Opponents of oil production in East Yorkshire are to make a last-minute bid to hold up this morning’s decision to approve.
Councillors voted by 10-1, in favour of 20 years of extraction at Rathlin Energy’s West Newton-A site. Their vote also allowed drilling an extra four wells, extending the site and testing the existing two boreholes.
But campaigners and residents said they would ask ministers to look again at the scheme.
The secretary of state for levelling up has the power to call in a planning application at any time up to the formal issue of the decision notice by the local authority. This can be days, sometimes weeks, after the planning meeting.
Speaking outside today’s meeting in Beverley, local councillor, Jacob Birch, said he was extremely disappointed by the result. But he said:
“I will start the process by writing to the secretary of state to ask for the decision to be called in. We will then go from there and look to start raising funds.”
Fewer than 20 applications are called in each year. If the minister agrees to a call-in, the application would go straight to a public inquiry and the council’s decision would be set aside.
Katie Atkinson, the planning consultant for the opponents, said there were grounds for the decision to be called in.
A landscaping scheme proposed by Rathlin Energy to screen West Newton-A was outside the application’s red line boundary, she said. This meant it was beyond the control of planning conditions and could not be enforced by the council.
Ms Atkinson also said the proposed route to the site for heavy lorries was not safe or suitable. It had many of the problems identified by opponents of Cuadrilla’s shale gas application for Roseacre Wood, which was refused on grounds of traffic safety.
Union Jack Oil, an investor in the West Newton project, welcomed today’s planning approval. In a statement to the stock market, the company said:
“The current crisis has made even more clear the significant domestic oil and gas supply gap that will need to be filled either by further imports or new domestic production.
“The West Newton project is expected to support security of supply, contribute to reducing the widening supply gap and bring meaningful local inward investment and employment to the East Riding, consistent with the government`s levelling-up agenda.”
Another partner, Reabold Resources, said:
“West Newton supports local investment in East Riding and contributes towards the UK’s ambitions for energy security, whilst supporting our pathway to Net Zero.”
“We are delighted by this approval and are extremely excited for the future of West Newton. We look forward to the next phase of progression towards development for this nationally significant asset.”
But a spokesperson for the We Said No campaign, told DrillOrDrop:
“We are extremely disappointed that the planning committee failed to listen to the robust arguments and material considerations put forward by councillors and our planning consultant.
“I believe the Russian conflict has overshadowed this application. It has given the councillors an excuse to approve it. There were plenty of good reasons given for refusal. Rathlin will be testing the existing wells for the first two years so there will be no oil going into production and there will be no gas. It will have no effect on UK energy supply.
“We feel due process has not been carried out. The planning officers and highways department have totally disregarded our traffic expert’s report. I do not believe anyone from the council has gone out and measured the roads as we did. I do not think they have done their job properly.”
The spokesperson said the group would continue to work with Cllr Birch and would raise money to fund any future challenge.
Richard Howarth, of Fossil Free East Yorkshire, said this afternoon:
“Fossil fuels must stay in the ground for any chance of a liveable future.
“The head of the UN put it plainly: oil companies ‘are guilty of arson of our only home. … Delay means death.’
“Our government and councils have a duty to act now to protect us, and today they failed. We gave them robust grounds to refuse this application on traffic. But some councillors mistakenly saw this as a choice between the needs of local residents and the nation. In fact, it is a choice between the profits of an oil company, and a liveable future for all.
“They sided with the oil company, and poured oil on the fires of climate change. But there is still a brief window to act; climate change is not going away and neither are we. Quite the reverse. We will continue to fight in any way we can.”
Cllr Andy Walker, who spoke at the meeting for the opponents said:
“I am terribly disappointed. We have let down future generations. We have been unable to explain the urgency of what needs to be done for the climate. It is not just about doing the good things is about stopping doing the bad things.”