The Isle of Wight council has defended its consultation on the UKOG Arreton oil drilling application after critics claimed it was inadequate.
A motion calling for the public consultation surrounding the application to be withdrawn and reintroduced at a different time came before the council’s planning committee last night (Tuesday), three months after it was deferred by the full council.
90 per cent of objections
Since July, the public consultation has ended but attracted over 1,000 comments, with over 90 per cent objecting to the application.
When the motion was first submitted by Cllr John Medland, however, the application’s consultation was live.
Medland: Current consultation procedure being followed
Cllr Medland argued the current practices failed to comply with the relevant legislative provisions and asked the consultation to be reinstated at a time when the public could inspect paper copies of plans, physical attendance at meetings could happen and a site visit be undertaken.
“It appears the current consultation procedure being followed is not proportionate to the potential impact of the development.”
Boulter: Officers felt no reasonable grounds to hold back
Last night, councillors on the planning committee unanimously rejected the motion, following warnings from the council’s strategic planning manager Ollie Boulter.
Mr Boulter said:
“These (what) regulations were enacted to support timely decision making and to avoid delays while maintaining public participation in the decision-making process.
“A number of changes were introduced including the removal of the need to make documents available to inspect.
“These changes being introduced broadly coincided with lockdown restrictions easing, so officers felt there were no reasonable grounds to hold back this and other applications.”
UKOG could appeal
Mr Boulter said the implications if the committee supported the motion, and told the officers not to determine the application, would mean the applicants, UK Oil and Gas, could appeal the decision which would lead to the final decision being made by the Planning Inspectorate off the Island.
Cllr Matthew Price said he understood why the motion was being submitted, but the committee would be ‘absolutely stupid’ to accept this motion.
“To allow this decision to be decided off the Island and be determined by someone else would be an absolute failure of the individuals on the committee.”
Committee decision some way off
Mr Boulter admitted the officers were some way off determining the application.
Chair of the committee, Cllr Chris Quirk, agreed with calls for the meeting at which the the application is determined should be held in person but said it was not likely to come before the committee before December.
It was also agreed a site visit must happen as it was ‘essential’ in determining the application.
All but one councillor agreed to the site visit. Cllr Brian Tyndall abstained.
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Some alterations and additions may be been made by OnTheWight. Ed
Image: © Isle of Wight Council