Ministers have refused a request to overturn planning permission for expansion and long-term production at a Rathlin Energy oil and gas site in East Yorkshire.
A local Conservative county councillor, Jacob Birch, asked the levelling up secretary to review the consent for four more wells and 20 years of extraction at the West Newton-A site in Holderness.
Today the housing minister, Lucy Frazer, turned down his bid on behalf of Michael Gove.
In a letter to Cllr Birch, she said
“The Secretary of state does not consider the original decision to grant planning permission was so grossly wrong that revocation is in the public interest. He considers that it is not expedient to revoke the planning permission in this case.”
Cllr Birch, who represents Mid Holderness, said this evening:
“The news that the Secretary of State has decided not to revoke planning permission for West Newton A is very disappointing for many of my residents and myself.
“I know that this decision will come as a shock for the community and many people will not be happy.
“I just hope that during the works taking place the applicant is considerate to the community and follows the rules and conditions as set out in the granted permission.
“I would urge any residents who see or know of any breeches of the planning permission to report this directly and promptly to East Riding of Yorkshire Council.”
The ruling closes the latest phase of local opposition to Rathlin Energy’s expansion plans for West Newton-A.
The company’s application had been approved by East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s planning committee in March 2022 by 10 votes to one.
But it had been opposed by eight parish councils and three environmental organisations. There were also more than 400 objections from members of the public.
The scheme is a scaled-back version of an application that had been refused in September 2021.
In his request for a review of the planning permission, Cllr Birch argued against site expansion and the extraction of fossil fuels at West Newton-A. He said:
- It would have significant effect beyond the local area
- It was of more than local importance
- The impacts had not been adequately assessed by East Riding of Yorkshire Council
- It was contrary to local and national planning policies
- It would negatively impact on the landscape and amenity
- It would have negative highway implications
- It would be a flood risk
- It had no clear provision for biodiversity net gain
- It was wholly inappropriate and contrary to the government’s aim of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050
The secretary of state’s power to revoke planning consent is exercised rarely and is justified only in exceptional circumstances. It can be used only where the original decision is judged to be “grossly wrong” and damage is likely to be done to the wider public interest.
Today’s letter said the secretary of state was satisfied that the council had considered relevant local policies and material considerations. It said:
“He is not persuaded that there is a conflict with national planning policies that justify him revoking the permission in the wider public interest.
“On the basis of all the information before him, he further does not consider that there are any material considerations which support revocation.”
The letter also said the risk of having to pay compensation to Rathlin Energy was “a factor that weighs against revocation of the planning permission”, though it had been given limited weight.
The letter concluded that ministers were unable to “reach any conclusions on the legality of a decision to grant planning permission”:
“These are matters which fall under the jurisdiction of the courts and any person arguing that there has been an error in law should seek their own legal advice.”
Minister still reviewing West Newton production plans (20 July 2022)
Breaking: Councillors reject major expansion of West Newton oil site (30 September 2021)