it in return, to ignore that is at the least grossly ignorant, at worst it is criminally and suicidally self destructive.

    • What day and time? In which time zone? Observed by whom? Or what? Or when? Alive or dead? Old or young? Written or spoken? In what language dialect or sub tongue? Grunted or squeaked? Bubbled or hissed? Could you be more specific?

  3. Largest offshore problem with Bournemouth was the installation of an offshore surfing reef to encourage a boom in that element of the holiday trade. Absolute disaster. Didn’t work, cost a fortune and turned out to be a death trap.

    Other problems off shore relate to the firing ranges depositing large numbers of explosive devices in the sea-hope no sea horses were harmed . However, it has long been reported by divers that gas can be seen bubbling from the sea bed to the surface, so probably a good environmental benefit to “capture” that and prevent it from continuing to leak into the atmosphere.

    • The largest offshore problem? Really? By what measurement? That was not anywhere near offshore, off beach perhaps, but no more. Is that clueless revelation from personal experience or just giggle?

  4. I think round about 1 in 100 chance of success. Ie, no chance. The near shore spill plan would look a bit troublesome.

    Meanwhile. …Anglers and Conservationists seeking legal action against the government for allowing pollution in ( amongst other areas ) Pool Harbour. So says the Express 27 Aug 2015. Who is doing the polluting, those pesky farmers it seems. Nutrients washing into the harbour which, as it does not flush so well, hang around. Less nutrients, clearer water ( and similar for the broads, once crystal clear, now not ).

    • As the structure has been drilled before, with apparently no problems (seahorses thriving, lots of tourists…) I’d cut your odds.

      • Al
        I should cut them as things progress i guess. As you note, large structures do not deter tourists. Wind Tirbines have not deterred anyone holidaying on the East Coast. It must be the oil spill potential. Now how prolific is the Corralian?

    • It has to be realised in amongst all this anti farming furore from the anti antis, that the big pharmaceutical imperative for food production comes from the governments own agricultural policy and conditions.
      And why you might ask is an agricultural policy based upon placing agriculture deep in the hands, and the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry?

      You might equally ask why the NHS is not so much a preventive operation, but a pharmacologically based expensive post treatment of desease and conditions manufactured by Big Food, Big Pharma Farmer, and Big Media somnambulism?

      Big Pharma Agro (Big Pharma Farmer), is like Big Food, islike Big Pharma Medical, is like Big Media, is like Big Finance Banking, is like Big Gov, is like Big Corp, is like Big Oil, is like Big Gas, is like Big NWO.

      All are deeply embedded in each others co-corrupted structure of government business and society.

      They are not separate entities, they are simply faces of the same organised Big Human Farming and Exploitation and are all interlinked.

      So there is no isolated enemy amongst the systems, they are all part of the same machine.

      And the primary prey, ladies and gentlemen,

      Is Us, you and me and our children, especially our children, because they are the next victims in waiting, and see how carefully programmed Big Education makes them?

      We are the biggest commodity on the market, not any of the “Bigs” they are just means to enslave and own us.

      So ignore the anti farmer hype, that is just more cracked filthy mirrors and dirty obscuring toxic smoke.

      We are the target market, so what are we going to do about that?

      Time to wake up!

      • Phil C
        That was a newspaper article, related to pollution in Poole Harbour. Looks like farmers, ( pesky! ) boat owners and maybe litter louts all have a part to play. Maybe past pollution as well, from the day of yore, which has settled out in the harbour sediment. So best ignore the call to arms over non existent anti farmer hype.

        • Dear hewes, rather than reporting from “a newspaper” (?) article, and allow that to be the only source of “what looks like” boats and the eternal enemy “Big Farma” boogie man, and the really laughable “litter louts”??!! How many “litter louts” pour crude oil into Poole Harbour? Unless its a generic term of course and that could cover the whole ohandgee industry?
          Perhaps go there yourself and experience the conditions in Poole Harbour yourself? I am sure martin would be happy to show you around as he claims to have lived there all his life? Beware of blinkers however.
          Don’t take my word for it, take a boat out and have a look yourself and then tell me what you see.
          Then ask yourself what possible causes there are for the pollution, you may take the somewhat self censored view that it is only boats and farms and the coverall generic “litter louts”, but what would you be ignoring as the main potential polluter in the area?
          I see our dear friend Dr Nick wants to add some “Bigs” to his own list, so perhaps you can also add “Big Wytch” or is that another blinkered no-no?
          As usual, it’s not what is mentioned, but what is ignored and self censored that defines anti anti posts.
          I have noticed before how sensitive the absolute white wash Wytch Farm issue is to the anti anti protagonists but this is really enlightening of just how sensitive and protected this cleaner than thou installation really is?

          • Phil C
            To recap
            Your post of 21 Feb 11.40 mentions WYF and Dill rig platforms in the bay, of complaints of smells and oil slicks, plus you experience of a boat trip in Poole Harbour where you noted that, ( compared with your previous experience in the past )

            1. The water was clear, now it was not.
            2. There were Crustacea and fish, seaweed, now theanimal life seemed absent.
            3. There were visible slicks and you could smell it on the water.

            Although I may have mis read it, you only mentioned one potential source of pollution in your post, so were you self censoring or wearing blinkers, or ignored and self censored? ( I quote from your post above ), or just raising the one issue?

            However …. pollution can come from many sources. The anglers were angry about farm run off, Martin mentioned pollution from powered boats and those I know who live there mentioned litter ( plastic bottles and polystyrene containers it seems are prevalent ). I also mentioned past activity ( of yore ).

            But yes, there is indeed more to it than just the farmers, boat owners, oil field owners and litter louts.

            Good to read. ‘Water Quality & Pollution Monitoring in Poole Harbour’. Julian Wardlow 2005, who notes that

            Water pollution from human and industrial activity in the last century has caused lasting damage to the ecological balance in Poole Harbour, particularly in Holes Bay where circulation and flushing is restricted. He notes that many of the sources have been removed, but that Toxic apollutants have been concentrated in sediments, particularly in Holes Bay, where they remain a threat to wildlife.

            Or, the Poole Harbour Aquaric Management Plan, which lists 41 activities which have the potential to cause pollution, and which need managing ( see the management matrix ). Grazing Sitka Deer come first on the list ( but not the highest potential of course ).

            I do not feel ignorant ( quote ) of one of ( not the ) main potential polluters in the area. The onshore drill / production sites / pipelines / process plant have the potential to pollute, either from the wells, via breach of secondary containment, or the flow lines which connect the wells to the process plant etc. However, there is no evidence ( you have not presented any ) that they are the cause of your murky water, lack of fish or oily waters. As noted earlier, crude oil has a fingerprint that can be easily traced, hence any sampling of the sea around WYF would reveal if it was them.

            Not that they are leak free, as noted in the Telegraph, they (Bp) had a pipeline leak in 2011 and had to shut in production while they fixed it and checked the rest.

            There is the potential, but it does not mean what you saw is due to that activity.

            Regarding there being drilling platforms in Poole harbour, BP did, and Perenco do their drilling from onshore, be it on the mainland or islands. They did not use drilling platform, so as far as I am aware, there were no drilling platforms in Poole Harbour, but there have been jack up rigs outwith the Harbour.
            What your friends saw, if in the harbour would be land based drill rigs ( one was 120m tall )

            Re whitewash Wytch Farm ( your words ). I do not think anyone has white washed it, what it does and it’s environmental impact is a matter of fact. It still has the potential to cause pollution, but so far, it seems not to any great extent.

            Re being cleaner than thou ( quote from above )I do not think so, they have had leaks as noted above, but they do seem to have done a good job so far.

            Re visit to see for myself. Not this year, but next year maybe. However, the point was not to disagree with what you saw, but to introduce a few other sources of pollution which may have caused what you saw, rather than the single one you mentioned.

            If it helps see any ‘oil spill calulator’ to determine how much oil has been spilt to cause the slick ( or sheen ).
            As slicks are on average one millionth of a M thick ( one micron ), a few drips from a boat goes a long way. They also evaporate quite quickly, so you need a constant source to get them all the time.

            Re the Express, yup, it’s a newspaper, whether one agrees with what is in it or not ( reads it or not and so on ).

      • Phil C , you say “Big Pharma Agro (Big Pharma Farmer), is like Big Food, islike Big Pharma Medical, is like Big Media, is like Big Finance Banking, is like Big Gov, is like Big Corp, is like Big Oil, is like Big Gas, is like Big NWO.” I suppose “Big Wind, Big Solar, Big Battery etc.” are exempt from your black list???

        • Who said it was a black list? And who said it was definitive? Add as many as you wish if it makes you happy?

          Hypersensitive all of a sudden?

          You guys do like to put words in other peoples mouths don’t you?
          You could add Big Energy? Big tide? Big EU, Big NASA, Big UN, Big Russia, Big China, Big USA, and last but not least, Big indignation?

  5. Actually, hewes62, the pollution in Poole Harbour and around it, is predominantly from a large increase in small boats being used for pleasure around the area. (Some, not such small boats as the wealthy like the area for living and recreation.)

    And guess what? Those small boat, and gin palace owners, power their craft largely from diesel. So, we have diesel being produced at Fawley Refinery, currently mainly from imported oil tankered up the Channel and then supplied to the boat owners of this area.

    Seems a bit daft when all that risk assessment has been conducted, it is beyond the wit of man to obtain local oil-on shore or off shore.

    Mind you, I suspect we could always go back to oars and sails!

    • Rubbish martin, there were leaky diesel boats there when I was a child, please don’t talk about things you don’t know about.

    • Martin
      I think we have been through this before, re not fit to swim and Poole Harbour. It went with the WYF horizontal wells all being offshore. Well, they run offshore, but are drilled from onshore.

      If the flow lines are leaking then the slick would be really easy to trace back to the source, and as it’s ‘raw’ oil, it’s footprint would be dissimilar to anything else floating around. I be,I’ve that issue was aired as well, and a lady confirmed that it would be easy to determine what the slick consisted of.

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