“Oil drilling puts Isle of Wight Biosphere status at risk” – AONB chair

UKOG IoW 191216 dod5

UKOG’s proposed Arreton well on the Isle of Wight. Source: UKOG diplay panel

Proposals to drill for oil on the Isle of Wight could threaten the island’s new Biosphere status, it was alleged yesterday.

Jonathan Bacon

Jonathan Bacon

Jonathan Bacon, chair of Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), made the comments in what he described as a “strong objection” to a plan by UK Oil & Gas plc (UKOG) to drill near the village of Arreton.

He said:

“if it were to proceed, the proposed development could impact upon and possibly lead to loss of Biosphere Status. This is because it would show a failure to support the principles and aims of the Biosphere.”

“Failure to adhere to the principles and commitments which led to the award of Biosphere status will obviously [put] that status at risk.”

Last year, UNESCO designated the whole of the Isle of Wight and marine areas along the coast as a Biosphere Reserve.

Biospheres are internationally-recognised protected areas that show there is a balanced relationship between people and nature for sustainable development. There are about 700 Biospheres in more than 100 countries.

Mr Bacon said Biosphere status could be removed if monitors decided the Isle of Wight had failed to live up to the designation’s requirements.

“The impact of decisions made now will be relevant to their considerations.”

He described the UKOG application as a “test” of the island’s stated commitment to Biosphere status:

“Proposals which will adversely impact upon environmental sustainability are counter to Biosphere status.

“Onshore oil drilling … runs counter to the aims of sustainability inherent in Biosphere status.

“The application would damage aspects of the environment which contributed to the overall make-up of the Island which was deemed to be of sufficient quality to merit award of the status.”

A public consultation on the UKOG application continues until Friday 24 July 2020. At the time of writing, there had been more than 1,000 online objections.

Mr Bacon said even without the Biosphere status, the proposals did not “adhere to Isle of Wight planning policy guidance”. He said it failed to comply with:

  • Policy SP5: requires proposals to protect, conserve and/or enhance the natural environment
  • Policy DM13: requires proposals to protect, enhance and manage a network of green infrastructure assets
  • Policy P52 in the AONB Management Plan: requires development proposals relating to energy to fully consider the impacts on the landscapes and seascapes of the Isle of Wight AONB
  • Isle of Wight Strategic Plan: Seeks to promote green energy and reduce the carbon footprint

Mr Bacon said:

“It is clear that to promote alternative energies while simultaneously permitting high polluting industries, such as oil extraction, is a contradiction in terms and would seriously undermine the current commitment to Biosphere status.”

He described UKOG’s estimated greenhouse gas emissions for the project as “entirely contrary” to the Isle of Wight Council’s policies to reduce emissions. This level of emissions would be “an unacceptable source of pollution” for an area with Biosphere status, he said.

He also raised concerns about the impact on island roads and a re-wildling programme in the area of the proposed site.


A spokesperson for the opposition group, Don’t Drill the Wight, said today:

“Jonathan Bacon’s submission regarding the importance of the Biosphere has come at a significant time.

“Some of our local parish and town councillors are also now discussing how they plan to respond in the coming days.

“Our UNESCO Biosphere status, traffic, AONBs and impacts on our re-wilding programmes, have been some of the many concerns repeatedly highlighted in objection statements, currently sitting at 1044 and climbing.

“Given the restrictions of Covid 19 during this consultation period, the public response to and support of our work to promote the Don’t Drill The Wight campaign has been tremendous and almost beyond our expectation.

“Islanders have realised that the promises of mitigation to the multiple potential risks and impacts that this application has highlighted, are completely inadequate and they are adamant that fossil fuel extraction will not go unopposed.”

The application can be viewed online on the Isle of Wight Council planning portal. Search for application 20/00513/FUL.

DrillOrDrop reports

Application details

Objection by highways officials

Key facts and timeline of the Arreton proposals




25 replies »

  1. Biosphere ? It has no status in planning.
    The IOW is not a Biosphere in any reality of the word… All the good go in by ferry, lorry cable and pipeline.
    There is so little produced on the Island. Many of those goods rely on oil. Wind turbine blades, fibre glass yachts, Garlic and tomato farming rely on diesel and heated greenhouses.

    The electric goes by under sea cable or if they fire up Newport power station for peak energy oaths gasified oil. The gas goes in by pipeline under the sea. There is a small bio gas unit next to the proposed well site.

    A BioSphere is a sealed bubble which is totally self sufficient,

    The IOW Biosphere is a vanity title

  2. Just to put the record straight.
    Regarding the Biosphere – Since this licence had been in the pipeline for 4 years and UKOG had made no attempt to move forward, apart from dropping the offshore licence due to environmental concerns, it is not surprising that life has moved on here. I guess that their application to extend the initial 5 year term last year rang alarm bells.
    Just to be clear the Council in 2015 wrote to the Conservative government requesting “Government to cease the consideration of licensing areas for oil and gas activities on the IOW” since developments were unlikely to be located “without significant negative effects”.
    That wasn’t heeded however, so the Government should not be surprised that a challenge and rejection of the application is possible and can’t say that they didn’t know.

    Representative companies who have prepared this application for UKOG have done some of their homework and inevitably some cut and pasting from applications for other historic sites. (By the way the DECC has not been in existence for quite some time now and will not be issuing any permits or licences as stated.)
    They have clearly identified that the entire licence covers more than half of the island that contains most of the AONBs and the multiple SSSIs that are at risk.
    So why would UKOG and Co buy such a licence when it was as clear as the noses on their faces from the start that this was obviously going to be a challenge? They could have saved the money they paid to help boost the Company Director’s bonus.

    Jonathan Bacon is not a member of the Green Party so I am not sure how the diatribe and dissing of the Green Party cropped up in the previous comments,
    I am guessing that it is the usual last ditch stand along with praising Wytch Farm and plastic rulers for school kids which seems to be thrown in ad hoc every time some form of more intelligent discussion or debate is just too much to counter.

    UKOG failed to contact UNESCO regarding the status awarded by the CONSERVATIVE Council last year and that was well prior to their application preparation.
    The same CONSERVATIVE Council has outlined the Island Strategy and its focus on environmental enhancement and development of increasing biodiversity with a focus on continuing to produce and expand our renewables and energy storage and not a mention of facilitating fossil fuel extraction.

    It is our CONSERVATIVE MP who has objected to the application and I can assure you that most of the 1143 current objectors are not affiliated to the Green party either. They are Islanders who love where they live, understand how antiquated the concept of increasing fossil fuel extraction is and will fight to protect their Island against it.

    • IOWighter

      As I understand it has been previously stated here that the Biosphere award & oil & gas production exist in other Biosphere awarded areas so would not set a precedent. This leaves Me Bacon’s ‘Could’ on the scaremongering pile & any decision by the awarding body will have many component parts to meet the criteria.

      Is Mr Bacon saying that the IOW only received the award by the skin of it’s teeth?

      As you have clearly said it was well know that UKOG had the rights that it does & you further say that the government rejected your requests not to continue the licence. This means that the government supports it sale of the PEDL licence.

      We will see what the outcome of the planning report is to the committee on the application & how the committee responds. I am not in the slightest surprised by some of the reaction but the IOW is part of the UK & is governed by Westminster & you will have to play your part as a family member.

      If it should be the case that the planning is refused it is likely that you will take the decisions about this development away from the IOW but not that it will not happen.

      Should you care to look at Sandbanks on the south coast opposite the IOW you will find Whych farm that has been producing oil for over 40 years also on the edge of the AONB. Whych farm at it’s peak produced nearly 120,000 barrels of oil per day & is in the middle of a tourist destination & is on a very affluent area with probably the highest house prices in the UK including London.

      This shows that the affects of oil production are not disruptive & while there may be some challenges to overcome we can all be good neibours & I’m sure UKOG are looking forward to working with the island & it local communities for the benefit of all.

      I am unaware as to why you believe that UKOG needed to contact anyone about there plans until they put the applications into the council as the licence rights are clearly stated on the licence to which you are aware but chose to ignor.

  3. So, let’s be clear.
    The Biosphere status was sought subsequent to a license for oil exploration, which ALREADY existed. Perhaps it is convenient just to assume that a license doesn’t give any indication that a Planning Application will follow?

    Perhaps the former should have checked with the later-not the other way round.

    Intelligent debate should have started there. I suspect the Planning Process will be well aware of such factors.

    Why not raise Wytch Farm? It is still Europe’s largest on shore oil field, still in an area of outstanding natural beauty, still quite close to IOW, still demonstrating that there is little to protect against! Would you rather use other examples, involving fracking or oil spurting into the sky? Oh yes. You would. What were you saying about intelligent debate?

    By the way, oil exploration, and extraction quite big in Norway. UK even imports some. You can sit down in a restaurant in Norway and feast on whale, harvested from their waters. They have one of the worlds largest salmon farming industries within their coastal waters, and use large quantities of chemicals to treat such fish. Yet, they “enjoy” all of that alongside Biosphere status. Seems there is quite a lot of flexibility within Biosphere status.

  4. “I can assure you that most of the 1143 current objectors are not affiliated to the green party either.” OMG.

    Well, if that is intelligent debate, where you admit the objectors are orchestrated-as spontaneous objections would have no need to declare any political affiliation to anybody- it looks as if you have just destroyed all that activity!

    Yep. Put the record straight, pretty well.

    No one will notice. Oh yes they will.

  5. IOWighter

    The UK government issue the IOW licence that is true as it governs all parts of the UK.

    It delegates initial responsibility to local authorities to grant the planning that falls under this licence & as you say it has ignored you request & extended the licence.

    What you may not realize is that should the application be refused what is likely to happen.

    The likely hood is that UKOG will appeal the application to the planning inspectorate who are in essence the government themselves where it is in the government interest to grant the application otherwise it will have missold the licence.

    Further to that appeal UKOG would also claim costs from the IOW council. The last planning appeal cost the council covering Wressle half a million pounds from it’s budgets.

    As I have said before the terms of the licence are what they are &UKOG has followed the correct procedures under it’s obligations & held public consultations before legally submitting the first of it 2 planning applications that it consulted on.

    Had you been following UKOG it ceo has said many times about his plans for the IOW licence & as you have also said UKOG has been very considerate in it’s environmental consideration by giving up other parts of the IOW licences for environmental reasons.

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s