UK Oil and Gas says it is disappointed by the Isle of Wight Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for an oil discovery site near Arreton, stating the company will now consider its position and whether to lodge an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.
In a crunch meeting of the council’s planning committee last night (Tuesday), councillors unanimously decided to refuse UK Oil and Gas’s (UKOG) application for 2 exploratory boreholes off Blackwater Road, due to potential impact on tourism and ‘demonstrable’ impact on the Island’s natural environment. Other grounds were also cited to protect the integrity of the Island’s biosphere status.
The Arreton discovery lies within the 200 km² PEDL331 licence in which UKOG holds a 95% operated interest.
Committee members debated the application and agreed on the fact they could find no benefit to the local economy – despite planning officer Russell Chick advising that planning guidance did not identify the need for local benefits.
Planning officers had recommended the application be conditionally granted, nearly 18 months after it was submitted, and in their report said while the economic benefits would be ‘relatively minor’ at the local level, nationally the benefits of the proposal would be substantial and ‘great weight’ must be attributed to that.
Councillors, however, did not agree with officers and instructed them to build a response that would reject the application.
Matt Cartwright, UKOG’s commercial director, said of importing 36% of the UK’s energy:
“It makes no economic sense when we have oil right under our feet. We estimate in the success case that we could produce up to 18million barrels from our Isle of Wight licence”.
Mr Cartwright went on to say the level of investment would be £6million, ‘keeping expenditures with the Island economy to the maximum extent possible’ and if successful could be increased to £30million.
In a statement issued this morning (Wednesday), UKOG has said:
“The Company took considerable care and undertook much research to minimise the potential impacts of the A-3 site, choosing a location 300m distant from the A3056 and adjacent to land with existing non-agricultural commercial uses, namely the Wight Farm Anaerobic Digestion Energy Power Station and the Blackwater Quarry for aggregates. No objections to the development were raised by statutory consultees on environmental, drinking water, landscape or health and safety grounds”.
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The company says that the decision goes against last week’s recommendation by the council’s planning officers to approve the project and the Company will now consider its position and whether to lodge an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.
The application was for a 3-year period which would have seen the construction, operation and decommissioning of the wells to see if it would be viable to produce oil at that site in the future.
More than 1,000 objections were submitted against the application, compared to 70 in favour, along with a petition signed by 4,400 people presented to the Isle of Wight Council.
A peaceful protest was held outside County Hall before the planning committee got underway by multiple campaigns including Don’t Drill the Wight.
Councillor Lora Peacey Wilcox, Alliance Group Leader of the Isle of Wight Council, has said:
“I agree with the Planning committee’s decision to reject the application. There was clear public opposition to the proposal made by many very knowledgeable islanders, and it plainly failed to accord with how the Island should be looking to develop in these greener times.
“Going forward we are looking to both respect and sustain our delicate and fragile Island environment. We want to take the lead in supporting and welcoming innovation and new technologies to supply our needs for power and energy rather than looking to damaging reliance upon fossil fuels. The application by UKOG ran entirely counter to how the Alliance Administration at the council sees the future of the Island”.
Councillor Jonathan Bacon, Isle of Wight Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Heritage, said:
“I am very pleased that the Planning Committee voted to reject the application made by UKOG to drill for oil in Arreton. The proposal was totally and utterly inappropriate for the Island as it ran entirely counter to our status as a UNESCO Biosphere, our Tourist industry, our Climate Change Policy and all that we love and want to preserve in our local environment.
“The argument that new drilling for oil could in anyway stand alongside these things was exposed as wholly without substance. When asked to explain the economic benefits alluded to by UKOG the planning officers were unable to offer any substantiation or detail. However, what was shown and remained unchallenged was that the proposal would, at most, have led to the possibility of just a few days oil production, whereas it was clearly established that serious environmental harm would have resulted.”
“Particularly given the reference to and reliance placed upon our UNESCO Biosphere status by the Planning Committee, I hope that this evening marks a big step forward and a turning point in us pursuing and creating a new greener sustainable future for the Island, in which we work more than ever to support and protect what we value for future generations.”
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