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.
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.
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”.
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.