Live updates from the meeting of Lincolnshire County Council discussing Egdon Resources’ planning applications to drill and test oil wells at North Kelsey and Biscathorpe. Planning officers have recommended the go-ahead for both schemes. Previous planning permissions for both sites have expired. The only work carried out was the site entrances. The meeting is expected to hear from the company and opponents of the schemes.
Reporting at this meeting has been made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers.
The committee votes unanimously to approve the application to extend the duration of the permission until February 2021.
12.14pm Continued discussion
Cllr David Brailsford asks for clarification on gas flaring. Neil McBride, planning officer, says the flare would be used in emergencies. Normally, the gas would be used to generate electricity.
Cllr Duncan McNally says the area does not just support farming. There are also industrial estates. He supports the application.
Cllr Stephen Kirk says he is most concerned about the impact on the AONB. But he accepts it is short-term. He says he supports the application.
Cllr Paul Skinner seconds the proposal to support the application. The council officers have looked into the application, he says. He says he is concerned about the noise limits.
Cllr Robin Renshaw says he can see no reason to turn down the application. He says he is disgusted about plastic rubbish on the access to the site.
A member of the public stands in the gallery and says her local village, Donnington on Vain, was not consulted:
“If an oil well is allowed in the AONB what would not be allowed? A house with a pink door perhaps?
“The national interest will not be served. Prices at the pumps will not go down.
“I am local resident, and I will need to deal with this, when you are all gone.”
Cllr Fleetwood says
“If you wish a decision to be taken, he will ask the police attend. I will not allow anyone in the public gallery to interrupt. This interjection is deplorable.”
Cllr Thomas Ashton says he is satisfied that the site is as far away from settlement as it could be. On the chalk stream, I have the benefit of representing the authority on an Environment Agency committee. He says he know how carefully the EA monitors the chalk streams. The fines that come with industrial operations that cause insignificant pollution are “pretty heavy”, he says. I am confident that pollution does not happen in those chalk streams.
Planning officer, Neil McBride, is asked whether the member of the public’s village should have been consulted. He confirms it was not and he was satisfied that the consultation was adequate. It was
12.11pm Comment from planning officer
Neil McBride says the Wolds AONB board had initially said there should be an environmental impact assessment. Following a discussion, the AONB board officers have accepted there is no need for an environmental statement.
Mr McBride says officers are satisfied there would be no pollution.
12.08pm Cllr Lewis Strange statement
Cllr Strange is the neighbouring councillor and a member of the Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty advisory board.
He says he is aware of concerns of local people. He says there are about 700 people in one village.
He is most concerned about water pollution. One of the most precious chalk streams is a few 100m from the Biscathorpe development. He says an environment impact assessment should be done now rather than after a pollution incident. He says he wishes Egdon had not come back with this application. We must do all we can to protect the preciously chalk streams of the Wolds.
Cllr Thomas Ashton, vice chair of the committee, says even within a five-mile radius he is not sure a thousand people live near it. There are small villages and hamlets at most, he says.
The location of the site is in a depression in the landscape. Apart from the 50m drilling rig will not have any visual impact on the landscape. On diesel fumes, he says, there is a lot of diesel going up, more than generated by the application, during harvest time. Traffic would not go through local villages. The proposed route also takes tankers from the Immingham refinery. This application would have no impact on the route, he says. He proposes approval of the application.
12.03pm Review by planning officer
Neil McBride says the number of objections shows that the local community was aware of the consultation. They weren’t, says someone in the public gallery.
He says officers were comfortable that the application could be considered legally.
On discharge into the chalk stream, this would be addressed by the Environment Agency, Mr McBride.
12 noon Questions to Paul Foster, for Egdon Resources
Cllr Paul Skinner asks why the noise limits are higher at this site than the North Kelsey site. Mr Foster refers to the previous planning conditions. The district council environmental health officer has approved the noise limits. The noise would be monitored and the company would keep within the noise limits.
Cllr Ian Fleetwood says this is in a different district council than the N Kelsey site. Cllr Skinner says he is concerned that this is being treated different.
11.55am Statement by Paul Foster, for Egdon Resources
Mr Foster acknowledges there have been objections, particularly on the impact of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
He says the company says there will be an impact on the landscape and it will be impossible to disguise the operation. He says there are man-made structures, including farm buildings and a communication mast. The impact of the proposals would diminish quickly with distance. The rig would be on site for only eight weeks. The impacts of people living nearby would not be significant.
Any harm is temporary and of a short duration and would be reversed entirely with restoration, Mr Foster says. Once restored to agricultural use, the drilling site would not be recognisable. If oil were discovered, equipment would have a lower impact than during the drilling phase.
He repeats his previous point on the benefit of domestic oil production.
He says the gas would be used to generate electricity. It would not be flared 24-hours a day. Only clean water would be discharged into the river.
I ask you to extend the permission to allow Egdon to complete the work on this site.
11.53am Questions to Elizabeth Williams, objector
Mrs Williams is asked whether she lives locally. She has lived in the county for 50 years. She has spoken to local residents, she says, and has been asked to speak for them.
Cllr Lindsey Cawrey asks how Mrs Williams travels around the county. Mrs Williams says she uses public transport.
11.48am Statement by Elizabeth Williams, objector
Mrs Williams submits 13 additional objections.
Mrs Williams says concerns of objections include: air and water pollution, industrialisation, heavy traffic on fast narrow rural roads.
Please do not allow this plan, she says. People are worried and stressed about this. They feel they have not been consulted, she says. I would question the due consultation.
There will be thousands of distressed people to answer to if this goes through. The flaring of up to 10 tonnes of gas every day is shocking, she says. There will be up to a thousand extra vehicle.
How can this not affect human health and the local environment.
Treated site fluids will be discharged into a protected chalk stream, via an interceptor, she says. Has this been tested, she says. There can be no margin for error next to a protected chalk stream. Accidents do happen because of human error, failures of wells and extreme weather events.
Please take the precautionary principle and refuse this application. There is too much at stake. The degradation of our precious Lincolnshire Wolds. There is too much uncertainty and insufficient information, she says.
11.34am Planning officer’s report
Neil McBride introduces the Biscathorpe application, to extend the permission for three years. The site operator, Egdon Resources, is also seeking permission to retain security cabins.
The proposed drilling rig would be no more than 50m, he says.
The access onto the site raised concerns during a site visit, Mr McBride says. This has been addressed in the assessment of the application, he says. The access has been constructed, he says.
He adds that a dedicated condition should be put forward to ensure there is no misunderstanding on signage. He proposes an additional condition (16) which requires site entrance signage shall be installed for the whole development.
A further 56 representations were received objecting to the application since the original report, Mr McBride says. Over the weekend, the council received further 72 objections. Two petitions, one with 115 signatures and another 206 signatures, were delivered to the council objecting to the proposal. The concerns raised included pollution, industrialisation, devaluing farmland and domestic property, traffic impacts.
Mr McBride says the original permission expired in February 2018. The pre-condition work had been carried out in time to keep the permission alive and allowed the extension application would be valid.
He says Egdon says the original permission was not completed partly because of the low oil price.
East Lindsey District Council does not object to the application, he says.
Planning permission should be granted subject to conditions, Mr McBride says.
North Kelsey application
The committee approves the application unanimously.
Cllr Ian Fleetwood, the committee chair, says the site visit and additional representations would help the committee to decide.
Cllr David Brailsford says he is concerned that the vehicles on the traffic route have not been checked on this route. He advises Egdon to have a dialogue with residents to allay concerns of residents is permission is granted. The company needs “to build bridges” with the local community. There are still no planning reasons to turn down the application. He recommends the application is approved.
Cllr Paul Skinnner supports the proposal to approve. He says he still has concerns for the residents. We will have to rely on the enforcement team to monitor the operation, he says. He seconds the approval.
Cllr Thomas Ashton says eight HGV movements a day from the site should be put in proportion with the number of farm vehicles on the roads during harvest. The harvest traffic is far greater, he says. The committee cannot reasonably dismiss the views of highways. He says he supports the application because despite the concerns there are no planning reasons to refuse.
Cllr Daniel McNally calls for a contact person to talk to residents and enforcement of the traffic management plan. Eight vehicles a day is not a reason to go against it.
Clllr Ian Fleetwood says a dialogue is needed. He asks whether the improvements are to a highway standard.
Planning officer Neil McBride says the improvements are fit for purpose. There will be a need to monitor the highway during the most intensive period of heavy vehicle movements, he says. If they start to fail and there is damage then they will need to be looked at again. There is a condition to pick this up, he says.
Cllr Nigel Pepper says permission was granted in 2014. Today’s decision would not be taken likely. This application has had more consideration than any other recent application, he says.
Cllr Thomas Ashton, the vice chair, says enforcement and compliance with condition will be key if the application is approved.
11.09am Questions to planning officer
The committee chair, Cllr Ian Fleetwood, asks planning officer Neil McBride, about concerns over traffic, conditions, water courses and environmental impact assessments.
Mr McBride says the council does not have figures for the current use of the road. He says Egdon did carry out required pre-condition works under the previous planning permission had been carried out before it expired. They had been inspected and approved by council officers, he says. The previous 2014 permission was legally-implemented, he says, and everything has been done to allow this application to be considered today.
On the permitted route to the site, Mr McBride says HGVs should not go over the level crossing. The council has no evidence to confirm whether it was the case or not, he says. The site would need to be monitored by enforcement officers. It would be visited regularly to ensure vehicles were visiting the site from the approved direction.
If operators did not follow this through, it would not do them any favours for working in Lincolnshire in future, he says. We will ensure conditions are complied with and enforcement action would be follow. There has not been problems of vehicles not following conditions at other local sites, he adds.
On the membrane and stone liner, Mr McBride says Egdon would need to apply for an environmental permit. The thickness of the membrane would be addressed by the permit – yet to be applied for, he says. Any additional works would not require a change to the planning permission, he adds. The impact on water courses would depend on the integrity of the site. Officers are satisfied that everything is in place but this would be picked up by the Environment Agency.
The application was screened for an environmental impact assessment, Mr McBride says. The development did not justify the need for an environmental statement. The information requested by the council on environmental issues is robust, he says. We are confident we have sufficient information to give the recommendations today.
11.03am Statements from local councillors
Cllr Herbert Taylor says “If you do pass it, you need to keep an eye on these boys to ensure that they do what they say they will do.”
Cllr Lewis Strange says he supports the local concerns about the impact of water courses and quality of local life. He says he is also concerned about noise from the site.
He says highways officers have not addressed his concern about the traffic route and a dangerous turning from Smithfield Road towards Moortown. This road is in wonderful condition and people drive quickly on it, he says. The road is not designed for such heavy traffic, he adds.
It would be nice for some compensation for people living nearby. There will be serious inconvenience.
People are much more nervous about drilling now, he says. He adds he cannot understand why the company has not been asked to do an environmental impact assessment, if only to demonstrate how seriously the committee takes the application.
10.59am Questions to Paul Foster for Egdon Resources
Cllr David Brailsford asks Mr Foster how the vehicles would be managed. Mr Foster says there will not be queuing or a convoy system. We know the road is very narrow and it is important to maintain flows of other users, he says.
Mr Foster says the current HGV traffic will be low and mainly agricultural vehicles. The increase will be greater than the number that use the road currently.
Cllr Nigel Pepper asks why Egdon used the wrong route into the site. Mr Foster says the company is not aware of vehicles coming into the site from the wrong direction. That wasn’t us, he says.
10.55am Statement by Paul Foster for Egdon Resources
Mr Foster acknowledges residents’ concern about traffic. He says there will be a large number of HGVs during site construction, but this would amount to one an hour. There would be no working on Saturday afternoons or Sundays. There will be inconvenience but it will be short-term and clear signage will be in place. The safety of all road users is the most important point of the traffic plans, he says.
The company will use banksmen to direct the vehicles. The road improvements will increase the safety of all users. There have been no objections from the highway authority, Mr Foster says.
He says securing domestic oil will have important national benefits. The exploration and winning of oil will contribute to the economy. The temporary period of the permission should be extended, he says, to allow Egdon to complete the work.
10.51am Questions to Amanda Southerby
Cllr Daniel McNally asks who she represents. Mrs Southerby says she represents people who live on the traffic route and those who live locally.
Cllr Robin Renshaw asks about the company’s entrance to the site from the wrong direction. Mrs Southerby says the site entrance is very dangerous. It is a blind bend from both directions. The route is used by cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians, she says. It is also between entrances to two different farms. She says the measurements on the junction do not coincide with the measurements on the plan.
10.46am Statement by Amanda Southerby, objector
Mrs Southerby says there are uncertainties about what lies ahead of the application. The road improvements are inadequate she says. The company has already breached conditions. The site has been accessed from the wrong directions. Lorries have driven on soft versions.
Mrs Southerby says soil was removed without an archaeological survey and the company was “cutting corners” on stone above the clay site layer.
The delay under the previous permission was put down to the price of oil by Egdon Resources. This is not a planning reason for the delay, Mrs Sutherby says. Why should they be allowed any longer.
The county’s proud farming tradition does not sit comfortably alongside oil and gas exploration. She asks the committee to refuse the application.
10.30am Planning report
The council’s planning officer, Neil McBride, introduces the application for an extension of the permission for a further three years. He says there would 600 vehicle movements (300 in and out) during the construction phase.
He recommends permission be granted subject to conditions.
10.30am Meeting opens
Ian Fleetwood, committee chair, opens the meeting