A planning application by UK Oil & Gas for an exploration site on the Isle of Wight was published online this afternoon.
But the public consultation on the proposed site near Arreton is likely to be delayed by the coronavirus outbreak.
The Isle of Wight Council has said it would not go ahead with the consultation or a decision by the planning committee until people could review the application at its planning office.
UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) is seeking permission for three years to drill a vertical well and a sidetrack well on farmland off the road between Newport and Sandown. The scheme includes a new access track and a new road junction.
The site is outside, but close to the edge of, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It is near an anaerobic digestion facility and a quarry. The application says the nearest homes are about 600m away.
Frack Free Isle of Wight said today:
“The Planning Application documents were posted on the Isle of Wight Council planning website this afternoon. The documents are there to be viewed by the public but will not be submitted to the planning committee at this time.
“We have posted these documents on our secure portal and will be working to scrutinise them over the coming days and probably weeks to formulate our opinion statements for the forthcoming statutory consultation.
“We will be highlighting indications or points that we feel might be incorrect, as far as local knowledge or experience is concerned.
“We have prepared three online presentations for the public during lockdown and, although there is no detailed time plan at the moment for the statutory public consultation, we are still asking questions of the planning officers regarding training for the planning committee members, statements for the Island Waste and Minerals plan and procedures for the immediate future.
“We are aware that they are speaking to the appropriate statutory consultees and will formulate our plan of contact with them over the next few days.”
The application has more than 50 documents, including a 46-page planning statement. This concluded that:
“planning permission should be consented without delay”.
The sidetrack well would target oil in the Portland formation at about 3,000ft or 900m. The vertical well would be drilled down to 5,600ft or 1,700m.
UKOG said oil and gas would continue to be crucial and major components of the UK’s energy mix while government and the planning system manage the transition to a low carbon energy. Great weight, it said, should be attributed to the economic benefits of mineral extraction and the economic growth of a thriving UK oil and gas sector.
UKOG has proposed four phases of development:
- Access and well site construction
- Drilling, testing and appraisal
- Well plugging, abandonment and decommissioning
- Site retention or restoration
The company said the site was designed and located to “minimise residual negative environmental effects” and would leave a “legacy of environmental and biodiversity net gain”.
The site was “sufficiently remote from valued assets and features” in the landscape to “render residual effects acceptable, the application said.
It argued that the impact on the landscape character would be local only and be temporary and reversible. The site would be screened by landscape features and the impact on visual amenity would be minimal, it added.
According to the application, there would be no material change to the special quality of the AONB and no significant adverse effects on wildlife sites. The restoration plan would “generate a minor beneficial legacy”, it said, and the risks from site operations to ground and surface water would be “low to very low”.
UKOG said it would seek to “maximise the economic benefits to the Isle of Wight through spending and employment. The proposal would also deliver national and local economic benefits through taxation and business rates, the company said.
The company said the application complied with national energy policy and local policies on minerals, environment, economic development, travel, waste, landscape, flooding and climate change.
On traffic, the application said the level of vehicle flows from the site would be low and would be scheduled to avoid or reduce peak hour movements. It would not “negatively impact” the A3056 road from Newport to Sandown or the Island’s wider strategic road network, it said.
On climate change, the application said:
“indigenous exploration represents the most efficient use of resources by virtue of proximity and the opportunity it affords UK regulators to control the exploration and extraction process in the best interests of climate change mitigation.”
On the impact of the AONB, the application said the scheme also complied with local policies:
“The proposed development represents a form of farm diversification that will promote a strong local and rural economy and foster sustainability in the farming sector.”
UKOG said this part of the Isle of Wight had “acceptably accommodated hydrocarbon exploration and testing the past”. The Arreton-1 borehole was drilled in 1952, followed by Arreton-2 in 1974. The proposed well, to be called Arreton-3, would target the same geological formations.
DrillOrDrop will follow this application through the planning system. We will review the details of the application and report on local reaction.