The access to a proposed oil exploration site on the Isle of Wight is being moved to address concerns from highways officials.
The proposed site, at Arreton, was opposed by Island Roads, the local highways organisation, which said it could be a hazard to road users.
Officials criticised the access to the site, off the A3056 road from Newport and Sandown, as “unsatisfactory”, with “unacceptable” visibility splays and junction.
Yesterday (12 October 2020), Isle of Wight Council published new documents from the applicant, UK Oil & Gas (UKOG) on highways and public rights of way.
On the junction, UKOG said:
“To address vehicle visibility splay concerns the Applicant has repositioned the site entrance 7.6m to the west where it meets the A3056.”
UKOG added that the new location “achieved the required visibility”.
Don’t Drill The Wight, a local campaign group opposed to the Arreton application, dismissed any benefits of the new entrance location:
“Moving the access point 7.6metres west may match the desktop figures for management of the highway but it will still be a very unsafe and potentially hazardous access and egress point, even with signage.”
Island Roads had also criticised as “inadequate” the facilities for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) to leave the site in a safe and satisfactory manner.
UKOG said the site could accommodate movement of HGVs and low loaders. It recommended making an onsite turning area a condition of a future planning permission.
Responding to concerns about inadequate detail on drainage of the access road, UKOG said the proposed development would not direct runoff to highway but would help mitigate the risk of future flooding. It would not compromise highway safety, the company said.
Highways officials were also concerned that the site would result in vehicles waiting on the A3056, interrupting the free flow of traffic.
UKOG said there would be no more than 15-two-way HGV movements a day. All HGVs would enter from the west and exit to the west. There would no HGV movements outside the hours of 7am-7pm Monday-Friday, 9am-1pm Saturday and all day on Sundays and bank holidays.
The company prepared an outline traffic management plan which referred to measures to control traffic flows, organise road signs communicate and train HGV drivers and deal with abnormal loads. The final traffic management plan should also be a condition of planning permission, it said.
But Don’t Drill The Wight described as “interesting” the lack of arrangements in the outline plan for large vehicles crossing the Solent:
“The inclusion of coordinating ferries and transporting industrial equipment and hazchem materials is vital. Our ferries are often delayed or cancelled due to weather or other extenuating circumstances.
“Since only specific ferries can carry hazardous materials and these usually travel overnight – how will travelling to or from the site outside the hours of 19.00-07.00 be managed? Holding areas at the portside? East Cowes is already at capacity for traffic flow. Residents will not be happy.”
The documents identified how incoming HGVs would reach the site from the East Cowes ferry terminal. The route would follow: Dover Road (A3021), Well Road (A3021), York Avenue (A3021), Whippingham Road (A3021), Racecourse (A3054), North Fairlee Road (A3054), Fairlee Road (A3054), Coppins Bridge (A3020), St George’s Way (A3020), Blackwater Road (A3020), A3056 to the site access.
Don’t Drill The Wight said today:
“The number of difficult junctions that have been identified and highlighted illustrate some of the transport hazards on the island and this is only for the exploratory phase.”
UKOG also responded to concerns that there was insufficient parking for staff on the site. It said the 12 proposed parking bays were sufficient. The site layout had been informed by other exploratory well sites that operated successfully, it said. At most there would be 30 personnel on site but this would be reduced by car sharing and the shift system, particularly during drilling, testing, appraisal and equipment mobilisation, it added.
The proposed site access crosses a bridleway. UKOG said there would be arrangements for closing the right of way with gates and barriers only for the time it took a vehicle to cross. It also said a temporary closure would be needed during site construction and rig mobilisation. A new alternative section of bridleway was also proposed.
Don’t Drill the Wight said the offer of a new bridleway was “all smoke and mirrors”.
“Creating an additional/alternate bridlepath, at a somewhat increased distance from the 6.5m-wide uphill access road, will mean the removal of even more natural habitat and does not solve the problem of the levels of noise and pollution that equestrians, cyclists and walkers will experience.”
A further consultation by Isle of Wight Council is expected on the new information.
The council had previously agreed with UKOG to extend the date for a decision on the application to Wednesday 21 Oct 2020. A new extension now looks necessary.