March 14, 2022 2.30 pm

Council rejects oil company’s plan to extend exploration in Lincolnshire village

Residents tell committee of anxiety and worries.

An oil company’s bid to extend its exploration plans near North Kelsey have been unanimously rejected

Lincolnshire County Council’s Planning and Regulation committee voted against Egdon Resource’s application to amend the date by which restoration of the sites needs to be completed and vary the direction of drilling on Monday.

Egdon says its exploratory drilling could provide valuable indigenous oil reserves for the country, however, campaigners fighting the plans say they will cause major harm to the area and its wildlife.

Egdon has had permission to explore in the area since 2014 and has since made several applications to extend the period and some of the conditions.

Campaigners against the plans, however, feel the amount of oil from the land would be “trivial” and say the site is home to numerous rare and declining wildlife species.

Amanda Suddaby, representing local residents, said there had been seven years of anxiety for local residents and accused Egdon only of using the planning process to expand its project.

She told councillors: “There is no social licence for this because our concerns are numerous from the many adverse impacts on our well being, amenity, local economy and environment to the climate and ecological crisis, and importantly, the credibility of Egdon’s expanding plans and shifting deadlines.”

She also pointed to comments from Mr Abbott saying oil was needed in the face of the current conflict in Ukraine.

“Horrors in the Ukraine have been seized upon by Egdon to justify this project but there is no justification.

“If you look at the figures, it might produce 50 to 200 barrels a day, 15 years output would produce enough oil to supply the UK for just a few hours, not even a day – 10 times less than Biscathorpe, which you rejected.”

The campaigners were backed by five parish councils, Caistor Town Council, West Lindsey District Council and Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh, among others.

Louth Wolds ward Councillor Hugo Marfleet said: “They’ve been back for another extension, again and again, why do we keep giving them these extensions? There comes a point when you actually do have to say ‘enough is enough’.”

“There is no appetite for it. This is not going to influence and be a game changer for anything about oil supply. If they want proper oil go to the North Sea, but this is a little pond that’s actually has no water left in it.”

Campaigners from SoS North Kelsey are fighting plans to drill in the county. | Photo: Supplied

Managing director for Egdon, Mark Abbott, began by apologising for the impact the delay in construction “may have had on the small number of residents in the vicinity of the wellsite”.

He placed the blame on COVID and its subsequent variants such as Omicron for delaying work, saying they “impacted upon our plant operations in North Kelsey and left insufficient time for us to undertake the works”.

He said re-evaluation work carried out in that time, however, had identified a better location 70-100 metres north which had the potential for greater amounts of oil.

He told councillors a number of reports would be submitted prior to the work, including ecological surveys looking at biodiversity.

“The government’s position in respect of oil and gas is clear,” he said.

“It’s essential that there is sufficient supply of minerals to provide the infrastructure and buildings energy and goods that the country needs.

“Great weight should be given to these benefits… It’s clear that there remains a national need for onshore oil and gas as part of the diverse and secure energy supply.”

He said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had brought into sharp focus significant increases in oil prices and volatility in pricing.

“Maximising the opportunities in the UK to search for and produce our own indigenous oil and gas is key to becoming less dependent on imports from abroad,” he added.

A number of councillors were unconvinced by the company’s arguments, however, with Councillor Thomas Smith saying that using the Ukraine conflict as justification was “disingenuous”.

Councillor Tom Ashton said he was “deeply troubled” by the reasons given, which he said were “not as good as what the committee had in mind back in 2020”.

Councillors were also keen to point out that other companies had carried on with their work during the lockdown periods.