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

31 replies »

  1. Comment posted on behalf of R Redford, of the Lincoln branch of the GMB union, He said a relative, who lived and worked in Biscathorpe most of his life, is buried in the village churchyard.
    “I am against any renewal of drilling at Biscathorpe. The site is an environmental catastrophe just waiting to happen. Please Pass on to planning Lincolnshire county council. Thank you.”

    • Ruth

      Where does R Redford live. I have a lot of relatives spread across the UK

      Its not a trick question, but just checking


  2. Absolutely unacceptable. This site must be protected, these proposals to upset the wildlife and beauty of this area is unnecessary, there is no need to bastardise it for such limited gain to so few.

    • But, even the few who want to utilise energy at 2.47am and the plastic derived from oil are worthy of consideration, Molly.

  3. I did start to think what environmental catastrophe is waiting to happen. Have there been ANY with UK on shore oil extraction? Nope. Have there been some overseas with oil extraction, have there been any with the marine transportation of oil around the UK? Yes. So, actually, based upon the record, there is a strong environmental argument to be made to produce locally rather than overseas, based upon the record and probabilities.

    Of course, if one wanted to look far into the future there could always develop the Tar Pits of Biscathorpe, when palaeontologists could look back as they researched the preserved remains of the antisauruses and what had been the factor that lured them from far and wide to visit such areas. To mitigate against that, removing the oil, would seem to be the solution.

    Then I came back to Robert Redford and chalk streams and noted the record shows the R.Test has NOT been contaminated by Stockbridge oil extraction, the R. Itchen HAS been by a salad factory! No salads, no salad dressing market.

    These “environmental catastrophes” are often based upon no previous issues and no strong probabilities that will change. The same is mobilised against HS2 (1720?), yet now we have France looking to ban many internal flights to enforce travel by rail-because they have invested in a high speed rail network, and using it will be BETTER for the environment.

    Just shows why the planning process needs to look at planning issues in a way that concentrates upon the issue and not upon fears, that are easy to manufacture but are often not justified.

    • Regardless of planning and previous records, why do you or anyone else for that matter commenting on this want it to go ahead? You’re going to miss that amount of plastic or oil in your life? Any kids or grandkids will thank you for pushing the matter in 20 to 30 years? Not likely buddy. Is it a necessity for you to have it up the road and be proud that your town/village/area is helping to mess the planet up a little more? Get a grip and make a change.

  4. “And while you all wish to forge ahead sucking oil out of the ground wherever it can be found it in the UK, any suggestion as to which country should be forced to leave theirs where it is in order to reduce global consumption ?” (Philip Tate)
    According to your respondents, the answer to your question, Philip, is, I am afraid, ‘anywhere but here’, in other words, not in my back yard, or “suck oil out of the ground where people use it”. (Who are the real Nimbys here?) I do not want my country to shift subsidy to renewables when oil and gas are available here: let someone else do that. I’d be a sucker to try and lead by example when there are other people not doing so. Such examples do not work: everyone else will simply carry on in the same way. I believe that man’s altruistic nature is a myth: he is basically selfish. The only good he will pursue is that which benefits him, or of course, her. Furthermore, importing/exporting oil/gas is as polluting as developing it at home. There will not be more pollution if I produce my own pollution, ‘arithmetic’ (or ‘maths’ if I want to add a bit of intellectual credibility to the idea) proves this, this is the ‘reality’, the rest is ‘fantasy’.
    What a sad creed! Fortunately there are those who can discern a different face to humanity, although the arguments above, lending weight to the pessimistic view, have first to be discounted. A reading of Bregman’s ‘Humankind’ might be a good starting point, and there are myriad examples of selflessness all around us at the moment, from the NHS in practice to the movement for more equality in international vaccination distribution and costing. One does not need to look far.
    There is value in leading the way if one accepts this thesis. The ‘Britain First’ approach will take us to the same point as ‘America First’. There is value, there is indeed salvation in cooperation, in not ‘going it alone’. If humanity is responsible for climate change, and I suspect that there are deniers amongst contributors to this site, then the only solution is global cooperation, certainly not espousal of a ‘reality’ in which such cooperation is ruled out.

  5. Oh yes, 1720, there is value in co-operation. Good you brought that up. Perhaps have a look at the GMB and Venezuela? Maybe co-operation with some though is something best avoided? UKOG are co-operating with Turkey. Is that okay? I think it is, as Turkey imports a large percentage of oil currently and is seeking to secure those imports in a way that I would suggest is not so sustainable as producing it’s own.

    Are you privy to some information beyond the rest of us? Would UK on shore oil production preclude UK oil imports, and the continuing need to co-operate? Nope. But, it would make a small contribution to helping the global situation, and every little bit helps. And, remember, some of the time that co-operation results in body bags being flown back to the UK, so everything that mitigates against that is positive to me.

    But, carry on reading and ignoring what is the reality. I happen to believe the TGV is a much better option for travel within France, than internal flights, having used both. You seem to be against that in UK, and the option would be “smart” motorways to increase capacity-that kill people-and no HS2.

    Sorry, I would not co-operate with that.

    So, all for co-operating with those who have the right ideas and practices, but that is not universal. Should we co-operate with US regarding their chicken, or the French with theirs, or just stick to good old/young UK chicken? Technically there is no difference, but many will have very different opinions on that subject and will try and create fake news to state there is a difference. You can read lots on the subject, if XR allow you to, but the reality is rarely mentioned. One solution is to go for local sourcing where you can actually see what is done. That would be my recommendation for those who are still omnivores.

    And the same for those who still use oil in the UK. Others, may feel they can just read about it and discern what is truth and what is fake.

    Good luck with that.

  6. The point, (you have a habit of missing the point, Martin, blinded no doubt by ‘reality’ or by HS2), was that the only answer which seemed to be coming to Philip’s question: -Which countries should leave oil in the ground to reduce global consumption? -was – Any country but ours.
    I tried, but you did not understand, to point out that there was plenty of evidence that good examples, if set, can be followed, and that similarly the selfish ‘look out for yourself’ attitude sets an example for following. Plenty of examples of that too as you know. Unfortunately this is your ‘reality’: that’s what is so sad. I hope this is clearer for you.
    Please could you stop adducing your HS2 argument as the final word in any obscure point you are trying to make. Please make an effort to understand the point of an argument rather than concentrating on side issues. I have explained my stance on HS2, irrelevant here though it is,but here we go again as you have the proverbial bit between your teeth and have not understood my answer. Sadly I can’t remember where I replied to you and/or maybe my answer was not clear enough. If so, mea culpa!
    Positively for the last time, my objection to HS2 is economic and environmental. I don’t want to put all the London/Birmingham and points-in- between passengers on the road, as you suggest, I’d like them to use the existing but improved service even if it means not saving half an hour. The billions saved could be used for improvements to the rail service, not for ‘smart’ motorways which you have decided are the alternative. Strangely enough, I also think that rail use should replace short-haul flights, but do not see HS2 as the only means of achieving this. Finally can I point out that the TGV exists, that France is a much bigger country and that the TGV line covers much more of the country than the distance from London to Birmingham. HS2 is a small-minded prestige catch-up policy which given what should be current priorities, ie stopping global heating, can really only go ahead because it is deemed to have wasted so much money it would be politically embarrassing to halt. Enough of HS2. Apologies for the irrelevance of this HS2 discussion.

  7. Perhaps also apologise for the errors in your understanding of the HS2 issue as well, 1720? There is no way of increasing the capacity of the existing rail line substantially, it needs a NEW additional line. If there is to be a new line, then make it high speed, because that further increases capacity. DOH. And HS2 is NOT just London to B’Ham. Maybe it needs to be to fit your argument, but it is NOT. So, it is relevant and clearly demonstrates the way that issues are incoherently argued to try and make the case. You can force any piece anywhere in a jigsaw but the picture just ends up contorted. This issue is another one where you state there is an alternative-but, on scrutiny the alternative is nonsensical. Consistent, but flawed.

    But, as you have previously clearly stated you took part in a demo. that you then clearly stated you didn’t know what it was about, perhaps I will wait a long time.

    As far as your odd comment about this particular proposal and pT’s comments, do either of you understand the scale of this proposal? You should. It is detailed. So, quite a small amount of oil in the grand scheme of things. Maybe a little less from Nigeria? Maybe less from Norway etc. etc.? Will they keep it in the ground? Nope-because other markets will continue to use increasing amounts of oil so they will find a home for it. So, if you have some interests, financial or otherwise, in those oil exporting countries do not despair, they will not suffer, although it may be a little longer before they drill new wells!

    Meanwhile, the oil that is produced in UK can be fully scrutinised by those in the UK. Big improvement upon that displaced. Everyone is a winner, including the environment. If it works for chickens, it works for oil.

  8. And there was me thinking that if I put it in the first paragraph, you’d see the point and address it.

    • Well, 1720, if you looked at my paragraph 3 you would see I had!

      Perhaps if you balanced your sleep patterns a little better you might be able to read a little better?

      But, if you want to join the silly brigade who suggest that less oil produced on shore in UK means less produced in the world, or even less used in UK, then please explain how this has all gone so wrong. DoD regularly provide information regarding UK on shore oil production spanning many years. You can verify UK oil consumption elsewhere. There is no linkage, simply because UK on shore oil production is a small part of a much bigger picture in the UK and the world.

      Once again, you demonstrate a laudable willingness to take part, but not such a laudable willingness to actually know much about what you want to take part in. It is yourself who has posted information to show that quite clearly to the reader. Do not be shocked that some actually read what you post. Perhaps it is something you could follow?

      The Student Union classic of “you didn’t answer my question”, has been over used and in this situation really means “yes, you did, but I couldn’t understand (or want to understand) the answer”. That is your choice.

      Or, perhaps, you were more interested in diverting away from the incoherence of your reasoning regarding HS2? Don’t worry about that. I lived in Newbury and heard it all before from Swampy. It did not add up then, it doesn’t add up now, but I see he still wants to take part too. Newbury, and surrounding areas, now have a much improved environment, including many more trees. The only loser in that situation is the landowner who had stopped it happening for many years, much to the annoyance of the local population. Oh, and the washing pod suppliers, where the Bank Holidays do not see such a surge in sales from Newbury residents having to wash their curtains.

  9. Try and understand, Martin. It’s not difficult and I’ll ignore your childish jibes and irrelevancies in the hope that one day you’ll join the adults, preferably though not those who following your lines of argument have got us in the mess we are in!
    Less oil produced in the UK does not mean less oil produced in the world, – (your frequent efforts to twist my words are noted with scorn) – but, assuming the innate goodness of man, might just send a signal to the world which is worth following if we wish to address global heating. More oil produced in the UK however increases the amount of oil produced in the world, (arithmetic), and, just as importantly sends clear signals to the world that all efforts to arrest global heating are pointless because – your ‘reality’ – man is essentially venal, out for what he can get, either culpably oblivious to, incapable of understanding, or complicit in planetary destruction. To assume the intoxicating mantle of your omniscience – “That is your choice”.

  10. Ah, you think UK will instruct the rest of the world! This really is low grade Student Union stuff.

    What absolute nonsense. Talk about falling back into fantasy. If that was true, just think how the good example of HS2 would mean so much of the world following suit rather than building motorways, and the benefits regarding global heating! (Think before you type, would be my suggestion.)

    I believe the world has moved on from the days the globe was covered in pink bits. You really need to get out and about a bit. As you wish to take part, something like VSO would help you to gain knowledge and do some good at the same time.

    Nope. Your arithmetic is still wrong. Otherwise, there is no point UK producing French Beans and should just carry on flying them in. My arithmetic shows that if UK produced more, it would NOT have to fly in so many. If UK produced more cars would it mean that increased world car production? Try understanding what a net importer actually means. Your false suggestion only makes sense if you have a reason to maintain or increase supplies of overseas product into the UK market. A valid occupation, but not within this context, and lobbying is now taboo, it seems. (Your strange arithmetic would not even work for a net exporter, unless they had a global monopoly, but that understanding is perhaps too advanced.)

    So, two attempts and both absolutely invalid. Please rewrite.

    I will continue to try and avoid that choice.

    Off to sow some French Beans now-yes, really, which is why I used that example. Sorry Kenya, sorry airlines, but that is my choice.

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