UKOG: “great surprise” at MP’s objection to Isle of Wight drilling plans

200323 Arreton Frack Free Isle of Wight

Site of UKOG’s proposed Arreton oil site, 23 March 2020. Photo: Frack Free Isle of Wight

An objection to its oil drilling plans by the Isle of Wight MP, Bob Seely, was “a great surprise”, UK Oil & Gas said today.

The company’s chief executive, Stephen Sanderson (pictured below), said the company had met Mr Seely last year to discuss the plans at Arreton. In a letter to the MP released to journalists, he said:

“We recall from our August 2019 meeting at Westminster that you mentioned you wouldn’t object to our project provided we satisfied key conditions: bring much-needed funds to the island, ensure the proposed site was visually unobtrusive and complied with all environmental safeguarding policies.”

Stephen Sanderson2

Stephen Sanderson, chief executive of UKOG. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Mr Sanderson said:

“Your recent objections to our plans at Arreton have come as a great surprise to us”.

Earlier this month, Mr Seely said the application was “not appropriate” for the Isle of Wight. Today, he told Isle of Wight radio:

“I have never said I would support the application. I listened to the applicant’s argument as I said I would. It is my job to represent the interests of my constituency, not those of applicants.

“Having now seen the submitted application, I consider that the interests of the Isle of Wight are best served by this application being turned down. I am not bound by any pre-application discussions.”

Bob Seely Bob Seely

Bob Seely MP. Photo: Office of Bob Seely

Mr Seely said in his objection:

“Restarting oil exploration on the Island has the potential to harm the Island’s conservational status, economic aims and identity as a sustainability leader nationally. I therefore oppose this application”.

Mr Sanderson replied that “it was hard to understand” why the application was considered “inappropriate”.

It would, he said be “temporary by nature, discretely located, plainly in line with Committee on Climate Change’s Net Zero plan, provides a lower greenhouse footprint oil source than imports, creates UK jobs and UK tax revenues”.

Mr Seely had said the proposal did not comply with local planning policies on reducing the Island’s carbon footprint or restricting traffic growth.

Mr Sanderson replied there would be “no material traffic disruption due to low number of vehicles over a short temporary period”.

The site would generate fewer vehicles than a construction site of the same size, he said.

Mr Sanderson also said domestically-produced oil and gas would help the UK meet its net zero ambitions on greenhouse gas emissions and make “a positive contribution towards our climate change targets”. Without domestically-produced oil, he said the UK would have to rely on imports:

“Imported oil and gas has a higher greenhouse footprint, does not create the same level of direct or indirect UK employment, which is clearly of paramount importance to the UK and the Isle of Wight, and, crucially, makes little contribution to the exchequer.”

Mr Seely ‘s objection also raised concerns that the site could threaten the island’s environment and £520m a year visitor economy. He said:

“Oil exploration detracts from our status as an environmental hotspot”.

He said visitors demanded “high environmental excellence” and minimisation of greenfield development. He said:

“The application is visually intrusive, on farmland, and has negative environmental associations.”

Mr Sanderson denied the oil site would disrupt tourism:

“We intend to conduct drilling operations outside the tourist season, between October and April, when, as you know, jobs on the island are in scarce supply.”

UKOG does not “wish to add additional traffic onto the critical road network during peak season”, he said.

On the site, Mr Sanderson said:

“We will not industrialise where we operate.

“We select sites that are well screened and cause little or no disruption to the community and to the ecology and environment. Each site is less than the size of two football pitches.

“Other than the mast of a drilling rig (which is only present for around 60 days maximum), our equipment is low-rise and low visual profile, being no higher than a portacabin.”

Mr Sanderson said views of the Arreton site were restricted from three directions by “undulating landscape and mature hedgerows”. He said:

“It is truly out of sight”.

He also said this part of the island already supported intensive agriculture, large scale renewable energy installations, including Wight Farm Anaerobic Digestion Energy Power Station, and non-agricultural uses such as a quarry.

Mr Sanderson denied the oil site would pollute the area. Southern Water had not objected to the application, he said, “which we feel is incredibly significant”.

He added that success at the Arreton site would bring jobs, wealth and tax revenues. He committed to sharing profits of production with the community.

  • A public consultation on the UKOG plans closes tomorrow (24 July 2020).

Stephen Sanderson letter

Bob Seely MP objection

Application details

DrillOrDrop key facts and timeline on the Arreton proposals

22 replies »

  1. Stephen Sanderson’s letter is simply a repeat of everything we have heard so far from letters and the wonderful brochure produced for the community liaison meeting last December. I suspect the only part that was actually dictated by him was his annoyance that his chat with MP Seely seemed to suggest he had carte blanche with this application. I mean he didn’t even sign the letter!
    Claims made in the full Sanderson letter about benefits to the Island are, as to be expected, as incredible as ever and his quotes re responses from current consultees are not accurate. He states “we note that Southern Water have recently raised no objections to our application, which we feel is incredibly significant.” Southern Water has in fact updated their initital concerns regarding inappropriate mitigation for field runoff and drainage into the sewage system with a statement that the activity has the potential to impact on the major aquifer and that they will “rely on consultation with the Environment Agency to ensure the protection of the public water supply source”. Sanderson also seems not to know that the traffic and site construction plan has already been reviewed by Island Roads and has been rejected on 7 counts.
    I think he must be focussing on the next great UKOG plan which is to head away from the UK to explore sites in Turkey. Perhaps he hopes the risk factors and environmental protection standards there will not be as difficult to overcome as they are here. Thank you again Bob Seely for standing up for the constituents on the Island

    • IOWhiter

      What you don’t seem or want to understand is that there is a conflict of interest in you own argument.

      That is because the production of oil on the IOW will have a immediate net minus impact on carbon emissions which is better than a net zero affect by 2030 or 2050 this is due to less emission’s due to the reduction of imported oil & not that more oil will be consumed. This is what everyone has been demanding with the climate emergency.

      As a result it may seem that the moral of the story was be careful what you wish for as you may get what you want.

  2. Aw poor old Steve , things not going UKOG’s way are they ? The Weald has been proven not to be commercially viable unless you have a buyer for salty water . Never mind , I hear Turkey is on the menu for Sharecoin SS while those who fund his lavish lifestyle get the stuffing , “ Billions of barrels I tell ya “

  3. I totally agree with everything Stephen has written other than his surprise of an MP yielding to the opinion of unqualified NIMBY’s

    • What are your qualifications Simon ? Do you actually know any of the objectors ? Is your only interest in this financial ?

      • Jono – I have a PhD, 30 years experience in a wide range of issues including oil and gas extraction, ground water contamination, radioactive waste disposal etc. I’m aware of all of the objections and view them to be totally baseless – people don’t want energy production in their backyard so they come up with any lame excuse to object. I have no financial incentive other than the belief that wherever possible the U.K. should create its own energy

    • Simon obviously BBQ Bob is upset that he was not invited for a sausage during the lockdown. That is what he considers appropriate.

      Unfortunately there is no realism to scale & benefit here if there was it would be a different story. We will see if the planning office are interested in the development & as Steve Sanderson says UKOG will work with the council to make a workable situation.

      If it is the case that that local offices of government are working against the state that will be a determination for the planning inspectorate & the secretary of state.

      Should this application come to fruition via the planning inspectorate I think that the people of the IOW will feel more than a little betrayed by there local politicians, councilors & authority as they will have lost all there control over the development.

      Alternatively UKOG should make a claim against the IOW for the Net present value of the oil in place in its licence area & let the local tax payers pay for what they want to keep in the ground.

  4. “It is my job to represent the interests of my constituency, not those of applicants.”
    Now that’s surely a first for a Tory MP, for these days they seem to do what they’re told by our world beating glorious leader!
    I always thought that representing the interests of their constituents was their job, but the last 10 years of Tory governments haven’t supported that view.
    Perhaps Mr Seely can start a much needed trend!

  5. According to Mr Sanderson the drilling will be “temporary by nature, discretely located, …”
    Oil and gas exploration has been ongoing in the East Riding for 8 years. More significantly, papers submitted to the High Court to obtain eviction of a protection camp at Crawberry Hill revealed that the site was leased for 25 years with an option for a further 25 years. Hardly temporary.
    The sites in the East Riding might have been described as “discretely located” but this still led to noise pollution for local residents and the drilling rigs are highly visible.
    The additional road traffic was significant and the road system in the IoW is as unsuitable for regular HGV traffic as the East Riding, especially in discretely located rural areas.
    Guess what? In public meetings and at the planning meetings Rathlin chairman David Montague Smith emphasised that their operations would only be temporary by nature.
    Same old dishonest industry wherever it raises its head.

    • Of course the rig is temporary. But would you drill a well, find oil and then have the lease run out 3 months later. Some people really do not understand the process.

      Doesn’t stop them having an opinion though!!

    • Crawberry Hill maybe the exception, but the road systems to the two West Newton sites have been suitable for HGV construction traffic to a Wind farm, Solar farm, Biomass plant and a Gas storage facility.

      I am not sure how the HGV movements to the exploration sites have been different enough to be deemed unsuitable, as we have not seen any delivery of equipment that has matched or indeed come anywhere near the size of that taken to the other projects.

      How did you miss all this Jon? the latest delivery of a large generator to the Biomass plant on Tuesday was even used by the activists to create some excitement at Rathlin’s site gates.

      • Please provide the details of when the single track road to West Newton A was ever used by HGVs going to bio fuel plants, gas plants or wind farms.
        If your comment applies to WNB how come they were required to build a dedicated access road for HGVs using the site?
        Similarly the route to Kirby Misperton 8 took reverse bends on a narrow road through the village.
        Your comments are misleadingrd for concerned residents of the IOW.
        Just search the Frack Free York and Villages website for the 3rd July 2014 convoy to WNA. Note this is the “main road” towards the single track Pipers Lane.

        • Jon, you stated that the road system in the rural areas of East Riding are unsuitable for regular HGV traffic, you didn’t specifically state just Pipers Lane which apart from the West Newton A site, only runs to a couple of farms that do by the way receive regular HGV movements along with heavy agricultural vehicles and equipment.

          I have no need to view any frack free video of the convoy to WNA that took place in 2014 thank you, it passed my home which is much closer to the site than your former home 14 miles away.

          The traffic route used for the Withernwick wind farm used at least 98% of the route used for the WNA site, turning left at the junction in New Ellerby instead of right for the exploration site.

          The traffic route for the Tansterne Biomass plant and the Aldbrough gas storage facility use at least 99% of the route used for West Newton B. The access road to the exploration site is only a few metres away from the Sproatley road/Pasture Lane junction along the route.

          Even though the civil work for the construction of WNB is incomplete and even after being informed that expected and advertised traffic congestion along the route last Tuesday, was going to be due to the delivery of a generator to the Biomass plant, the activists still called out for ‘boots on the ground’ to prevent the rig from being delivered to WNB.

          There is also the issue of continuous claims on social media from the activists that the West Newton sites are ‘fracking’ ones, even though only permission for an acid wash was applied for and granted.

          I will leave it up to the readers of this page to decide on who is trying to mislead.

          • Thank you for confirming that West Newton A is accessed by what is basically a single track farm road with tarmac. It does not have regular HGV traffic as you well know.
            You also confirmed that an new access road has had to be built for West Newton B because the existing junction to the small single track road to the site would be unsafe for regular HGV access.
            Of course you don’t want to look at the video but I hope residents of the IOW will do so and decide if that is the sort of experience that is appropriate for their community and rural and tourist economy.
            For the avoidance of doubt I should have made clear that West Newton A and B are also based on a 25 year lease with an option for a further 25 years, hardly temporary.
            Thank you for raising the issue of fracking. There is no fracking allowed at WNA because I was able to persuade the planning committee to amend the permission with a “no fracking” clause because Rathlin insisted they were not frackers. Interesting that given the repeated assurances given by Rathlin and the Tory councillors this intervention caused apoplexy for the Rathlin chairman and his main supporters on the committee.
            Also interesting that if Rathlin are not interested in fracking they drilled right through the Bowland Shale and beyond at great additional expense…….

            • Single lane farm track that does not have regular HGV traffic.

              Now, that is what you would find defined as an oxymoron in the OED.

              JH-I find your first sentence far more accurate. So, your last sentence is a pretty clear choice I quite like peas, John. If I don’t grow my own I recognize someone allows pea viners (huge great HGVs) to travel small country roads at odd hours, and helicopters to fly in when they break down.

              Suppose UK could just import peas-AND-wheat, barley, rape, potatoes, all livestock etc. etc.!

              And, there I was thinking was there not a debate on DoD a while ago with the same posters arguing that oil and gas sites should be kept in a rural location? Even exploration sites where no production was intended? So that “locals” should not suffer?

  6. Depends on your definition of temporary, Jon.

    Is a nuclear power station temporary, or a wind farm, or a solar farm? (My local solar farm has a 99 year lease!)

    What is somewhat more relevant is the impact upon the neighbourhood of oil sites AFTER they have been built and explored and THEN put into production. No different to building sites. A short period of building activity, yes, and then less activity-although building sites when for housing can not claim the same.
    Whether Mr. Seely wants to support one side against another, is another red herring. The Planning Process is not allowed to do that. I am sure Mr. Seely realizes that and will steer far away from that.

    The decision, like all Planning decisions, will come down to whether the applicant can demonstrate they can fulfill the requirements of the planning process. As it should be.

    • Look forward to you providing the link to planning applications or press releases for wind farms or nuclear power stations which describe them as temporary.
      Note you haven’t acknowledged my previous observation about 25 + 25 year lease agreements . You need to clarify whether you believe this is temporary.

  7. What are you on about, Jon?

    My point was quite straight forward, that energy supplies are USUALLY from sources with MUCH longer footprints than oil or gas.

    So, in comparison, oil and gas is temporary. You really do not need a whole lot of grey cells to realize that oil and gas is extracted, and runs out, on any given site. So, once extraction is underway the clock starts ticking and once all commercial gas or oil is extracted then the life of that site is finished. Bit like a plate of food, Jon. DOH.

    Of course, if you had any real concern about how temporary, just let them get on with it, and the lifespan of a site would be reduced. Seem to forget that when trying to delay and interrupt. Heaven forbid. Are you indicating that antis are actually extending the footprint of such sites? If you are not, then I will indicate it for you, as it is obvious from license extensions that this happens. So, you are (once again) not the solution, but the problem.

    In terms of noise etc. during drilling this was described to me by a colleague who lived next door to such a site as no worse than the local farmers grain drier, and certainly more temporary. That grain drier used oil, my colleagues house in the country used oil, and because he lived in the country he used oil to get to his place of business. He was quite happy that he could think of his consumption of fossil fuel as green as making use of the local farm shop.

    Maybe both you and I will live to 100, Jon. Our stay upon this planet will still be temporary.

  8. Better to be part of sustained democratic objection and stop the drilling in the first place……..

  9. Really?

    Like at Wressle?

    AGAIN, part of the problem (£400k wasted), NOT part of the solution.

    Better for whom? Those who will lose out locally on £400k of services? No, only better for a few to “fund” their dogma.

    The Inspector made it quite clear, to those with a few grey cells:

    ” There is no suggestion that this proposal would increase the use of hydrocarbons, and the evidence demonstrates that the effect would be simply to transfer production to a more local source.”

    So, £400k wasted, the site will go ahead, and the oil extracted. It will mean the site will be there for some years LONGER than it would have been. So, all that has been sustained is the presence of the site.

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