Enforcement at Rathlin Energy oil site not “proportionate or sustainable” despite planning breach, says council

Rathlin Energy breached planning permission at its West Newton-A site in East Yorkshire, a council official confirmed today.

But the official said it would not be “proportionate or sustainable” to insist Rathlin returned the site to farmland, as required by the permission.

A local residents’ group, which raised the issue with East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said today it was seeking legal advice.

Rathlin Energy’s West Newton-A site, November 2021. Photo: Used with the owner’s consent

DrillOrDrop reported last week that planning permission at West Newton-A, granted in 2018, lapsed on Friday 19 November 2021.

Our article said Rathlin Energy had not complied with a condition to remove all equipment, plug and abandon the wells and restore the site by the deadline.

Neither the company nor East Riding of Yorkshire Council responded to our questions.

But DrillOrDrop has seen correspondence, sent today by a council officer to a resident, confirming that Rathlin has not complied with the first condition of the planning permission requiring site clearance and restoration.

The official said:

“This condition was due to be complied with by 19 November 2021. This permission is in breach as the aforementioned requirements have not been met. Rathlin have therefore been written to regarding the breach and their intentions for the site and the Council have considered what action is expedient in respect of the failure of Rathlin to comply with condition 1.”

Before the permission expired, Rathlin made a new application (21/02464/STFUL) for site expansion, further drilling and long-term hydrocarbon production.

That application was refused by East Yorkshire’s planning committee on 30 September 2021, despite a recommendation by council planners to approve.

Today’s council correspondence continued:

“Rathlin have indicated there was no deliberate breach of the condition and that the items were retained on site as they considered that there was a reasonable prospect of planning permission 21/02464/STFUL being granted and this would have superseded the requirement to comply with condition 1.”

In a statement last week, Rathlin Energy said it was considering an appeal against the refusal. It also said it expected to submit another, revised, application for site expansion and production by the end of the year.

The council correspondence concluded:

“The application, which is expected to be submitted shortly, will require the retention and reuse of the site, buildings and equipment. In the circumstances it is not considered to be proportionate or sustainable to require compliance with condition 1 in advance of the determination of the new application or appeal.

“If an application or appeal is not forthcoming or is unsuccessful then this matter will be reviewed. “

A spokesperson for the local residents told DrillOrDrop:

“We are seeking legal advice on this matter with a view to taking action against East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Rathlin. Our planning experts are looking into this. Once we receive advice we shall update further.”

Rathlin Energy has six months, until 30 March 2022, to appeal against the planning refusal. Last week, the company’s spokesperson told DrillOrDrop it would not be answering any questions from us about its current plans for West Newton-A.

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