Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Planning Breaches: Reply from the council

This is a reply to this letter.

Crawberry Hill Drilling Site, Walkington

I refer to your e-mail dated 4 August 2014 addressed to Nigel Pearson, Chief Executive regarding planning consent ref. 12/02945/STPLF granted 18 September 2012 for the above site. I have been asked to respond on the Chief Executive’s behalf. This response also deals with concerns over the site’s fencing and lighting that have been raised in subsequent correspondence on 6 August and your e-mail dated 15 August asking to cease operations on the site and for all the agencies to work together.

Your letter requested that East Riding of Yorkshire Council immediately investigate “breaches of the planning conditions detailed in the Notice of Decision, report to the Planning Committee and in the meantime stop any test drilling at Crawberry Hill until –
i) Rathlin give proof that they are fully compliant with planning conditions, and
ii) A detailed monitoring regime and schedule of inspection visits by the ERYC, Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency is agreed and published.”
The specific issues that your letter raised will be dealt with in turn below but the Council is satisfied that the planning conditions are being complied with, apart from the traffic management plan which will be explained below.

The Council, Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency each have different remits and therefore will undertake their own monitoring visits to the site. The Council works with both Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency but cannot prescribe when they should undertake their monitoring visits to the site.

Regarding Unconventional High Volume, High Pressure Hydraulic Fracturing

The permission is expressly for a temporary appraisal borehole to investigate the potential presence of petroleum minerals. Condition 15 expressly prohibits hydraulic fracturing activity. The approved Crawberry Hill exploratory operations do not propose hydraulic fracturing and the planning application did not seek to obtain permission to undertake such an operation.

Any agreement between Rathlin Energy and the Landowner has no bearing whatsoever on whether hydraulic fracturing is intended to be carried out at the site. The Council cannot comment on the allegation concerning Mr Ellerington’s repossession of his land as that is a civil matter between him and the developer.

Groundwater Management

Regarding the alleged breaches of condition 5.9 and 5.10;
Condition 5.9:
There shall be no discharge of foul or contaminated drainage from the site into either the groundwater or any surface waters, weather direct or via soakaways.
Condition 5.10:
Any facilities, above the ground for the storage of oils, fuels or chemicals shall be sited on an impervious base and surrounded by impervious walls. The volume of the bunded compound should be at least the equivalent capacity of the tank plus 10%. All filling points, vents, gauges and sight glasses must be located within the bund. The drainage system of the bund shall be sealed with no discharge to any watercourse, land or underground strata. Associated pipe work should be located above ground and protected from accidental damage. All filling points and tank overflow pipe outlets should be detailed to discharge into the bund. Such facilities shall be constructed and completed in accordance with plans approved by the Local Planning Authority.
Although there is no bund to the eastern boundary of the wellsite, there is a perimeter drainage system under the site which is provided to capture all surface water that migrates through the stone on to the membrane. The wellsite has been specifically constructed in a manner such as to prevent any contamination to the underlying subsoils and neighbouring fields.

A tank installed in the northeastern corner of the site, which was intended to receive surplus surface run-off water from the drainage ditch, is leaking. It was installed to provide additional surface water containment, in the event that Rathlin Energy was unable to bring water tankers to the wellsite to reduce the water level in the perimeter drainage ditch. The tank was subsequently identified as having a leak so Rathlin Energy closed the inlet valve and declared the tank unsuitable for use. Samples of the surface run-off water were obtained and sent away for analysis.

The content of the tank is believed to have been only surface run-off water, but this cannot be confirmed as Rathlin Energy were unable to access the wellsite for a period due to the site being occupied by protestors. The tank has now been mended.

Alleged lack of routine monitoring

The planning conditions relating to protecting water resources were attached at the request of the Environment Agency. This was at a time prior to the introduction of their permitting regime for such works. The Environment Agency confirmed to the Council that the changes to the regulatory regime since the planning application was approved mean that those activities at Crawberry Hill now fall under the Environmental Permitting Regulations and they are regulated under the permit issued by the Environment Agency on the 2 May, 2014. The Environment Agency has confirmed to this Council’s officers that they are satisfied that the proposal meets the requirements of condition 5 and the site will continue to be monitored under the permit. Whether or not the activity on site is in breach of the environmental permit is a matter for enforcement by the Environment Agency.

Temporary permission

The letter refers to the temporary nature of the exploratory drilling at Crawberry Hill. The planning permission is a temporary permission for 24 months (see Condition 2 of the planning permission). The Council has received an application (14/02622/STVAR) from Rathlin Energy for a variation of that planning condition that seeks to allow for a further 24 months to complete operations relating to exploration and testing at the Crawberry Hill site. The Council has invited comments on the application in the usual manner and the application will be considered by the Council's Planning Committee in due course following the expiry of the consultation period.

Rathlin’s long term plans

As with any company exploring for minerals, Rathlin Energy remain hopeful that petroleum will be encountered in commercial quantities during its exploratory operations in the East Riding of Yorkshire. These intentions have been made clear from the outset both in the planning application and in the extensive public consultations they have undertaken, pre- and post- planning permission being granted. Should the exploratory operations prove unsuccessful in finding commercial quantities of petroleum, the well will be plugged and abandoned with site restoration being undertaken thereafter, in accordance with the terms of the planning consent.
The agreement between Rathlin Energy and the Landowner provides initially for a temporary occupation, consistent with the temporary period applied for in the planning application, covering only the planned exploration activities. The 2012 permission grants a temporary exploratory permission. The developer’s strategy, whether publicised or not, does not alter that. Any future consent would be a matter of public consultation.

Traffic Management

The traffic management plan has not been adhered to as access to the Crawberry Hill wellsite became difficult due to the presence of protesters. In order to facilitate Rathlin Energy going about its business, Humberside Police have instructed Rathlin Energy to access the wellsite using an alternative route to that approved under the traffic management plan, primarily down to safety reasons. Whilst the road ‘Walkington Heads’ is a live and active road even on occasions when it has closures in place, the paramount priority is to get vehicles onto the site whilst maximising people’s safety, including the safety of the workers, police and protestors. To bring a large long convoy of vehicles past the tents and structures that are in place on land forming part of the highway, the police have had to look at alternative routes, in order to maximize safety. When accessing the site, a police escort is provided to ensure the safety of other road users, Rathlin Energy employees and the protestors. The planning condition was imposed in the interest of highway safety, but the police have amended the approved routeing arrangements in the interests of highway safety based on a different scenario than that envisaged during the planning process, I consider it would not be expedient or in the public interest for the Council to take enforcement action.


Rathlin have erected a steel security fence. Prior to its erection they checked details of the fencing with the Council. The Council confirmed that the site would have permitted development rights regarding fencing under the General Permitted Development Order. The fence will need to be removed at the end of the temporary consent under the site restoration works.


The Council’s Public Protection department, who requested the condition regarding lighting be attached to the planning consent, have confirmed that they are not concerned by the lighting on the site based on the information in your letter. If there is a serious road safety concern about lighting affecting traffic, then this is a matter for the Police. Public Protection can investigate alleged light nuisance, but it would need to be the occupant of a neighbouring property who complained about the lighting and how it affected them at their property, not in the street. Nonetheless it is understood that the lighting rig on site has been adjusted to reduce its impact on the public highway.

I hope you find the above helpful. I will copy this letter to all addresses of your e-mail of 4 August 2014 for their information.

Yours sincerely

Alan Menzies Director of Planning & Economic Regeneration

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