Regulation

Warning that Biscathorpe oil production plans would “cause significant and long-term harm” to Lincolnshire Wolds

Plans for long-term oil extraction in the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds would introduce a permanent industrial feature in a deeply rural and tranquil landscape, countryside officials have warned.

Biscathorpe oil exploration site, Lincolnshire, 6 January 2019. Photo: Eddie Thornton

The Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) said it could not support proposals for 15 years of oil production at Biscathorpe.

The scheme was “fundamentally at odds” with the character of the area, it said, and failed to demonstrate “a sufficient overriding national interest”.

In a response to a public consultation, the AONB partnership said:

“we believe that the development proposal will cause significant local and long-term harm to the special qualities and underlying rural character that contribute to the Lincolnshire Wolds natural beauty, including its unique sense of place and its overriding tranquillity.”

“This development proposal is fundamentally at odds with the bucolic spirit and character of the Lincolnshire Wolds, and the designation’s national attributes as a high quality scenic rural landscape.”

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 site operator, Egdon Resources, said exceptional circumstances had been demonstrated at Biscathorpe and the development was in the public interest. It said the wellsite, known as Biscathorpe-2, could “make a contribution to helping maintain the UK’s security of energy supply”.

But the AONB partnership said there would be a “very modest” contribution to national supply from Biscathorpe:

“The application has failed to fully demonstrate that there is a sufficient overriding national interest, by virtue of the weight of exceptional circumstances, to warrant a long-term industrial drilling and oil extraction facility within the AONB.”

It said the proposal would disrupt the local environment, communities and visitor experience from increased lorry traffic, noise, fumes and light pollution. Benefits to the local economy would “appear to be fairly limited”, the partnership added.

It was also concerned about the impact of the site on the River Bain, a nationally-important chalk stream.

“Significant impact”

Natural England, the government’s natural environment advisor, said the application was likely to have a “significant impact” on the AONB.

It said Egdon should have – but did not – assess the:

  • long-term effect of the scheme
  • impact on the special qualities of the AONB
  • effect of welfare units and access track on the landscape and views
  • impact of lighting landscape character and the dark night skies

The organisation also called for proposals to enhance the landscape and wildlife after the wellsite had been decommissioned. It told Lincolnshire County Council, which will decide the application:

“Without this information, Natural England may need to object”.

“Safeguards needed”

The Biscathorpe site is close to Neolithic and Bronze Age burial mounds.

Historic England, which protects England’s heritage, raised concerns about the impact when planning permission was sought for site construction at Biscathorpe seven years ago.

In response to the current application, the organisation told Lincolnshire County Council:

“Your authority should take these representations into account and seek amendments, safeguards or further information as set out in our advice”

““No local economic benefits”

Earlier this month, DrillOrDrop reported opposition from Donington-on-Bain Parish Council, which said Egdon’s application represented  “a significant industrialisation of the Lincolnshire Wolds within the AONB”.

Since then, South Willingham parish council has said it objected “most strongly” to the plans.

In its response, the council said:

“South Willingham councillors do not see any benefits to our local economy 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 very closely to the prospective site.

“This further poses a threat to our local communities’ health and prosperity from local tourism.

“We are perplexed by the unsustainable nature of this development in the light of current national policies which are heavily tilted towards developing renewables and to a zero carbon target by 2050.”

  • DrillOrDrop will continue to report on the passage of the application through the planning system. More details here In March 2021, councillors voted unanimously against Angus Energy’s application for well testing at Balcombe in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in West Sussex.

9 replies »

  1. It’s good to see that the contribution that these companies seem to rely on towards energy security is insignificant whilst the potential damage is not worth the risk.

  2. Pretty sure this is going to be refused. Wressle was, and UKOG had their application refused too. The problem is though that there is no real legal basis to refuse – and it eventually costs taxpayers (hundreds of thousands more) when councils lose the court appeal. A law change is needed to really stop this, otherwise all councils do is cause delay and extra long term costs to their constituents to for the sake of making popular but not legally standing decisions.

    • The damage and economic harm of climate change will cost taxpayers far far more than any legal costs. We need to see the bigger picture.

      • That bigger picture where those against oil and its products use such at 12.53am??

        Yep, we can see that bigger picture.

        Tell you what, Alex, when the locals get the bill, you can pay it for them. But, the antis don’t. They stir up the ants nest and clear off to let others get bitten, and then repeat.

  3. Dan yep, a law banning the exploration for and production of oil onshore in the UK, but not one banning the sale of oil or its use?

  4. How does a temporary structure produce a permanent industrial feature??

    The suggestion is incorrect, and should be ignored because the opinion is plainly nonsense.

    Then, to go on and say the contribution is only modest to national supply, just confirms the site is not going to be that significant!

    How have the farm buildings next to the site been authorized? They are just as “permanent” as the oil proposal, and just as modest in respect to national supply.

    Chalk streams are no different to the R.Test. Oil successfully extracted there for many years-no issues. And, there are annual revenues to local communities set out in the plans submitted.

    These are fantasy suggestions and any proficient planning specialist for Egdon should be able to deal with them in quick time. Dan may still be correct, but it will need something more substantial to hold up against final approval. And, because of Wressle, I would suspect if this has to go the same way the costs will be very much higher due to that previous example not being respected.

    So, be careful next week local folks. You may try and vote in councillors to give you decent local services at minimal cost and then find out they trash all of that in double quick time, if they try and use fantasy within the planning system. You locals end up with the bill, and/or poorer local services.

  5. Only two days ago , Martyn, you were trumpeting the benefit of Democracy. Let the people decide. Well here in Lincolnshire you are wanting Local Councillors to go against their natural inclination and to approve a planning application using policy with which they had no part in forming. That is certainly an interesting take on the Democratic process.

    In a Democracy people have the right to decide what is in their own Local interest. Of course there can be a conflict between the Local and National Interest but you seem very keen to rubbish anyone on either side of that divide when that position is contrary to your own.

    As regards the River Test ,that particular stretch of water may have survived the proximity of extraction but that is irrelevant to the safety of the Biscathorpe chalk stream . Here the development will have a different contractor, different company and different type of operation. You may as well say that because one drunk driver got home safely in Hampshire then drunk drivers everywhere should be assumed to be equally as lucky.

    Intervening Variables, Martyn. I’m sure a polymath like you has heard of them.

  6. Well, Philippe, I think you will find the planning process does not feature UDI! If I rubbish that notion it is simply because it is reality that it does not, and those who suggest it is are posting rubbish. It is obvious why they do that, but it is still rubbish because it is not true.

    So, yes, of course the “people” ie. a few Councillors can decide what they like-and accept the consequences. Which is exactly what I have stated. The full compliment of local people may end up paying for those consequences and that is indeed democracy, except they will not be anticipating that decision is being made for them and certainly not the likely costs.

    As regards the R.Test, it shows there is a precedent that chalk streams and oil extraction is NOT a voyage into the unknown. Your very contrived excuse would also exclude any more wind turbines because some have actually fallen down, and solar panels because some have caught fire. Also, Mr. Musk would be out of business as some of his cars have caught fire and killed the occupants. Others, have just caught fire. However, I think the norm is for people to look at all these situations and see if uncontrollable risk is demonstrated by precedent. In the case of UK chalk streams, it is not. Quite simple as there is an example already in the UK for anyone interested, such as Planning Officials, to check how that was achieved safely and if required to build into the process. That is part of their job. They do it all the time, including agriculture alongside chalk streams which unfortunately does NOT have the same good record, especially salad washing facilities.. Observing the level of research Councillors apply in these matters, many don’t bother with that, some then even reject the advice of the Officials who are tasked to do so. Then the consequences. It is a well trodden path. And those who advocated the UDI approach don’t even bother to apologize but drift off, usually utilizing fossil fuel, to the next opportunity to repeat. There is also a word for them. But it is a Bank Holiday and Paul deserves a break.

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