West Newton planning objection

Rathlin Energy’s West Newton exploratory drill site

Rathlin Energy’s West Newton exploratory drill site

West Newton? That isn’t in Ryedale, is it?

No, it’s in Holderness, East Yorkshire.

OK. So what’s going on over there?

As you may know, Rathlin Energy have an exploratory well site there. The West Newton A well site was mothballed after the controversial mini-frack test went wrong in summer 2014, leading to an emergency well shutdown. Planning Permission for the West Newton A well site expires in March 2016.  If no further planning permission was applied for, the well would have to be plugged and abandoned, and the site restored. 

However, Rathlin Energy would like to continue working on the site, and they also want the option to drill a second well.  Like the existing well that has already been drilled, the second well could go as deep as the Bowland Shale, about 3,250m. Shale gas can of course only be extracted by fracking, so this is obviously planned to be the starting point of industrialised fracking in the area.

To achieve this, Rathlin Energy have submitted a Planning Variation to extend their planning permission (or a planning extension, in layman’s terms) for another three years.

OK, where do I send it and what’s the deadline?

We would like to encourage people to object to this planning application TODAY as this will be decided by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) Planning Committee on Thursday 26th November. This is, of course, part of a wider plan to establish fracking across the whole of Yorkshire and as such is relevant to anyone within the county, and indeed nationally.

Please email your objection to matthew.sunman@eastriding.gov.uk

Also please put the name and Application reference number in your subject line and in the body of your objection:
West Newton A Planning Application Ref 15/03056/STVAR


What can I say in my objection?

As with all objections, please start with a sentence or two about yourself, where you live, what you do, your connections to the area, etc. Then you can include some or all of the following points. PLEASE USE YOUR OWN WORDING IF POSSIBLE

Temporary Nature of the Well-Site

  • There is no explanation why Rathlin have failed to meet the three-year time period allocated for exploration at West Newton A.
  • This condition in the original application makes clear that temporary means no more than three years. It would therefore be irrational for the Planning Committee to allow an extension which stretches the current temporary permission for an additional three years.
  • Rathlin have stated in the High Court that their lease agreement for the site at West Newton A runs for 25 years with the right to extend for a further 25 years, so they are clearly planning to establish fracking wells that will continue for decades to come – again, this is hardly ‘temporary’.
  • Rathlin’s parent company, Connaught, has recently disposed of all it Canadian assets to concentrate on UK activity. This is a clear intention to develop their stated plans of creating up to 6 wellsites in the West Newton area, which will mean oil and gas production on a long-term industrial scale.
  • This is therefore not a “temporary” application but clearly part of an overall long-term strategy by Rathlin and Connaught to develop shale gas production across Yorkshire.
The perimeter ditch at Rathlin Energy’s West Newton drill site

The perimeter ditch at Rathlin Energy’s West Newton drill site

Safety record and failure to comply with planning conditions at the site

Rathlin’s record at the West Newton well-site has included many infractions of planning conditions. For example:

  • Gas had been allowed to leak unburnt from a failed flare.
  • Rathlin breached eight permit conditions of a period of three months in 2014 at West Newton.
  • Vibration, noise, smells and gas leaks had affected the health of residents.
  • In August 2014 a group of local residents wrote to the Director responsible for Planning at YERC with a list of breaches of planning permission at Rathlin’s nearby Crawberry Hill site where protestors had stopped exploration work.
  • Complaints included several breaches of the traffic management plan, deaths of listed mammals (brown hares) through inadequate fencing, failure to comply with the lighting plan and failure to prevent surface water leaking from the site onto adjacent farmland.
  • These multiple infractions show that Rathlin are not complying with planning regulations, and that their two sites are not being adequately regulated by the authorities.
  • No officers from East Riding Council had visited the site since the start of drilling the first well in 2013.
  • This list of infractions and lack of adequate regulation shows clearly that the industry is effectively self-regulated.

For further information on infractions please see Drill or Drop – Bangs, Smells and Traffic. This is a sobering account of daily life near a fracking well and the reality of our ‘gold-standard’ regulations – and a clear warning for Ryedale.

You can also find further details of infractions at West Newton during 2014 on Drill or Drop – What went wrong at West Newton, which you can also summarise and include in your objection.

Dead hare in a ditch at West Newton

Dead hare in a ditch at West Newton

Environmental Impact Assessment

  • East Riding Council determined that an Environmental Impact Assessment was not required, and so only a much weaker Ecological Risk Assessment (which is a desk-top study), has been done.  Given the impact the well-site has already had on the environment , the Council should insist that an Environmental Impact Assessment is conducted before any further decisions are made.
  • At least 3 brown hares, and hundreds of rodents, have died in the ditches that surround Rathlin Energy’s well sites. Barn owls used to be heard around West Newton, but now they are not, partly due to the noise, light and flaring, but also due to the depletion of their food source, as hundreds of small rodents have been found dead near the site.

Effect on local economy in East Yorkshire

  • If this application is approved, it would threaten the local tourism and agriculture economy by industrialising the local environment.
  • There are about 8,000 jobs in the East Riding based on agriculture and another 8,000 relying on tourism – compared to the 20 jobs proposed for each well site.
Leaking Tank at West Newton

Leaking Tank at West Newton

Effect on  Yorkshire as a whole

  • Together with Third Energy plans for Ryedale, there would be a huge cumulative impact on rural East and North Yorkshire with significant detriment to tourism, agriculture and food production. This will have a detrimental impact on small and medium enterprises which rely on a reputation for the quality of the local environment, and thus on employment, quality of life and the economy as a whole.
  • The first new licence announced for Cuadrilla at SE95, which includes Driffield and Wetwang, will soon be followed by licences currently awaiting announcements from Bridlington and Bempton across the Wolds to Pocklington, neighbouring on Ryedale which will increase concerns about industrialisation of the Wolds and Ryedale. If Yorkshire becomes the UK’s ‘fracking county’, the wider economy will suffer.
  • If you’re from outside Yorkshire, you can talk about the impact on the economy as a whole and problems with fracking that you know of.

Climate Change

  • The Application makes no mention of the effect the development would have on climate change. However, the Planning Committee must consider how best to mitigate the impact of Climate Change on the East Riding in line with Council policy and should therefore consider whether it is in the best interests of residents to allow Connaught and Rathlin to continue to lay the foundations for 25-50 years of industrial gas production in the East Riding.
  • The Government has removed support for renewables and is due to announce further support for shale gas exploration – this is disastrous for long term climate change and ERYC should resist further fossil fuel production.

You can of course also include any other issues you have with fracking relating to health, industrialisation of the countryside, potential for water pollution, traffic, etc.

FFEY-Logo-512-x-512[1]For a detailed objection from a concerned local resident, please click here: West Newton A Objection.

These guidelines were produced in conjunction with Frack Free East Yorkshire, and you can read their objection guidelines and more background by going to their Objections Page.

Also please check out the Frack Free East Yorkshire Facebook Page.

We’re all in this together, so let’s support our colleagues in East Yorkshire and stop fracking from starting anywhere.