Yorkshire's Greta Thunberg? 14-year-old schoolgirl tells councillors to 'consider my future' over oil and gas drilling

A 14-year-old school girl has called on East Riding councillors to “consider my future” as residents opposed to the expansion of oil and gas drilling and applicants made their cases.

Charlotte Foster was among residents who urged East Riding Council’s Planning Committee to refuse Rathlin Energy’s plans for its West Newton A site, off Fosham Road, High Fosham.

Her and others speaking ahead of the plans’ hearing today (Sep 30) said they would see lorry traffic spike, the countryside blighted and the council’s climate emergency declaration undermined.

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But Rathlin representatives told the committee expanded drilling was in line with national goals to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and would help the UK become less reliant on imports.

14-year-old Charlotte Foster was among residents who urged East Riding Council’s Planning Committee to refuse Rathlin Energy’s plans for its West Newton A site

They added they had cut proposed trips from the site, would use two routes to ease traffic and restore the site after its forecast 15 to 20 year operational life ends.

It comes as objectors and the applicant made their cases to councillors ahead of today’s crunch Planning Committee meeting.

The plans would see up to six wells drilled in addition to the current two, depending on the extent of deposits, with oil to be taken to a South Bank refinery.

Rathlin’s plans stated they were looking at using gas extracted from the site to power it.

Rathlin’s plans, recommended for approval by East Riding officers, have sparked more than 1,000 objections including from seven parish councils.

No objections have been raised by public bodies including the Environment Agency, Natural England or council highways officers.

Coun Jacob Birch, whose Mid-Holderness ward covers the site, previously mounted an unsuccessful bid to get Environment Secretary George Eustice to order an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Miss Foster told councillors yesterday climate change was the “biggest threat” currently facing future generations.

She also quoted from recent speeches from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for countries to redouble their efforts on tackling it.

The 14-year-old, from Long Riston, said: “I ask you to consider my future and that of my generation. The West Newton development will contribute to carbon emissions through its construction, production and transportation operations.

“There will be 60 HGV movements a day during construction which will take 12 weeks, the proposed 20 year operation will involve 146,000 vehicle journeys. You must act now, say no to this development.”

Resident Mrs Allatt, who lives within a mile of West Newton A, said the impact on her and others would be “enormous”.

The resident said: “This area seems to have turned into a sacrifice zone, this would strip the landscape of its beauty, peace and quiet. Tourists bring much needed funds to businesses in the area, there will be an impact when people no longer want to visit an industrial zone.”

Coun Birch, who also spoke at the meeting, claimed parts of the application including evidence on flood risks and preventing water table contamination were missing, making it “fundamentally flawed”.

Tom Selkirk, Rathlin’s country manager, said plans were part of the “significant role” the Humber will play in efforts to reach carbon neutrality.

He added the company wanted to expand West Newton because the Humber is a “major energy hub” with the infrastructure, transport links and skills needed for it to work.

Jonathan Foster, the company’s health, safety and environment manager, said lining would be in place under the well site to help stop oil and gas seeping out.

He added a number of safety measures would be in place including controls for emergency shut offs, lighting would be as dim as possible and landscaping would help screen it.

Operations Engineer Caroline Foster said the company planned projects to help offset pollution from the site.

She added Rathlin would also help fund greater access to education, the arts, culture and science for local residents.