A consultation on plans to drill for oil on the Isle of Wight has closed with an estimated 1,700+ objections. But two key organisations – the Environment Agency and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) partnership – have not objected to the scheme.
UK Oil & Gas plc is seeking planning permission to drill and test vertical and horizontal wells at a site near the village of Arreton.
Don’t Drill the Wight, which is campaigning against the application, said more objections were currently being processed and predicted there could be 2,000 by the end of this week.
A decision is expected later in the year.
“No direct impact”
The proposed site, off the A3056 Newport-Sandown Road, is 130m from the boundary of the Isle of Wight AONB.
In its response, the AONB partnership said:
“Overall … there are considered to be no direct impacts upon the AONB from the proposal.”
The partnership said it could not substantiate an objection on noise and UKOG had demonstrated “a comprehensive assessment of the landscape character of the area”. The company had also fully acknowledged the close proximity of the AONB, the partnership said.
But it added that UKOG had “somewhat downplayed” the effects of the drilling phase, with “little mention of the 37m rig, which will be in place for up to 66 weeks”.
The AONB partnership also raised concerns about climate change. It described fossil fuel developments as “a controversial subject” and advised:
“The LPA [local planning authority] will have to look very carefully at how an exploratory oil development sits within their climate change policies and what safeguards are in place with regards to any potential ground contamination, ecological impacts and noise pollution before determining the application.”
The Environment Agency said:
“We can confirm though that in relation to the planning application, the submitted environmental statement and associated hydrogeological risk assessment is acceptable and therefore we have no objection to the proposal as submitted.”
It said the proposal would need to secure environmental permits. Site operations, safeguards, detailed designs and environmental risks would be assessed in detail as part of the permit process, the EA said.
“Adverse effect” on users of public rights of way
The Isle of Wight public rights of way service said:
“The development will clearly impact upon the public’s enjoyment of the rights of way network. … there can be no argument that users will be adversely affected by the development in terms of pleasure.”
The comment called for more detail on proposed signage, risk assessments, separation of the access track and rights of way and a proposed crossing point of a bridleway.
It also noted that a recommended pre-application consultation with the Isle of Wight Bridleways Group had not happened.
The rights of way service supported earlier comments made by highway officials. They said the scheme failed to comply with local planning policy on seven counts and could not be supported. See DrillOrDrop report
The council’s tree officer advised against approving the application until there was more information on trees in a hedgerow to the west of the proposed site. The officer said:
“As a result, it is not possible to make an accurate assessment as to whether the development will have an adverse impact on the trees of the area or whether suitable precautions have been put in place to ensure an adverse impact will not occur.
“It is advised that this application is not determined positively until such information is supplied and impact is felt to be minimised to an acceptable level.”
Groundwater risks “unacceptable”
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust also objected because of pollution concerns and impact on climate change. The Trust said:
“In light of the underling chalk geology and topography, we consider that the site in general is not sufficiently insulated from ground water and surface water which in turn are hydrologically-linked to our land in the River Yar and the internationally designated wildlife sites of the Solent.
“We consider that even with proposed mitigation, any residual risks of pollution to groundwater and waterbodies from the operations of the well site make the proposal unacceptable. the chalk geology of the site.”
The trust said the effects of air pollutants, particularly oxides of nitrogen, had been downplayed. On climate change it said:
“We … do not consider this proposal to be sustainable development and therefore is counter to local and national policies of climate emergency and carbon neutrality.”
The Isle of Wight Biosphere Reserve had previously objected to the application. See DrillOrDrop report
The Isle of Wight archaeological officer was satisfied that archaeology and cultural heritage had been “adequately assessed”. The officer said:
“there is high potential for below ground archaeological deposits of prehistoric period to lie within the development site. There is also potential for deposits of other periods to be present within the site.”
The officer recommended survey work before and during the work.
Historic England said “we do not wish to offer any comments”. It recommended the council consult specialist advisers. Southern Water made recommendations about a proposed sustainable urban drainage system.
“Tremendous public response”
Don’t Drill the Wight said predicted the number of public objections was likely to rise.
“The public response to our campaign has been tremendous.
“At the close of today, the total objections that we have collated from the council website is 1,740 with 58 supporting. We know there are many more in the pipeline and we are hoping to hit 2000.”
The group estimated comments to the consultation were being submitted at a rate of 30-50 a day over the past few weeks and encouraged people to contribute if they had not done so already.
“Because the implication and impacts of this application are island-wide, some of our island parish and town councils have added the application onto their upcoming meeting agendas for consideration and comment.”