Councillors reject controversial oil drilling plans for Lincolnshire Wolds

A controversial oil drill in the Lincolnshire Wolds has been rejected after councillors felt the impact would be greater than the benefits to the protected natural beauty area.

The planning meeting took place at the Brackenborough Hotel in Louth this afternoon (Monday).

This afternoon (Monday), Lincolnshire County Council’s Planning and Regulation Committee voted by a majority to refuse Egdon Resources’ plans for Biscathorpe, which is believed to contain more than 30 million barrels of oil, which they say will provide 15 years’ supply.

In reports to the committee, officers recommended approval, telling councillors that the impact of the proposal would be “minor in nature given the duration of the proposal and that it is entirely reversible”.

However members of the committee remained unconvinced, with Councillor Sue Blackburn saying: “To me, the benefits of this do not stack up to the problems we are going to have.”

The planning meeting took place at the Brackenborough Hotel in Louth this afternoon (Monday).

Councillor Noi Sear said: “The people in that area are going to be living a nightmare for 15 years. Why would we want to spoil it? It’s a beautiful area.”

The decision comes in the same week that the UK government hosts COP26 climate conference.

The Biscathorpe plans faced a fierce backlash with a petition handed to the council carrying over 1,790 signatures, while more than 200 locals also submitted objections.

Campaigners say the drill will emit huge amounts of carbon and will fly in the face of climate concerns – though the climate does not come under planning regulations.

Five of the parish councils closest to the site – Donington on Bain, Hemingby, South Elkington, Welton le Wold, and South Willingham – are also against the plans, along with Louth and Horncastle’s MP Victoria Atkins, Natural England, Historic England, and multiple others.

The developers said the site would be restored to agricultural use once the drilling had finished.

Egdon previously drilled in the location in 2018 and said there was little impact, and it also said it was going to work closely with the Environment Agency.

CEO Mark Abbott told the committee: “Oil produced from Biscathorpe will not lead to increased oil consumption, it will help to reduce that we import and contribute to energy security.”

He said it would create a “significantly lower” carbon emissions than importing the fuels and would be under strict legislation.

He said there were “clear exceptional circumstances” to support the application.

Prior to the plans being discussed, campaigners gathered outside with placards and banners.

Campaigner Nick Bodian, chairman of the community liaison project, spoke during the meeting to object.

Following the decision he said he was “extremely pleased” that Lincolnshire County Council had “shown real leadership”.

“It’s vitally important that we stop extracting oil and gas on short from this county and everywhere else in the county,” he said.

Councillors and objectors also used the meeting to highlight a lack of national policy allowing climate change to be considered as a material planning policy.

The plans recently inspired Lincolnshire poet Jane Air to write a few verses of her own entitled “Bubble Bubble, Oil is Trouble”.

Ms Air expects the application to go to appeal following its refusal, but said she was “absolutely astonished” by the decision.

Following the meeting, she said: “We need to keep our campaign, make everyone aware of this issue. I walk in this area regularly and I want it to stay as it is.”

Louth and Horncastle MP Victoria Atkins added: “I welcome the news that the application to drill for oil at Biscathorpe was refused today by the planning committee of Lincolnshire County Council.

As I outlined in my letter about the application to the Council, the proposal is completely at odds with the character and natural beauty of the area.

“I am delighted that councillors agreed and rejected this application, which would have done long term damage to the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

A statement from Egdon Resources published after the meeting said: “We will await the formal decision notice before taking advice and considering our options including an appeal.”