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Lincolnshire campaigner in legal challenge to save Lincolnshire Wolds from oil production

Campaigner, Mathilda Dennis, supported by SOS Biscathorpe is hoping to stop new oil production going ahead in the heart of Lincolnshire.

Posted on 07 December 2023

Two years ago, Lincolnshire County Council refused to give permission for the Egdon Resources oil production development because of the impact it would have on the protected landscape of the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Image of Lincolnshire site
Image of Lincolnshire site, photo provided by Eddie Thornton

The council’s decision followed vehement opposition led by SOS Biscathorpe to the oil production plan.

However, Egdon Resources appealed to the Secretary of State, and Lincolnshire County Council’s decision was overruled last month, giving the green light to further exploration and 15 years of oil production at the Lincolnshire site.

Now Mathilda Dennis, supported by SOS Biscathorpe is launching a legal challenge to the Secretary of State’s decision to allow the oil production plan. Mathilda has instructed specialist environment lawyers at law firm Leigh Day to bring a statutory review challenge to the decision to overturn Lincolnshire County Council’s refusal of the development.

Egdon’s oil production site is situated close to the River Bain chalk stream, and (treated) surface water from the site will be released into the stream. According to the Wildlife Trusts, “Only 200 chalk rivers are known globally, 85% of which are found in the UK in southern and eastern England.”

These globally rare habitats support some of the UK’s most vulnerable plants and iconic native animals, such as otters, kingfishers and more.

In the appeal decision, Paul Thompson, the Inspector for the Secretary of State, acknowledged “that it would result in an adverse effect on the landscape and scenic beauty of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. He further acknowledged that it contravened local planning policies and would result in a small quantity of oil that could be exported. Despite this he considered the development should be allowed on the basis it is “in the public interest” for “national energy security”.

Mathilda Dennis said:

“SOS Biscathorpe is fighting on behalf of every community up and down the UK that wants to protect its natural environment for the long term health of the planet and its people.”

Amanda Suddaby, another member of SOS Biscathorpe, said:

“The predicted output of the site over its entire lifetime is less than 3 million barrels of oil which would be sufficient to supply the UK for barely 2 days. Even if you discount the overwhelming climate change arguments against new oil drilling, such a small amount of oil does not justify 15 years of harm to this beautiful, supposedly protected, area.”

Dr Andrew Kythreotis, Co-founder, Adaptation & Research lead, and Commissioner, Lincoln Climate Commission said:

“The decision by the national planning inspectorate to allow drilling at Biscathorpe is ludicrous, and exposes an outdated planning system in the UK that isn’t climate agile. The decision is certainly not in the Public’s interest, either locally or nationally given the small amount of oil we are talking about from the site. This is just another political decision that makes a mockery of the science on climate change.”

Leigh Day solicitor Julia Eriksen said:

“Our client is steadfastly continuing her long battle of fighting oil development in Lincolnshire Wolds AONB and have instructed us to prepare a claim for statutory review. The Inspector acknowledged that the development would cause harm to the AONB however allowed the appeal regardless. This case will also argue that the Inspectors’ approach to the legal requirements for assessing downstream greenhouse gas emissions, which is relevant to many other fossil fuel developments, was flawed.”

Mathilda is represented by Estelle Dehon KC and Dr Lois Lane, of Cornerstone Barristers, and Ricardo Gama and Julia Eriksen, of law firm Leigh Day.

SOS Bisthcathorpe is fundraising to support Mathilda’s legal challenge: Fundraiser by SOS Biscathorpe : Save Lincolnshire Wolds A.O.N.B. from Oil Drilling (gofundme.com)

Julia Eriksen
Climate change Environment Human rights Planning

Julia Eriksen

Julia is an associate solicitor in the human rights team

Ricardo Gama November 2021
Climate change Environment Judicial review Planning

Ricardo Gama

Ricardo specialises in environmental claims and planning law

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