Investment by Egdon Resources in its oil site near Scunthorpe should be considered when deciding whether to extend planning permission, council planners will argue next week.
They recommend the exploration company should be allowed another year to restore the Wressle site, even though this goes against local and national planning policies and a deadline set by a government-appointed inspector.
The planners’ report, to be considered by North Lincolnshire councillors, said Egdon has spent about £5m on site construction and drilling the well at Wressle.
The company is seeking the extension while a new application for long-term oil production is decided.
The planners said:
“The applicants [Egdon] have stated in their supporting documents that, having constructed the wellsite and drilled the exploratory borehole, it would not be commercially viable to restore the site with a new application for long-term development pending determination.”
If permission for the extension were refused, planners said the Wressle oil well would have to be plugged and abandoned and the site restored.
Egdon would then have to rebuild the site and potentially re-enter and drill out the borehole if its new application for oil production was later approved. The planners said:
“This would effectively repeat the exploratory work (with associated cost and HGV movements) which took place in 2014 and 2015, as a new well bore would be needed.”
“The proposed 12 month extension to the restoration date would allow time for the production application to be determined prior to restoration taking place, which would avoid the risk of abortive work, at significant expense, should the production application be approved.”
The Wressle site was the subject of a planning inquiry in 2017, when Egdon appealed against three refusals of planning permission by North Lincolnshire Council.
The planning inspector, Keri Williams, dismissed the company’s appeals against two refusals of permission for long-term oil production.
But he allowed the company more time – until 28 April 2018 – to restore the site.
He took into account the existing investment in the site, as well the potential for abortive work, in allowing the extension.
Less than two weeks before the April 2018 deadline expired, Egdon sought another 12-month extension for restoration. Earlier this month, the company also submitted a new production application (DrillOrDrop report).
Broughton Town Council and some residents have strongly objected to Egdon’s request for a year’s extension because the original restoration deadline has passed.
The planners’ report acknowledged that granting the extension would conflict with a policy in the National Planning Policy Framework – the rulebook for planning authorities when considering applications. Paragraph 144 requires restoration and aftercare “at the earliest opportunity”.
The extension would also conflict with a policy in the local plan, which requires “adequate proposals for restoration”, they said.
But the planners said the facilities and infrastructure currently on the site were not “highly intrusive” and did not have a “significantly detrimental impact on the character and appearance of the area”.
“Given the relatively modest duration of the proposed extension to the restoration period, the lack of demonstrable environmental harm as a result of this extension and the financial implications of potentially abortive work should the extension be denied, it is considered that, in this instance, there are material considerations which outweigh the identified policy conflicts.”
- Egdon’s extension request comes before North Lincolnshire Council’s planning committee on Wednesday 1 August 2018. The committee meets at 2pm at the Civic Centre, Scunthorpe DN16 1AB (Link to agenda). The meeting is expected to hear from the company’s representatives and five opponents. DrillOrDrop will be reporting from the meeting.