Exploratory drilling for gas is set to start later this year at a new site in East Yorkshire amid calls by campaigners for the Government to invest more in renewables rather than “trying to prop up the past”.
It comes after the Environment Agency granted environmental permits allowing Rathlin Energy (UK) Ltd to carry out conventional gas drilling at West Newton B, near the village of Sproatley, in Holderness.
Up to two wells could be drilled at the site, while Rathlin has permission to explore reserves at nearby West Newton A, which is currently suspended, following what the firm describes as “encouraging” results from testing in 2014.
Campaigners spent many months protesting at Crawberry Hill, near Walkington, after Rathlin drilled a well in 2013, and there were also protests at West Newton A.
Ward councillor John Holtby said locals were concerned about the prospect of disruption if there were more protests as well as extra traffic coming through Sproatley, despite a new access road which is to be built.
He said: “There was a massive police presence last time and about five people (protesting). I think the campaigners are OK in themselves, they were pretty harmless and the police were harmless.
“But it’s having a lot of people hanging around you don’t normally have. Last time the police decided to convoy everything through and the roads were closed and that was quite disruptive.
“I think there are quite a lot of concerns and I don’t think locals are very happy about it.”
Campaigner Jon Mager said the latest development was “another step on the way to industrialising the East Riding with an old and unacceptable technology.”
He added: “The very large demonstration in York on Saturday underlines the concern there is in East Yorkshire about the arrival of the gas industry in the county.
“The Government should be investing and becoming a world leader in solar and photo voltaic technology not subsidising oil and gas, which is history. They should be investing in the future not trying to prop up the past.”
Meanwhile the Environment Agency said they would “stringently enforce” the conditions of the permits which set out to ensure waste is managed correctly and local water resources are protected.
It pointed out that the company had not applied to carry out fracking, and the permits do not allow fracking to take place.
A spokesman said: “After completing a thorough assessment of Rathlin’s application and all of the responses to our public consultation, we are confident that these environmental permits set out the right conditions to ensure that people and the environment are protected.”
It comes as the Environment Agency signed off the site at Crawberry Hill, which has been restored to agriculture in accordance with its environmental permit. Rathlin has decommissioned the borehole in line with HSE regulations, removed the well pad and landscaped the land.
Rathlin Energy (UK) Limited, said: “The granting of these environmental permits brings us a step closer to starting work at West Newton B later in the year.
“Our plans have been developed to keep the effects of our operations upon local communities to a minimum.
“Traffic management will play an important part in this and we have a plan in place which will reduce the local impact for the very short period of our exploratory operations.”