Nearly 30 representatives from six councils in East Yorkshire have called for a government ruling on whether expansion plans at a local oil site need detailed environmental research.
In a cross-party letter, they asked Robert Jenrick, the Local Government Secretary of State, to decide whether the scheme at West Newton-A should have an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
The site operator, Rathlin Energy, wants to drill six more wells, treble the width of the site and produce oil for 20 years.
In January 2021, officials at East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) said the proposal would not need an EIA. Council planners said it would “not have the potential to have significant adverse impact on the environment”.
The signatories of the letter, members of ERYC and five parish councils, said this was “truly wrong”:
“the proposals by Rathlin Energy will in our opinion have significant impacts on both the local environment and also the wider environment.”
A planning application, announced today, for Biscathorpe in Lincolnshire did require an EIA. The operator, Egdon Resources, wants to drill a sidetrack well and produce oil for 25 years.
“180,000 tanker movements”
The West Newton-A letter, organised by ERYC councillor Jacob Birch, said there would be 20-25 heavy goods vehicle (HGV) movements every day, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.
There would be an estimated 180,000 tanker journeys during the 20-25 year period of the development, it said:
“These HGV movements will pass through and around many rural communities, and thus continuing further on into the East Riding until they reach their final destination. These actions are clearly going to have a detrimental impact on the environment with each vehicle polluting the surrounding area.”
The only option that should be considered for transporting the oil was a pipeline, the letter said.
Last month, Cllr Birch asked the chief executive of ERYC to review the council’s EIA decision for West Newton A but his request was turned down.
The council said the issues were material planning considerations that “can be taken into consideration by the council is a planning application is subsequently submitted for consideration”.
The letter to Mr Jenrick said:
“We believe this also to be incorrect. The concerns raised are those that affect the environment. These are the very considerations and concerns that should be taken into account when issuing a screening opinion on such a proposal as this one.
“We therefore request that you issue your own screening opinion in the hope that you see that the proposals by Rathlin Energy do constitute an EIA development.”
The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations allow a person to ask the Secretary of State to make a screening request.
Under the regulations, the Secretary of State must usually make a screening direction three weeks from the date of receiving the request.