Planners in Lincolnshire have said an oil company has failed to prove that its proposals for drilling and production in a protected landscape are in the national interest.
Egdon Resources wants to produce oil from a new sidetrack well for 15 years at its Biscathorpe site in the Lincolnshire Wolds area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
The company has claimed the development would make “a small but important contribution” to UK energy security.
But planners at Lincolnshire County Council said the application failed to address the impact on local people and landowners. In a letter to the company, the head of planning, Neil McBride said:
“The application has failed to fully demonstrate that there is a sufficient overriding national interest … to warrant a long-term industrial drilling and oil extraction facility within the AONB.”
He said Egdon had also not fully assessed the impact of site lighting and had provided little evidence of measurable ecological benefit of the proposed site restoration scheme.
Mr McBride asked the company to provide more information to support the application, to include:
- Assessment of all impacts from long-term use of the site on the special qualities of the Lincolnshire Wolds
- This should include the scenic beauty and rural charm of the Wolds, peace and tranquillity and dark night skies
- Photo-montages and drawings to illustrate the potential impacts of the development
- Further proposals to reduce the adverse impacts on the landscape
- Assessment of impacts on the local community and other land users
- Proposals for planting to screen the site and improve conditions for wildlife
Egdon Resources has until Friday 11 June to provide the information. The council must publicise and consult on the new material.
The countryside charity, CPRE, has said it strongly objects to the application. Its concerns included the impact on tranquillity, landscape, sky glow and glare and climate change.
“CPRE ultimately consider that the proposals will cause significant harm to the scenic beauty of the AONB, and this is not in conformity with national or local planning policies and should be refused.”
It said a “lack of information” about parts of the proposal meant that the county council could not “satisfactorily determine that the proposals would result in no detrimental harm to the surrounding environment, wildlife and nearby populations”.
The Biscathorpe proposal is considered to be a “major development” in an AONB and must pass a test in planning law that it is needed.
Egdon Resources said Biscathorpe could produce up to 28.35m barrels of oil over its lifetime. In 2020, the UK produced 1.13 million barrels of oil each day.
CPRE said the scheme did not pass the “need” test.
“Scant information has been presented to demonstrate any ‘local benefits’ of the scheme in terms of local communities”.
It also said:
“CPRE believe that the development of a new fossil fuel extraction site is wholly inappropriate and cannot comprehend how the proposed development of this oil production site would fit with these statutory commitments to decarbonise the economy.”
The organisation recommended the county council should clarify whether unconventional hydrocarbon would be extracted from Biscathorpe and whether a form of fracking would be used.
Egdon has said it intends to target oil in the Basal Westphalian sandstone at 1,200m depth and the deeper Dinantian Carbonate at 2,100m.
“this deeper extraction [the Dinantian Carbonate] would likely require a form of hydraulic stimulation under pressure – or fracking. The fact that this information is missing from the application is perplexing and most unusual when compared to other environmental statements for similar operations.”
Since DrillOrDrop last reported on the progress of the Biscathorpe application, Welton le Wold parish council has also objected to the scheme.
It said the proposal was “incompatible with preservation of the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. It also said a new source of fossil fuels was “incompatible with the policy of the government and local authorities in Lincolnshire to promote renewable fuel sources and to phase out fossil fuels”.
Lincolnshire Wolds Countryside Service, a section within the county council, said it was unable to support the application.
“on balance 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.”
East Lindsey District Council said it did “not feel that the applicant has yet demonstrated that the
benefits of producing oil from this site in the AONB has provided the exceptional circumstances required by the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] to allow the application even when taking into account the great weight to be attached to the production of that oil.”
- Onshore oil would be a “vital part of the UK energy mix by 2050”
- Egdon’s assessment “down-played the harm” from the scheme onthe landscape
- Lighting would have adverse effects on humans and wildlife
- “The overall impact of the scheme on the AONB and its special qualities has not been fully assessed”
- The scheme is a high risk for pollution and soil contamination which has not been fully assessed
Lincolnshire County Council has agreed a request by Aecom, the planning consultant for Egdon Resources, to extend the deadline for the additional information from 11 June to 30 June 2021.
Updated 4/6/2021 with details of the response from East Lindsey District Council
Updated 16/6/2021 to include extension to deadline for further information