Regulation

Officials say 15 years of oil production in Lincolnshire Wolds is in the public interest

Council planners have supported proposals for long-term oil extraction in the protected landscape of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Photo montage of Biscathorpe well site, in Lincolnshire, with proposed rig height (blue line in centre of image).
Source: Egdon Resources planning application

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.

“Major development”

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

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.

Opposition

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”.

Meeting details

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.

3 replies »

  1. “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.”
    So we’ll just sacrifice one generation’s enjoyment of the AONB. After all, the benefits are glaringly obvious and who knows, humanity might still be in a position to enjoy the re-found benefits in fifteen years or so. Maybe there will be no ill effects.
    Do these people talk to the brain or to the pocket – their own or that of their friends? Do such arguments still stand up to impartial scrutiny?

    • Iaith1720

      I agree with the planners. it will not be there forever, and if Lincolnshire can reduce its need to oil and gas to what it produces, the sooner the better. Leave it in the ground elsewhere, keep it in the pump in Lincs (hmmm). Meanwhile large solar farms are planned in Lincs – not quite the AONB, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that the land is not as such, does not mean those who live there enjoy large areas of solar farms. One mainly enjoys where you live, and more so if going to the AONB means putting petrol in the tank.

      So – how is the support for this going?

      Cllr Colin Davie, executive councillor for environment and strategic planning at the county council, said: “The scale and rapidity of these proposals are ringing alarm bells with councils and residents. Renewable energy will play a part in the country’s energy generation strategy, but solar power generation on this scale is neither reliable, appropriate or desirable.

      Neither reliable, appropriate or desirable says Colin! Lets hope the planning officers show as much sense for the (rather large) solar farms, as they have for the oil minnow.

      https://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/news/article/836/third-solar-farm-proposal-for-west-lindsey-raises-alarm

  2. There are plenty of other impacts on landscape character and visual impact within that area. It is all part of the agriculture that is required within the UK to produce food to feed the population-and all with the help of red diesel.

    So, yes, such arguments stand up to impartial scrutiny. If you are not impartial, say someone involved in exporting fossil fuel to UK to meet the needs of the UK, then indeed you may have an issue related to your pocket. Is that a concern to me? Nope. (Other than it requires me to pay more tax to make up for the lost tax that could have been acquired from local production. Perhaps Ms. Atkins would compensate me, and organize a replacement community fund of £50k/year, at the same time? )

    Did such arguments stand up to impartial scrutiny at Wressle? Nope.£400k not, awarded in costs and the comment:

    “There is no suggestion that this proposal would increase the use of hydrocarbons, and the evidence demonstrates that the effect would be simply to transfer production to a more local source.”

    Looking at all the data regarding Net Zero, that is still the case.

    The poor people at Wressle lost their £400k and the community fund being supplied will take a long time to replace that. But, the rinse and repeat activists will not be worried. They will community fund to try and achieve that, and when it all goes belly up, will be off somewhere else trying to do exactly the same again.

    The structures being proposed for this site are not that much different to what has been there already, and if production started would become less eg. rigs are put up, drill, and then removed within a short period of time.

    I do note that even in the sensitive area around the largest on shore oil field in Europe-Wytch Farm-many are enjoying the countryside, (causing more issues to the countryside than the “Farm”!!) and there are even visitors who particularly want to visit the site and then use it as an example to students as to how industry and nature are able to coexist in harmony. (I do even recall Ruth waxing lyrical about butterflies and buzzards reporting on a visit to a UK on shore oil site! Is that not impartial scrutiny?) And, in terms of the chalk stream. Is that so unique a concern? Nope. Stockbridge has been producing oil for a very long time alongside the R. Test. Any problems? Nope. Does the R. Test have problems with visitors and agriculture? Yes.

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