Regulation

Views sought on Biscathorpe oil production plans in Lincolnshire Wolds AONB

People are being asked to comment on plans for oil drilling and production near a rare chalk stream in the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Biscathorpe oil site. Photo: Egdon Resources planning application

The planning application, at Biscathorpe, near Louth, seeks to drill and test a new well and produce oil for 15 years.

It is the second recent planning application for oil operations in an AONB in England.

Last month (March 2021), councillors in West Sussex refused permission to test an oil well at Balcombe in the High Weald AONB.

The consultation on the Biscathorpe application runs until 23 April 2021.

“Highest protection”

AONBs have the highest level of landscape protection in UK law, along with National Parks. Local authorities should give great weight to conserving their scenic beauty when deciding planning applications.

Oil production and drilling at Biscathorpe is considered to be a ‘major development’. Under planning law, major developments should be permitted in an AONB only in exceptional circumstances.

The oil company behind the Biscathorpe scheme, Egdon Resources, said “exceptional circumstances have been demonstrated and the development is in the public interest”.

Egdon said the wellsite, known as Biscathorpe-2, could “make a contribution to helping maintain the UK’s security of energy supply”.

It said Biscathorpe-2 could help to reduce oil imports, benefit the local economy and meet “the continuing need for oil” as the UK moved towards a low carbon economy.

A partner in the scheme described the Biscathorpe area as “one of the UK’s largest onshore un-appraised conventional hydrocarbon licences”.

At the time of writing, none of the public online responses to the scheme support it.

Donington-on-Bain Parish Council said the application represented “a significant industrialisation of the Lincolnshire Wolds within the AONB”. It said it would jeopardise the local plan which said “the highest level of protection” would be given to the AONB.

The parish council also said there was no benefit to the national interest because Egdon’s estimated production from Biscathorpe was less than 0.03% of UK consumption.

The council added:

“We do not see any benefits to our local economy or community from this operation, rather we fear considerable potential risks from oil and contaminated run-off water to the River Bain, one of the world’s rare chalk streams which runs through the centre of our community. This further poses a threat to our communities’ health and prosperity from local tourism.”

Other public responses so far included:

“Industrial oil production to be completely at odds in an area that is currently celebrated for its pristine beauty which we should all cherish.”

“The damage to the environment in a designated AOB far outweighs any benefit from the oil extracted.”

“This site was, until Egdon came along, totally unspoilt. It’s a natural haven for wildlife, and amazing piece of Lincolnshire countryside. It has a chalk stream, rare and beautiful. This place should be protected not drilled for oil.”

Site history

Egdon’s interest in the Biscathorpe area dates back more than a decade.

It was granted a licence to explore for oil in 2008. Most of the licence area, known as PEDL253, is in the Lincolnshire Wolds AONB.

The company received planning permission for a single well in March 2015 and was granted more time to carry out the work in May 2018.

It began drilling the Biscathorpe-2 well in December 2018 but announced two months later that the target formation, the Basal Wesphalian sandstone, was poorly developed.

Egdon now estimates that the Westphalian reservoir has a mean resource volume of 3.95m barrels and the deeper Dinantian carbonate has 24.4m barrels of oil in place. It believes this could be extracted by a side-track off the Biscathorpe-2 well.

The planning application said Egdon had already spent about £3.5m on the Biscathorpe-2 site. It said the cost of developing a new wellsite outside the AONB, which may not be successful, “weighs in favour of continued use of the existing site”.

Climate change

Donington-on-Bain Parish Council said it was “perplexed by the unsustainable nature of this development in the light of current national policies” on developing renewables and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

It said 15-20 years of oil and gas exploration in the Lincolnshire Wolds AONB was “incompatible” with Lincolnshire County Council’s policy to “play a full part in delivering on our collective responsibility to reduce carbon emissions.”

Other online responses described the application as “unnecessary and outdated” and a “massive step backwards”

Egdon said in its application the Biscathorpe plans were “consistent with current government policy on climate change and the adoption of a net zero target.” It said:

“There is no evidence that increasing indigenous oil and gas production will lead to higher levels of oil and gas consumption.”

It also said:

“Decision making of applications for appraisal and production should only consider the potential impacts on climate change directly arising from the proposed development from the emission of greenhouse gases, rather than any consequential impacts arising from the ultimate use of the oil and gas that potentially could be extracted.”

This issue is to be challenged at the Court of Appeal in a case brought by Sarah Finch against Surrey County Council.

Chalk stream and other impacts

Local people were concerned about the potential impact of oil production on a nearby chalk stream. One person said:

“One of the rarest type of waterways potentially will be altered/destroyed just for monetary gain and the gratification of shareholders that will neither see or care about this important ecological area.”

Another said:

“Risk of contamination to the local chalk streams could have a knock on effect on local fauna and flora and this is in an area of outstanding natural beauty that needs the strongest protection.”

Egdon said in its application:

“there will be no significant adverse effects as a result of the proposed development on hydrogeology, hydrology and flood risk receptors”.

The Environment Agency has not objected to the application. There were also no objections from Lincolnshire Police and the county’s highways officials.

Other local objections included concerns about traffic, methane emissions and noise.

Egdon said the application complied with local and national policy. The impacts were considered acceptable, it said. The application included the following conclusions on impacts:

Landscape: “no significant effects on landscape character or visual amenity occurring from the proposed development at any stage”.

Biodiversity: “there will be no significant adverse effects on ecology features as a result of the proposed development”.

Traffic: “The overall impact of the Site in terms of traffic and transportation are considered negligible.”

Noise: “Noise emissions can satisfactorily be controlled by planning conditions”. The company said the proposals complied with national and local planning policy

Lighting: “there will be some significant adverse effects as a result of the proposed development relating to lighting, specifically in relation to sky glow and glare. Due to the short-term nature of lighting used for Phases 1 – 3 and the controlled use of light during Phase 4, the effects are not considered to pose a long-term negative impact on residential or ecological receptors.”

Dust and air quality: “there will be no significant adverse effects as a result of the proposed development in relation to dust. The assessment of combustion related pollutant emissions has concluded that the total concentrations of all pollutants remain well below environmental standards and therefore the predicted effects are not significant.”

Accidents: “the proposed development will not have a significant effect in relation to the potential for major accidents and disasters.

  • DrillOrDrop will report on this application as it continues through the planning system.

Key facts

Application number: PL/0037/21 Link to Lincolnshire County Council planning register

Application details: side-track drilling operation, associated testing of two formations and long-term oil production for 15 years.

Applicant: Egdon Resources UK Limited

Site address: High Street, Biscathorpe

Location: 300m west of Biscathorpe and 10km from Louth

District council: East Lindsey

Site size: 2.4ha

Closest homes: 360m

Landscape designations: Entirely in the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Lincolnshire Wolds National Character Area

Natural conservation: 2.1km from Withcall and South Willingham Tunnels Site of Special Scientific Interest, a nationally-important bat hibernacula for five species; 400m from the River Bain local wildlife site (LWS) and within 2km of 13 other LWSs

Heritage: 4 scheduled monuments within 1km, including a Neolithic long barrow

Water environment: within the headwaters of the River Bain, a tributary of the River Witham

Site facilities: These are expected to include:

  • 6 sleeper units
  • 1 toilet block
  • 1 office
  • 2 canteens
  • 1 fuel tank
  • 1 generator
  • Water bowsers if required

Project investors: Egdon Resources (35.8%), Montrose Industries (19.2%), Union Jack Oil 45%)

Proposed operations

Phase 1: sidetrack drilling

Duration: 6-8 weeks including mobilisation

Rig height: Up to 50m

Well: about 1,200m long and about 2,100m vertical depth

Working hours: 24 hours

Deliveries: 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 7am-1pm Saturdays

Lorry numbers: 209 in total

Employment: 36 drilling, service and security jobs. 7 part-time roles.

Estimated cost: £2.8m

Phase 2: workover and well testing

Duration: up to 2-3 months

Equipment: workover rig, beam pump, separator, flare, storage tanks

Working hours: 24 hours

Deliveries: 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 7am-7pm Saturdays

Lorry numbers: 178

Employment: 8 service and 6 security staff. 5 part-time roles

Estimated cost: £0.45m

Phase 3: installation of production facilities

Duration: 4-5 weeks

Operation: Installation of concrete-reinforced storage tank bund, concrete plinths, surface water interceptor and outfall (to manage clean surface water run-off)

Working hours: 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 7am-1pm Saturdays

Deliveries: 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 7am-1pm Saturdays

Lorry numbers: 115

Employment: Up to 12 full-time jobs and 6 security staff. 4 part-time roles

Phase 4: long-term production

Duration: up to 15 years

Equipment: storage tanks, beam pump or surface pump, separator, ground flare, generator to produce electricity if gas is in sufficient volumes

Working hours: 24 hours

Deliveries: 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 7am-7pm Saturdays

Lorry numbers: 3/day for up to 15 years

Employment: 7-8 site, haulage and ground staff. 6 part-time roles

Business rates: estimated at £50,000-£100,000

Community support fund: about £50,000 per year

Phase 5: well decommissioning and site restoration

Duration: about 6 weeks

Working hours: 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 7am-1pm Saturdays

Deliveries: 7am-7pm Monday-Friday; 7am-1pm Saturdays

Lorry numbers: 369

Employment: 12 full-time jobs and 4 security staff. 6 part-time roles

30 replies »

  1. The new planning permission allows use of the lower road at Biscathorpe for the lorries.
    It is a single lane highway with wide grass verges. If two cars meet one needs to pull onto the grass.

    The section from the Willingham crossing of Caistor High Street down towards Donnington on Bain & then along to Biscathorpe is part of the Lindsey Trail. This is one of the longest round routes in the country & is open to walkers, cyclists, the ridden & the driven horse.
    Lincolnshire County Council received awards from the British Horse Society when it was first opened. Surely this section should not now be opened to this volume & size of vehicles to service a commodity that will not be needed in a very few years.

    Difficult to equate all this in an AONB!

  2. Panton is a little village not far from Biscathorpe. It is on th edge of the AONB. Twice East Lindsey has supported our campaigns to preserve this beauty. The ‘outstanding natural beauty’ is not only the beautiful lanscapes. It is the unpolluted night skies, the friendly darkness, it is the quiet and peace of the rural surroundings, it is a retreat for those people overwhelmed by urban bustle to visit. East Lindsey Council understood this and refused permission for a clay pigeon shoot which would have regularly shattered the hitherto peace of the area, it also refused permission for a business proposition to build quad bikes. This would have generated very large delivery lorries travelling along country lanes where even two cars cannot easily pass, it would also have involved constant engine testing and vehicle testing. We knew this because, the business started even before it had applied for permission. We invited councillors out to experience the beauty of the area first hand and the effect the business would have on the area. We appeal to East Lindsey District council to continue this careful stewardship of this beautiful treasure which we have in Lincolnshire.There is now an added argument against this drilling in that it goes counter to all our efforts to reduce climate change. In the projected plans there would be hundreds (yes! hundreds) of lorries grinding up totally unsuitable lanes, the potholes on the feeder roads would have a field day. The site would have 24 hour working days (and nights)…. the beautiful night skies would disappear, 15 years of drilling …what levels of noise would that generate. … It seems to be an nightmare scenario …and not only for Biscathorpe but a huge surrounding area. Please, East Lindsey Councillors, visit the area and think very carefully about all the implications. Let’s not squander what we have for very little,if any, gain.

    • Jessica Foster….i am not sure the development had 15 years of drilling. Thats more than the whole of the Eakring Field with multiple wells ( ie 15 years of continual drilling is a stretch for any UK oilfield, even Wytch Farm, but lets check it out. ).
      Most twin well fields are just nodding donkeys with occasional workovers. ie, are you sure they plan to drill for 15 years 24/7 ( given its an exploration well…one off at present ).

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