Council planners have supported proposals for long-term oil extraction in the protected landscape of the Lincolnshire Wolds.
In a report published today, they said the plans by Egdon Resources at Biscathorpe, near Louth, would be in the public interest and help in the transition to a zero-carbon future.
They recommended approval of Egdon’s planning application at a meeting next month, which coincides with the gathering of world leaders in Glasgow for critical climate talks aimed at limiting global warming to 1.5C.
The planners argued that oil production in the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was justified by the national need for hydrocarbons. Production at Biscathorpe would, they said, contribute to UK energy security.
The scheme would result in “alien” structures in a sensitive and protected landscape, they acknowledged. But “on balance”, they said, the development was acceptable.
“The impacts of the proposal on landscape character and visual impact are considered by officers to be minor in nature given the duration of the proposal and that it is entirely reversible.”
The recommendation to approve the application comes despite objections from five of the parish councils closest to the site and overwhelming opposition in some villages.
There have been formal objections from: Victoria Atkins, the local Conservative MP for Louth and Horncastle, Lincolnshire Climate Commission, and CPRE. East Lindsey District Council has said the application does not meet the strict planning requirements in an AONB.
More than 200 local individuals have submitted online objections to the proposals. A petition against the proposals had 1,277 signatures. There were two formal comments in support of the application.
Egdon Resources plans to target oil in the Basal Wesphalian sandstone and the deeper Dinantian Carbonate. The planning application includes an application to drill a sidetrack well off the existing well, to a depth of about 2,100m.
The existing well, drilled in 2018, missed the main section of the Westphalian reservoir and has not properly tested the Dinantian.
Egdon has estimated there could be up to 30 million barrels of oil in the formations. The UK currently uses just over 1.5 million barrels of oil in a day.
The Biscathorpe proposal counts as major development in an AONB. Planning policy requires that it should be refused unless there are exceptional circumstances, and it is in the public interest.
Lincolnshire planners said impacts on the AONB could be controlled with conditions on the permission.
The site would be screened by topography and mature woodlands, they said. There were no homes within 500m. After 15 years of production, the site would be wholly restored to original farmland consistent with the character of the AONB. A legal agreement would ensure Egdon carried out additional planting and restored the site.
The planners acknowledged that the proposal would exploit hydrocarbons that contributed greenhouse gas emissions. But they said oil would continue to be needed in the UK energy mix during the transition to net zero in 2050.
The Biscathorpe proposals complied with local and national policy on sustainable production of hydrocarbons, they said. Biscathorpe oil was a “known resource” and the site was the only viable option for Egdon Resources.
On climate change, they said:
“In determining this application, it is necessary to consider only whether the development would be an acceptable land use, in planning terms, at the proposed location.”
The planners said other benefits of the scheme included:
- Up to 36 fulltime (of which 12 would be in Lincolnshire) and seven parttime jobs during the drilling phase; 7-18 fulltime jobs during appraisal (of which 3-9 would be based in the county); up to 14 full and parttime jobs during production (Egdon estimate)
- Annual economic benefit would range from £140,000 in the appraisal phase to £300,000 in production (Egdon estimate)
- Egdon expected to spend £2.8m on drilling, £0.45m per year on testing
- A community fund of about £50,000 a year during production
- Local contractors used for decommissioning and restoration
- Estimated business rates of £6,000 per year during drilling and appraisal and £50,000-£100,000 during production, depending on how much oil is extracted
Egdon proposes to burn gas that may come to the surface with any oil. This would be monitored by the Environment Agency, the planners said.
They also said the proposals complied with local or national policies on dark skies, noise, fugitive emissions, dust, transport, heritage, water quality and wildlife.
The parish councils at nearby villages of Donington-on-Bain, Hemingby, South Elkington, Welton-Le-Wold and South Willingham all objected to Egdon’s application.
93% of the public in Donington-on-Bain were against developing an oil field in the area. Of the households which responded to a survey in Welton-le-Wold, none supported the scheme.
Natural England, the government’s nature conservation advisor, said the proposal was likely to have localized adverse impacts on the AONB. It called for more biodiversity enhancement than the 10% habitat gain proposed.
East Lindsey District Council said lighting of the site at night, which has been revised by Egdon, would still have “a significant adverse impact on local residents” and a very localised effect on the AONB. The council also said there would be only a minimal impact on the local economy.
Other reasons given by opponents of the scheme included:
- Incompatible with local and UK policy on tackling climate change and a move to net carbon emissions by 2050.
- Climate reports ruled out exploitation of new fossil fuel reserves if temperature targets were to be met
- Industrialisation of a rural area
- Detrimental to the special qualities of the AONB, including natural beauty, dark skies and tranquillity
- Threat to tourism and livelihoods of local people
- Risk to the natural environment, particularly pollution of the River Bain, a nearby protected chalk stream
- Impact of heavy traffic on rural roads.
- The site is in an area of high archaeological sensitivity in the deserted medieval village of Biscathorpe and the access track runs between two scheduled prehistoric round barrows
- Proposed 10% biodiversity net gain is below national aspirations of 30% by 2030
- No benefits to the local community
- Threat to the drinking water aquifer
Amanda Suddaby, a Lincolnshire resident who attended the recent Lincolnshire Climate Summit said;
“At last week’s climate summit, we heard from councillors that they want to ‘lead by example’. Next week’s oil planning decision on 1st November gives them a chance to do just that. Lincolnshire can either approve 15 years of new oil drilling in our precious AONB or be a climate leader – they can’t do both”.
Residents involved in a four-year campaign against new oil drilling in the AONB have produced a video featuring local residents and showcasing the landscape and the protected local chalk stream, the River Bain.
Nick Bodian, chairman of the Donington-on-Bain community liaison group said;
“I am pleased that the local MP Victoria Atkins has formally registered her objection to this unwarranted industrialisation of the Lincolnshire Wolds – she has strongly urged councillors to acknowledge the clear and present danger of this oil development and reject this application on November 1st,.”
Martin Scutt, who will be attending the planning decision in person said:
“As the international climate talks begin in Glasgow, we encourage those who can to join us [at the planning meeting] to demand our council take the real action we need to tackle climate change. In the last few weeks, we have seen county councils in Yorkshire and the Isle of Wight reject fossil fuel development and now Lincolnshire County Council need to show their residents that Lincolnshire are also taking responsible action on climate”.
The application will be decided at a meeting of Lincolnshire County Council’s planning committee at 2pm on Monday 1 November at the Brackenborough Hotel, Cordeaux Close, Louth LN11 0SZ. There is no livestream or video of the meeting. Link to agenda
DrillOrDrop will report on the meeting, the decision and reaction.