Councillors refuse major extension to oil and gas site in East Yorkshire despite warnings they could lose at appeal

Councillors have refused a major extension to a gas and oil development in East Yorkshire, months after unanimously declaring a climate emergency.

The West Newton A wellsite near Sproatley in East Yorkshire

Rathlin Energy (UK) was denied permission to drill up to six new wells for petroleum and start production from two boreholes already drilled on farmland near Sproatley.

More than 1,000 objections were submitted, as well as from seven parish councils and Burton Constable Hall.

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Conservative councillor Leo Hammond moved refusal saying moving from two testing wells to eight operational wells is of "unacceptable scale for the character of the area" and the number of HGVs would have a "significant impact" on the narrow country lanes.

Before voting, councilors were warned they were “very weak reasons” for refusal, which East Riding Council would “struggle to defend”. Officers said the impact on “residential amenity” would be minimal, and there were no objections from highways with an approved route with passing places for HGVs already in use.

However councillors voted seven to five to refuse the plans.

Campaigners welcomed the decision saying at last local people had been listened to.

A spokesperson for Fossil Free East Yorkshire said: “This was a terrible application, not just because of the overriding and blindingly obvious issue of climate change, but because it was incomplete, inadequate, and we believe breached local and national policies.

"Although shocked that so many councillors still supported this plan for oil drilling, even as the climate breaks down around us, we are delighted and relieved that a majority listened to the overwhelming opposition from just about everybody, and refused it."

During the meeting local resident Harry Clark, who lives in nearby New Ellerby, urged councillors to reject the plans, saying residents "will be subject to 24/7 days a week of work, they will suffer from noise, light, atmosphere pollution and very large numbers of HGVs".

And he claimed the exploration process will lead to the venting of 330 cubic feet of gas, into an atmosphere already "among the most polluted in the UK".

Coun Tim Norman (Yorkshire Party) reminded the committee that the council had voted unanimously for a climate emergency, and said it was time for them to "show the world that East Riding Council have grown up".

Coun Andy Walker (Yorkshire Party) also told councillors the "responsibility rests here". He said the plans didn't so much "drive a coach and horses" through the declaration of a climate emergency "it drives a fleet of diesel road tankers through it every day for 20 years plus."

The meeting heard there would be 66 vehicle movements a day while the pad is built, and then 10 tankers in and out during the production phase.

However deputy leader of the council and ward councillor John Holtby (Con) said he found it hard to believe that it would only involve 10 tankers a day given the supposed scale of the find.

And he recalled previous issues with campaigners slowing tankers to walking pace and the knock-on disruption that had for local traffic. He said: "30 years of traffic disruption is not acceptable. The residents of Holderness are not happy to be invaded by a fossil fuel business which operates entirely away from the climate emergency declaration in East Yorkshire."

Independent councillor John Whittle said he's never seen a situation where "every single member of the Conservative group speaking from the floor" had been against the application.

The meeting heard that the climate emergency declaration could be taken into account, but had not yet been written into local plan policies and they were still a "number of years away" from completing the local plan review.

Rathlin Energy (UK) said: “We would like to thank the planning committee for considering our application. We will now review our options before deciding on a relevant course of action to take.”