UK Oil and Gas has had to clarify arguments which it says support its planning application to drill for oil and gas at Dunsfold in Surrey.
The application, submitted in April 2019, referred three times to a clause in national planning policy that had been ruled unlawful by the High Court in the previous month.
Paragraph 209a of the National Planning Policy Framework said mineral planning authorities which decide on drilling applications should “recognise the benefits” of onshore oil and gas developments for energy security and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Operators have used the paragraph to support applications for hydrocarbon exploration and it was part of UKOG’s argument in favour of the Dunsfold development.
But a legal challenge brought by Lancashire resident, Claire Stephenson, quashed the paragraph in March 2019 because of failings in a government consultation.
Her case, brought on behalf of the campaign group Talk Fracking, argued successfully that the government should have taken into account scientific material submitted to the consultation that challenged the benefits of onshore oil and gas.
Last month, the local government secretary, James Brokenshire, acknowledged that paragraph 209a had been quashed.
DrillOrDrop reported last week on inconsistencies in the UKOG Dunsfold application, including the references to paragraph 209a.
UKOG’s clarification, dated 10 June, said the planning statement and environmental report (PSER) for Dunsfold “records a high degree of consistency with the policy objectives of NPPF 209a”.
It said that no new environment information had been presented as part of the clarification.
The statement, written by UKOG’s consultancy, Zetland Group, added:
“This clarification statement represents the Applicants response to the change in national planning policy and should be read in conjunction with the submitted PSER.”
The clarification said the ministerial statement issued by Mr Brokenshire on 23 May 2019, post-dated the submission of the planning application.
But the court’s ruling in the Stephenson case on 6 March was more than seven weeks before the submission date of the UKOG the application (29 April 2019).
The application was validated on 29 May 2019, six days after the ministerial statement.
This is one of the first oil and gas applications to be affected by the quashing of NPPF paragraph 209a.
The ruling came on the final day of the public inquiry into IGas plans to test the flow of gas at its well at Ellesmere Port. The parties were asked to submit written statements on how they felt the ruling affected their arguments.
The inquiry into plans by Ineos for shale gas drilling at Woodsetts is expected to consider the ruling in closing statements, expected next week.