Breaking: Councillors reject major expansion of West Newton oil site

One of the UK’s largest onshore oil and gas proposals in recent years was refused this morning.

In the past few minutes, East Yorkshire councillors blocked 20 years of oil production and an additional six wells at Rathlin Energy’s West Newton-A well site in Holderness. The scheme would have trebled the footprint of the site.

There were cheers from the public gallery as the council’s planning committee voted by 7 votes to five against the application.

Councillors said the increase in wells from two to eight was not on an appropriate scale for the local landscape and would be disproportionate and out of character. They also said the number of heavy lorries serving the site on rural roads would be unacceptable.  

The decision, which goes against the advice of officials, comes six months after the council declared a climate emergency and just 31 days before the start of the COP26 international climate conference in Glasgow.

This is the first time Conservative-controlled East Riding of Yorkshire Council has refused an application from Rathlin Energy.

East Riding of Yorkshire planning committee. 30 September 2021

There were 1,121 objections to the scheme, as well as opposition from eight parish councils and local ward councillors. There were seven letters of support.

Opponents had described the application as “fundamentally flawed” and said the council officer’s report to the committee had omitted key information.

The main concerns of opponents were the proposal’s contribution to climate change, the impact on local roads, industrialisation of a rural area and the effect on the health of residents. They also said it failed to take account of the cumulative of impact of local developments.

Rathlin Energy said its proposal was backed up by detailed reports. It would, the company said, support UK energy security, provide industrial feedstocks and help the transition to a low-carbon economy.

This morning’s committee in Beverley followed a pre-meeting earlier this week at which supporters and opponents put their case to councillors.

Today, the two sides had just three minutes to summarise their arguments.

The council’s planning officer, Alan Wainwright, said the scheme complied with national and local policy. There were no objections from technical consultees, on issues such as traffic, air quality, risk to the aquifer and impacts on residential amenity.

On climate change, he said this issue would be included in the local plan which was currently being reviewed but not yet completed. In a report to the committee, councillors had been told:

“Whilst the burning of hydrocarbons produced by the proposals will undoubtedly give rise to unwelcome carbon emissions, it is important to note that the consent is limited to 25 years and that during that time it is anticipated that there will be a substantial restructuring of the UK economy to enable it to become based upon low carbon.”

The development would result in an extra 30 two-way lorry movements a day during construction and 10 two-way movements a day during 20 years of production.

Opponents said the roads were not suitable and the proposed route was not safe. But council planners said the proposals were “considered acceptable from a highway safety, access and parking perspective”.

Local resident, Harry Clark, told the committee the proposal would produce oil that was not needed. Millions of cubic feet of gas would be released into the atmosphere in the most polluted county in the country for greenhouse gases.

He said residents would face 90 weeks of 24-hour working, with noise, atmospheric and light pollution. Would you want to be a resident in one of these communities?, he asked.

John Hodgins, a director of Rathlin Energy, said the scheme would benefit energy industries on the Humber estuary and invest in the local community. Rathlin’s aim was “a responsibly-produced product” that helped to secure UK energy supply.   

The ward councillor, Jacob Birch (Conservative) said there was no appetite for the application from local community and Rathlin Energy had no social licence. He said the proposal would result in the industrialisation of Holderness, which would become a sacrifice zone.

John Holtby (Conservative). another mid-Holderness councillor, said the roads around the site were “pathetically small and inadequate” for any vehicles other than a car. He said local people were not happy to be invaded by a fossil fuel business.

Cllr Andy Walker (Yorkshire Party) said this was the council’s first big test in recognising the climate crisis. He urged the committee to refuse the application.

Committee member, Cllr Nigel Wilkinson (Conservative), said Rathlin’s proposal would help, rather than, contribute to climate change. “It will cut down on the pollution of the seas and the air from dirty great big tankers”, he said.

Cllr David Rudd (Conservative), who supported the application, said:

“We have to industrialise the countryside to some degree and I don’t think it is too bad a thing provided the highways are suitable.”

He said industrialisation often resulted in local road improvements. “Everything will work out fine”, he said.

Another committee member, Cllr Geraldine Mathieson (Independent), said grounds for refusal were weak and risked costs being awarded against the council.

But Cllr Philip Davison (lib Dem) said the proposal “flies in the face of local opinion”.

Cllr Anne Handley (Conservative), described the proposal as disproportionate. She said she could not accept large vehicles on country lanes. “Value is not always measured in monetary terms”, she said.

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22 replies »

  1. Excellent, however if normal practise is followed, the Company will appeal and the Council will cave ,because they just can’t afford the legal fees.

    • Well, Dianna, they should have considered that before, shouldn’t they!

      Although, if the Council determine they have no sound basis for a defense, why waste legal fees? That is tax payer money.

    • The normal practice is to follow the legal planning process which allows for an appeal. If as suggested by the council’s legal advisor that the planning committee’s decision is legally indefensible, the council will not only have to afford further legal fees of their own, but they could also be faced with being liable for significant costs from the applicant.

      So all in all, a good decision by the planning committee?

      We carry on importing oil with high emissions which could have been reduced, the council have lost the ability to impose conditions on the project and local taxpayers face the possibility of higher council tax bills or lost services.

  2. i think the case should have been put across better
    explain a pipe line could have been put in place for gas and oil
    should have been more flexible

  3. Well, Martin, they did consider it and they still decided to do the right thing. Not every decision we make has to be based on money. Thank goodness the councillors of ERYC realised that. Even if they lose an appeal, they should be congratulated for having had the courage to challenge BAD planning policy. It is a politician’s job to change bad laws and they made a start today. If I were an ERYC tax payer I’d consider any legal costs, money well-spent. The impacts of climate change are going to be a LOT more expensive.

    • But, you are not, Alex. It will be ERYC tax payers who pay the cost, not you, if costs are awarded.-probably through other things being curtailed, or precepts upon their Council tax bills.

      Local Cllrs do not change laws, good or bad. They are not supposed to act as politicians either with respect to planning. Sorry, you will (also) need to find an excuse that stands scrutiny.

      Yet Cllrs do indeed have a responsibility to consider tax payers money.

      It all comes down to probabilities. The Cllrs should have been made aware of the probabilities of an Appeal and the probabilities of that being successful and the consequences. If they end up having recklessly squandered tax payers money, where is the money going to come from to address climate change? I think you will find then money is required-a lot of it.

      I posted earlier that I expected this result. What will be interesting going forward as tax payers, and non, grapple with increasing costs over the winter, is whether there is much sympathy with any extra costs imposed upon them without their agreement. From the reaction of drivers on the M25 recently, good luck with that.

    • Alex:
      ‘If I were an ERYC tax payer I’d consider any legal costs, money well-spent’
      Unbelievable contempt for other people’s money. I take it you are comfortably off [edited by moderator]

  4. I agree, Alex; bad law and bad practice must be (and have been) confronted. It is good that this authority has proved itself to have a backbone and , who knows?, this could prove to be the much-needed tipping point (!) when moral considerations start to prevail over market considerations. This committee deserves our recognition and our thanks. Let us hope that those who hear any subsequent appeal are similarly motivated to exercise any discretion within their prerogative on the side of climate justice and peace.

    • How short sighted are you? The council will lose £500k of our money, for NOTHING! Pointless pathetic waste of money, and you think it’s ‘good’? [Edited by moderator]

      • The people who are short-sighted are those that don’t understand the impacts of climate change. Those who would save £4-500,000 today and ignore the MASSIVE inevitable costs of extreme weather events in the not-too-distant future are the ones suffering from [Edited by moderator] short-sightedness.

        • That is a false argument, Alex.

          These UK on shore oil sites would simply transfer production to a more local source. That was explained when the £400k was awarded. In respect to climate change, it would reduce transport emissions-maritime transport currently produces more emissions than Germany. Not a great reduction, as the volume would not be huge, but one wind turbine does not produce that much on it’s own, so is there no point to one wind turbine?

          Perhaps some of those who support UK on shore oil/gas extraction actually have a better understanding than you think, and are more inclined to support local production as a result. I still await any clear evidence that curtailing local supply will have any impact upon climate change, and I think I will wait a long time for that. Until then, I agree it is a pathetic waste of money, and those supporting that are part of the problem not part of the solution.

          And, if lithium can be extracted in Cornwall, then I would support that for the same reason.

  5. I can’t believe it, what nimbys, stopping the UK from becoming independent in the production of oil and gas. The development would result in an extra 30 two-way lorry movements a day during construction and 10 two-way movements a day during 20 years of production; the main road near me has several hundreds of lorry and car movements with little concern by the local residents.. I hope the Council lose the expected future appeal by Rathlin Energy.

  6. Vincent, you live in cuckoo land if you think that these small time lifestyle companies will ever make the UK energy secure . They exist to make the CEOs rich through mugging investors who can’t see that it’s a scam. You mention that the MAIN ROAD near you has hundreds of HGVs per day but then it’s a main road and not a quiet country lane so you cannot compare the two .
    I hope you haven’t lost too much cash or sleep over this .
    Have a good day 😊

    • I recall calculating that at current production rates (around Jan 2021) it would take around 80 years of production at Horse Hill to replace just one large tanker load. The best way to break dependence on fossil fuel imports is to reduce our need to use them.

  7. Everyone concerned, except those on Cuadrilla’s payroll or gift list of course, could have saved themselves an awful lot of time, effort and money by realising early on that fracking the Fylde was a really bad idea. For all the reasons put forward by activists local, national and international.
    This is a similar situation with, I would anticipate, a similar eventual outcome although maybe not for the same reasons.

  8. If your life depends on crude oil for you to function…. change your life. We don’t need this stuff. We managed before, and now there are alternatives that never existed before, easy!

    • So Arthur, you think we should once again be hunter gatherers? I’m up for that. I hope you’re bigger and stronger than most other people around, otherwise your family are going to be wiped out. Happy with that are you? Or do you want to return to the real world?

      [Edited by moderator]

  9. Well, Arthur, thanks for your contribution-using plastic to make the contribution!

    I have a close relative and his life did depend upon crude oil for him to function-the flying ambulance service. [Edited by moderator]

    “We” didn’t manage before. Far fewer managed somewhat, but with a much lower life expectancy and quality of life. You obviously embrace modern technology but suggest it should be restricted for others. No chance. Please do explain how there are alternatives now to those who are receiving their huge energy bill increases. I would gently suggest that simply shows there are NOT effective alternatives now, and there will not be for many decades.

    • Martin, doesn’t mean it fine to carry on abusing fossil fuels in every aspect of our lives.

      There are other ways of getting hydrocarbon fuels rather than dgging it out of the ground where it has locked away carbon for millenia. Far better to recycle the cardon already avilable to us.

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