IGas appeals over refusal to extend life of Avington wellsite

IGas has appealed against the refusal of planning consent for its oil site at Avington in the South Downs National Park.

IGas site at Avington, Hampshire. Source: IGas planning statement

The company sought to extend the life of the site near Winchester for another five years to allow for further appraisal work.

But the application was rejected by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).

The authority said the application “failed to conserve and enhance the National Park”. It would also “create an unwelcome precedent for further oil and gas development in the National Park”, the authority said.

The decision document, issued on 24 June 2020, said IGas had failed to:

  • Adequately assess the cost of, or scope of, oil extraction outside the National Park
  • Adequately assess the impact of the proposal on the environment, landscape and recreational opportunities
  • Propose suitable mitigation measures to conserve and enhance the National Park

The refusal went unreported by the media and industry until now.

The decision was made by planning officers at the SDNPA under delegated powers, rather than going before the authority’s planning committee.

IGas did not publicise the decision, even though it issued a regulatory news service statement (RNS) on other subjects the following day. The company did not refer to the refusal in the first available six-monthly results, issued in September 2020.

The decision came to light yesterday in preliminary accounts issued by Egdon Resources, a 28% partner in Avington (see DrillOrDrop report).

Today, a spokesperson for IGas confirmed:

“It is correct we are appealing the decision and yes I can confirm it has been lodged with the Planning Inspectorate.”

The appeal is not yet listed on the Planning Inspectorate’s appeals portal. We asked IGas when the appeal had been lodged and why the company had not informed shareholders of the refusal. We’ll update this article with any further information we receive from IGas.

Avington well site. Source: Google Maps. Imagery @2021 CNES/Airbus. Getmapping plc. Infoterra Ltd & Bluesky.

The Avington site is about 3km north east of Winchester, in the petroleum licence PEDL070. The site measures 1.33ha and has four wells, drilled from 2003-2007. The Oil & Gas Authority’s database records two of the wells as abandoned and two sidetracks as shut-in. The site last produced oil in December 2017, according to official data.

Planning permission was first granted in January 2003. It was extended several times until March 2018, when it lapsed.

In March 2020, IGas sought a further extension, which, if approved, would have taken the consent to 2025.

The SDNPA’s landscape officer objected to the application but the local parish council supported the scheme.

The company’s planning statement said:

“Appraisal operations at the oilfield have taken longer than envisaged, given the geological structure, which transpired to be more complex than originally assessed. This has necessitated further appraisal work and a subsequent delay to the drilling programme.”

The application proposed no further drilling. In correspondence with the SDNPA, IGas said the site had no “negative impact on the National Park nor on the public interest in the conservation and enhancement of the Park”.

IGas said there was a “proven national need” for the development.

Official data shows the Avington site produced a total of 30,691 tonnes of oil from 2003-2020. This amounted to 0.3% of UK onshore production during that time. Avington ranked 16th in UK onshore fields.

On the most recent data (September 2020), onshore oil is 1.7% of total UK production.

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