A council in East Yorkshire is being urged to reconsider its decision on whether proposals to expand an oil site need an extensive environmental study.
Rathlin Energy wants to drill six more wells at the West Newton-A site and produce oil for 20 years. (See DrillOrDrop report)
As part of the planning process, East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) ruled that Rathlin did not need to carry out an environmental impact assessment. This is a detailed environmental report that is often required as part of a planning application for larger developments.
Three members of the council’s leading Conservative group have now asked the council’s chief executive, Caroline Lacey, to revoke the decision on the environmental impact assessment (EIA). Ellerby Parish Council has also asked ERYC to rethink its decision (see update)
In a letter last week, county councillors Jacob Birch, Brian Skow and John Holtby, who represent the area around West Newton, said “serious concerns” had been raised with them about the decision.
They said the ruling, made by planning officers last month, “goes against the fundamentals of the Council’s commitment to the environment”. Later this month, the authority is expected to agree to reduce its carbon footprint, promote a healthier climate and declare a climate emergency.
Their letter said:
“We therefore resolve and implore you to request that this Council reconsiders the decision to not set this out as an EIA development.
“That this Council revokes this decision in favour of allowing further and full consultation and debate on this proposal before any decision is taken.”
The councillors said the proposed extension at West Newton-A would have “significant impacts” on the environment and should qualify as an EIA development.
If the site went into production, Rathlin has estimated that 20-25 tankers would visit the site each day of the year. This would total more than 180,000 journeys over a 20-25 year period, the councillors said.
These lorries will pass through and around many rural communities”, they said.
“These actions are clearly going to have a detrimental impact on the environment with each vehicle polluting the surrounding area.
“There will be a significant number of HGVs [heavy goods vehicles] travelling on country lanes, which are often used by the local community in their day-to-day business. The traffic will no doubt have a detrimental effect on horse riders, cyclists, dog walkers and school buses.
“The works carried out and the movements of HGVs will be huge contributors to noise and light pollution as well as odours and vibrations.”
The councillors were also concerned that the EIA decision had been decided in just over a month, during the Christmas and New Year period. More time for consultation should have been allowed for the decision, they said.
They also said they had been informed only after the decision had been made.
“We as elected members[s] should have been alerted directly to such a proposal so that we could be consulted and so that our residents could be given the opportunity to give their comments.”
A similar application to expand the Horse Hill site in Surrey and to carry out long-term oil production did require an EIA.
Update: Parish council concerns
Ellerby Parish Council has also written to ERYC saying an EIA is needed for the West Newton-A proposals.
In its letter, the council said of the EIA ruling:
“We have grave concerns about this decision and strongly support the letter you received from Jacob Birch setting down his own reservations.”
The parish council said it “strongly objected” to the comment by a council planner that the site expansion “would not have the potential to have significant adverse impact on the environment within the meaning of the 2017 regulations”. The council said:
“These are relatively new regulations which obviously put little store by the safety and comfort of those they are intended to safeguard.”
The letter also accused ERYC of “being willing to sacrifice parts of East Yorkshire and the lives of its residents” because the EIA ruling said the impacts would be limited to the local area.
Ellerby Parish Council added:
“We are concerned that your decision was made quickly and without consultation with elected and parish councillors and without full regard to the wishes of local residents who have shown displeasure in the way our environment has been misused by Rathlin in the past.
“We therefore request that the Council reconsiders its decision not to request an EIA for Rathlin’s proposed development at West Newton and allows time for further scrutiny.”
- DrillOrDrop asked ERYC how its chief executive had responded to the councillors. We will update this report when we receive a response from the council.”
Updated on 17 February 2021 with more details of objections from Ellerby Parish Council