[Archived] Planning Extension – Comment – Summer 2014

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Rathlin was granted Planning Permission for exploratory work at Crawberry Hill for 2 years, rather than the usual 3 years, due to the sensitive nature of the site.  This runs out on 5th November 2014.

However Rathlin have failed to complete their 3 tests, and have applied for another 2 years.

This Planning Application is NOW OPEN FOR CONSULTATION until Thurs 11th Sept.

Summary

Planning Application Summary 14/02622/STVAR  >  Associated Documents  >  Planning Statement

  • Check the guidance on how to send in your views – don’t undermine your impact by straying from “material considerations”.
  • It may be wise to wait awhile to gauge the outcome of current serious issues after the mini-frac at West Newton; East Riding will need to demonstrate they have learned any lessons.
  • You don’t need to cover all the concerns highlighted in this guidance which identifies most but not all the relevant issues; you may have important concerns of your own and should share them with the Council.
  • The oil industry refers to “social licence”. In other words if you decide it is not worth writing in it will be assumed you support the proposal. Even if it is only a short letter it is worth making your views known.
  • The proposed extension is a key move in the national drive to exploit oil and gas at a time when the rest of the world, notably China, Japan, Germany, Italy and Spain are making rapid moves towards renewables. It is hard to see how we can move towards a low carbon economy by investing in exploration for more oil and gas.
  • Please do register your concerns and encourage other residents and businesses in the East Riding and Hull to do so – we will all suffer, and have to pay, if our water supplies are compromised.

Have Your Say – Comment Now

Planning Application Summary

Please note:  There’s a time out on the planning website, so if your comment is long write it in a text editor first, then copy & paste it in to the website.


1.  Background

Notice of Decision - Conditon 2: for 24 months only

Notice of Decision – Conditon 2: for 24 months only

The first application by Rathlin to drill a temporary, exploratory well at Crawberry Hill was never used because the landowner involved pulled out at a late stage.
The documents for this application are worth reading if you have the time because there are more details in the supporting papers and a much larger number of consultation responses.

1st Planning Application (Sept 2011, old site, never used) – 11/0441/STPLF

The documents supporting the second application, which is the basis for the current planning permission, can be found here:

2nd Planning Application (July 2012, current site)  – 12/02945/STPLF

Planning permissions usually state conditions in the Notice of Decision issued to the applicant.

Notice of Decision – with Conditions

Condition 2 of the notice given to Rathlin at Crawberry Hill was that the temporary exploratory drilling should be completed within 24 months of commencement of work and the site returned to its original condition. Thus the deadline for completion under the current planning permission is 5th November 2014.

2.  The Current Application

Rathlin are now seeking an amendment to condition 2, requesting an additional 24 months to complete an extended well test, assess the results and then return the site to its original condition. (Unless they find commercially viable oil and gas.)

3.  Public Consultation

The period of 28 days public consultation started on 14th August 2014 and will close on the 11th September.
There is a duty to inform neighbours and notices were put up on the Parish noticeboards in Walkington and Bishop Burton in addition to a formal notice in the Hull Daily Mail.

However the Local Authority (which is also described as the Local Mineral Authority for the purposes of this application) has a responsibility to respond to concerns expressed by anyone affected by the proposal. We provide evidence below to show that all residents and businesses in Hull and the East Riding are affected by the proposal and we urge a wide and detailed response by all concerned.

4.  General advice about responses

Guidance for commenting on planning applications, on the Council Planning Department website.

Guidance for commenting on planning applications, on the Council Planning Department website.

It is important to read the detailed guidance from ERYC which is available here:

Guidance for commenting on planning applications

Particular attention is drawn to two vital aspects of writing your response.

  • Comments deemed to be libellous, discriminatory or otherwise offensive will lead to your letter being set aside and ignored.
  • Any objections must be based on material considerations. These are defined in the guidance and attention is drawn to the statement that “The applicant’s motives” are normally not a material consideration.

This means that responses must be based on what is known about Rathlin’s actions since the planning permission was notified in September 2012 and specifically the issues arising from the current planning application. It is not a material consideration to oppose fracking in the UK or the East Riding but nevertheless there are serious concerns that the ERYC Planning Committee must address. Given the ongoing well problems at Rathlin’s West Newton site there may be material considerations about regulation, risk assessment, well design and environmental impact that need to be considered. It may be wise to await the outcome of the West Newton incident before writing a response.

Handwritten responses may be sent in but are not advised because the scanning process for inclusion on the ERYC website and photocopying for elected members will cause delay due to work pressure.

5.  Material Considerations

Material considerations you may wish to write about include:

  • Impact on the neighbourhood
  • Planning history of the site i.e. the contrast between what Rathlin stated in their planning application and supporting documents, the planning conditions and their actual behaviour. They are asking for time to carry out the extended well test identical to one at West Newton which is now in some difficulty. Breaches of planning permission at Crawberry Hill are also relevant. (More detail below)
  • The overbearing nature of the proposal. The expert report on hydrogeology (ie the aquifer and water supply) submitted by Rathlin in their initial application refers to water supply to Hull but overlooks significant risks. This is an overbearing proposal which prolongs the risk to our water supply. (More detail below)
  • Loss of ecological habitats. Recent observations at West Newton and Crawberry Hill indicate that the initial independent ecology report commissioned by Rathlin was wholly inadequate. (More detail below)
  • The ERYC Development Plan. There are numerous references to this in the original report and the current application and material considerations arising are examined below.

6.  Issues for a letter of objection / Due consideration of objections

What is striking about the original report to the Planning Committee in 2012 is the lack of detailed response to concerns voiced by residents. Residents of Balcombe, West Sussex, have recently been granted a judicial review of planning permission given by West Sussex Council to Cuadrilla to resume drilling and to flare gas.

“The grounds of claim also consider the relevance of the scale of local opposition and alleges that the Council’s’ insistence that the number of representations in opposition was ‘not a material consideration’ as being ‘simply wrong in law’.” – Leigh Day (law firm)

You may wish to start your letter by stating that you expect due weight to be given to the material considerations raised by you.

Impact on the neighbourhood

The Crawberry Hill Site was chosen because of its relatively remote location. However there are clear impacts on the neighbouring villages and these will be prolonged if the extension of another two years is granted.

The hydrological survey overlooked a key document which only underlines the wider potential impact of the proposed extension at Crawberry Hill. This is discussed in the advice about the overbearing nature of the proposal which follows.

Planning History of the site

The first application made by Rathlin (Sept 2011) went unused when the farmer withdrew at the last minute. Over 160 objections were registered in addition to the concerns of the Parish Councils. Far fewer objections were received for the second application (July 2012) although the technical reports for the first application were re-used and little had changed. In the current application Rathlin make reference to these reports which can therefore be used in considering the planning history of the site.

Letter detailing numerous breaches of Planning Conditions and demanding action, from a dozen local residents to the Council. Click to view the letter, and a link to the reply from the Council.

Letter detailing numerous breaches of Planning Conditions and demanding action, from a dozen local residents to the Council. Click to view the letter, and a link to the reply from the Council.

There have been numerous breaches of the detailed conditions specified in the planning permission as well as the technical specifications for the protection of groundwater from pollution. These are detailed in the separate letter to ERYC here.

In summary, Rathlin have ignored the traffic management plan between May 2014 and August, ignored the lighting plan since the 1st August, only installed a site office and security fencing in August, failed to deal with water leaks from the site into neighbouring farmland, failed to provide the protective bund around the site which would have prevented leaks. Any disruption blamed on Protectors should be seen in the context of a marked absence of site security and supervision by Rathlin in contrast to the double security fencing with razor wire installed in May 2014 at West Newton.

Note: Lawyers Leigh Day, acting for residents of Balcombe, West Sussex, argue that in that case planning permission should not have been granted because of “Cuadrilla’s conduct during the operation of its previous activities in Balcombe including allegations of non-compliance with conditions in the past”. The application for Judicial review was successful.Telegraph

Overbearing nature of the proposal

There is a fundamental issue which is not explained in either the original planning application or the current application for extension.

Throughout both applications reference is made to the temporary nature of the exploratory drilling, e.g.

“It is temporary proposal of short duration.” (14/02622/STVAR 5.1.1. page 20. See also pages 19,22,23,26,28.)

However, Rathlin also state,

“Rathlin Energy is proposing to vary condition 2 of the planning consent for the Crawberry Hill wellsite to allow for a further 24 months to complete the site activities as detailed in the original planning application. This will allow the Applicant to gain a further understanding on the characteristics of the reservoir and evaluate its potential as a commercial prospect.” (14/02622/STVAR 6. Conclusion page 34)

Either it is a temporary wellsite or it isn’t – this conclusion and Rathlin’s right to lease the sites at Crawberry Hill and West Newton for up to 50 years (as revealed in the High Court of Chancery on the 9th July 2014) suggest that this is much more significant proposal with importance for the wider community, requiring a completely different approach to prior consultation with the community before any planning considerations; Rathlin should have informed and consulted local residents before putting in this new application.

Water report commissioned by Rathlin for the Planning Permission

Water report commissioned by Rathlin for the Planning Permission

In the Hydrogeological Risk Assessment (HRA) commissioned by Rathlin the sensitivity and extent of the risk to water supply is acknowledged.

“The site is underlain by a Principal Aquifer, the Chalk. This aquifer is extensively used for water supply in England. The public water supply for the region including the conurbation of Hull water is entirely derived from this Chalk aquifer. Yorkshire Water is licensed to abstract 65Ml/d from sources in the Cottingham and Berevely (sic) area. Groundwater abstraction in the area is potentially close to the sustainable limit at low-flow periods Smedley et al (2004).” – 3.4.1 page 15

Two diagrams confirm that the well site is on the catchment area supplying pumping stations at Springhead, Keldgate, Cottingham and Dunswell ( URS Fig.11 page 22) and that it is also on a Major Aquifer of High Vulnerability (Fig.12 page 23)

No reference is made to the small reservoir serving Walkington which is within the 2 km radius of the HRA.

No explanation is given for the limited 2km radius focus of the risk assessment.

This is significant because the HRA makes no reference to a major relevant report “The Chalk aquifer of Yorkshire” ( Gale and Rutter, British Geological Survey 2006), neither does it acknowledge the significance of the well-publicised incident at Preese Hall Blackpool in April-May 2011 when drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Bowland Shale triggered earthquakes and the release of contaminated water. No reference is made to the lessons learned from Preese Hall, available in time for the report.

The “Chalk Aquifer…” indicates that the well site is in a Supply zone for the North Newbald pumping station (Fig.5.1 page 50) Newbald also has a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve and SSSI, the Becksies. The supply zone reaches as far as the Beverley Westwood where in recent years springs from the aquifer have been a feature following heavy rainfall on the Westwood. Apart from the pumping stations, which take 14% of the water from the aquifer, springs feed another 55% of aquifer water into the Hull River which also provides water supply for the East Riding and Hull (Chalk Aquifer p.49)

The “Chalk Aquifer..” refers to water source protection,

“A series of special protection areas exist for individual sources, in which various polluting activities are either prohibited or strictly controlled. Such activities include:

  • Physical disturbance of aquifers/groundwater flow
  • Diffuse pollution of groundwater
  • Additional activities or developments which pose a threat to groundwater quality.”

We have already seen that the site is on a Major Aquifer and on the catchment area for Hull’s water supplies.

The proposal to continue testing, by use of a “mini-frac” in the Bowland Shale together with the recent well problems experienced at Rathlin’s similar West Newton site after a “mini-frac”, suggest that residents across the East Riding and Hull could be affected by pollution of their water supply. This is a material consideration for residents of the whole area and also businesses which extract 45 Ml/day from the aquifer.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

These water supply issues are also grounds for consideration of an Environmental Impact Assessment.

The Crawberry Site is reported to be less than 1 hectare, the area which would require an Environmental Impact Assessment. This may be just a ploy because in his signed witness for the High Court eviction order Tom Selkirk, Country Manager for Rathlin, stated:

“Rathlin has a 2.5 acre site being land at Knights Garth Farm, Callas, Bishop Burton in the East Riding of Yorkshire known as Crawberry Hill.”  (Claim HC/4602820 22/07/2014)

2.5 acres are 1.01 hectares – requiring an EIA.

In any case, Schedule 3 Selection Criteria for screening EIA decisions, identifies the following characteristics which must be considered:

c. the use of natural resources;
e. pollution and nuisances;
f. the risk of accidents.

It goes on to highlight the environmental sensitivity of a geographical area likely to be affected by development must be considered, having regard, in particular, to:

a.the existing land use;
b.the relative abundance, quality and regenerative capacity of natural resources in the area;
c.the absorption capacity of the natural environment, paying particular attention to the following areas-
(vii) densely populated areas.

Given the established importance of the aquifer for the East Riding and Hull, documented groundwater breaches of planning permission, the existing levels of pollution, the risk of accidents highlighted by well problems at West Newton and the proximity to the densely populated areas in and surrounding Hull one might expect and Environmental Impact Assessment to be required.

It is therefore shocking to read that The East Riding of Yorkshire Council,

“determined that an environmental impact assessment was not required.” (14/02622/STVAR para 3.3 page 16)

 

Loss of Ecological Habitats
Ecological Report commissioned by Rathlin. May 2012

Ecological Report commissioned by Rathlin. May 2012

The Ecological Report commissioned by Rathlin focuses on the immediate site. The first report dated September 2011 included an extensive site visit in late June 2011 and recorded a variety of songbirds. At both West Newton and Crawberry Hill the sound of songbirds was a notable feature when Protectors and local residents first arrived on site in May 2014. Barn owl and kestrel patrols along hedgerows were a feature of areas around both sites.

The arrival of drilling equipment and the associated generators and lighting on a 24 hour basis has scared away birdlife from West Newton. The arrival of equipment at Crawberry Hill and in particular the 24 hour security lighting (in breach of the lighting management plan) has had a similar impact on birdlife, before drilling re-starts.

The Ecology report stated:

“The current land use of the site provides suitable habitat for brown hare Lepus Europeus. However this habitat type of agricultural land is abundant and extensive in the immediate and wider local area. As the development footprint only takes up a small part of a large field, no further investigation for brown hare is required.” – 5.2.2.

The ERYC Hedgerows, Nature Conservation and Ecology Officer agreed:

“..the immediate area of the development is of limited ecological value with few habitats or species of note and it is unlikely that the proposed development will cause significant harm to any protected species.” – Consultation response 01.08.2012

The Ecology Officer proposed the planning Condition to ensure all species are protected having regard to the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and this is included as Condition 7 of the Notice of Decision.

Unfortunately local hares did not read the ecology report and were not consulted. Given the lack of natural water in the area it was predictable they would be attracted to the drainage ditch on the site. Two hares drowned in this ditch. Another hare has been observed and reported in the immediate area. Had proper security fencing been installed this loss of iconic mammals would have been prevented, another planning breach.

Extension of work at the site for a further 24 months can only continue the disruption to birdlife and increased road traffic is an ongoing risk to mammals.

The ERYC Development Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

Rathlin’s current application is largely a description of the national and local planning policy framework. The emphasis is on the economic benefits of indigenous oil and gas production for future wealth and security while preserving the environment.

You may wish to comment on current research which questions how oil, gas and shale gas (which is part of Rathlin’s exploration) can contribute to sustainable development:

“An environmental role – contributing to protecting and enhancing our natural, built and historic environment; and, as part of this helping to improve biodiversity, use natural resources prudently, minimise waste and pollution, and mitigate and adapt to climate change including moving to a low carbon economy.” – 5.1.1. p18

It goes on to describe how this might be done:

“Protecting and enhancing valued landscapes…”
“Preventing both new and existing development from contributing to or being put at unacceptable risk from, or being adversely affected by unacceptable levels of soil, air, water or noise pollution…..” – p18

Rathlin’s contribution is emphasised, and can be assessed in the light of the ecological and water management issues described above.

On page 19 measures to protect the environment and avoid harm to the aquifer are described but above all,

“The development approved is temporary in nature and of short duration.”

Similarly, a lighting management plan is included for 24 hour operation,

“This sets out the best practice guidance which will be followed on site”.

So much for planning breaches on groundwater management, wildlife harm and lighting of the site on a 24 hour basis when no drilling or testing is taking place.

Readers will see similar contrast between assertion and reality in Rathlin’s reference to their compliance with the Hull and East Riding Joint Waste/Minerals Plan ( pages 21-25), suffice to say we can be reassured,

“This development is temporary and of short duration….” – p23

The Joint Structure Plan for Kingston Upon Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire is considered on pages 25-26.

Rathlin asserts they have ensured no adverse effects on a Local Wildlife Site only 100 metres from the site. They acknowledge the Plan’s emphasis on the need to protect the distinctive character of the Yorkshire Wolds and the site location within the area but again we can be reassured, if we believe everything Rathlin say,

“The development is temporary and will be completed in a short period of time; it will subsequently restored to its pre-existing condition, thereby ensuring any effects are temporary.” – p26

One does wonder how short a period of time might be when Rathlin have already failed to complete in two years and now ask for a further two years.

All of this reassurance is stated with fingers and everything else crossed on behalf of Rathlin which has already spent over £7 million at each of the East Riding sites.

The proposals are only temporary if no commercial oil, gas or shale gas in proved.

If Rathlin prove oil, gas or shale gas within the extra 24 months requested to complete a second drilling (maximum 10 weeks in the original report) and an extended well test (up to 90 days in the original report) they will stop work, apply for planning permission to build a production site at Crawberry Hill on top of the chalk aquifer and exploit the site for up to 50 years.

Having given “temporary” planning permission once, East Riding of Yorkshire Council will be stretching credibility if they allow another “temporary” permission which will give Rathlin four years instead of the three years they initially wanted – and pave the way for the first two oil and gas production sites in the most rural parts of the East Riding.

A more straightforward approach, from the outset, would have been for Rathlin and the ERYC to entitle the original application–

“Application for Construction of a temporary drilling site with associated access, to drill an appraisal borehole for the purposes of mineral exploration(petroleum) as a preliminary to the possible construction of a permanent petroleum production facility at Crawberry Hill … subject to the outcome of exploration and the submission of a second Planning Application.”

This honest approach would have transformed the consultation process and would have undoubtedly allowed members of the ERYC Planning Committee to assess the full implications before reaching their decision.

 


 

“ For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”

Richard Feynman, Atomic Scientist, in “What do you care what other people think?” his account of the investigation into the causes of the NASA space shuttle disaster.

“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her”

William Wordsworth “Tintern Abbey”

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