Isle of Wight Council unanimously refuses plans to drill for oil in Arreton

Oil drilling protest outside Council buildings, Isle of Wight

“Say it loud and say it clear oil drilling not wanted here!”: Blue Seas Protection’s petition pays off as Isle of Wight Council unanimously refuses plans to drill for oil in Arreton

By Gina Phillips

See a video of the protest here

With COP26 imminent and global leaders focusing on climate change it felt inappropriate that an application was made by UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) to drill for oil on the Isle of Wight. The plan, if approved, would have seen two deep holes drilled in privately owned greenfield farmland in Arreton over the next three years. The aim was to see if there was enough oil underneath for a financially viable extraction. The site in Arreton is within a Source Protection Zone (SPZ) and a Drinking Water Protection Area (DrWPA). This is due to the fact that an aquifer sits in proximity to the site which supplies significant amounts of fresh water for the Island. 

After an initial meeting last week (Tuesday the 12th October) Blue Seas Protection’s own Garry Oates and Susan Betts handed over a petition to Cllr Jonathan Bacon on behalf of the 4,400+ Island residents who were against the plans to drill for oil at the site in Arreton. If the drilling were to have taken place the environmental and social implications would have been devastating. The hundred and twelve page report released by the Council saw the Health Research Authority (HRA) deem contamination to drinking water to be ‘a moderate risk’. It also stated any benefits that would have been seen would not have been felt by Island residents. It is important to note that there would be approximately only twelve days of oil found, leaving any argument for economic benefit falling flat. With the Isle of Wight being a protected biosphere this kind of plan would have risked our current status. Not to mention, a move like this would have gone directly against the Government’s current talk of sustainability and carbon neutrality by 2050.

On the 19th of October 2021, members of Don’t Drill the Wight (DDTW) had been invited to speak to the Planning Committee on the environmental issues and residential concerns that the drilling would cause. The grey overcast day did not stop Island residents and organisations such as Blue Seas Protection, Don’t Drill the Wight and Extinction Rebellion to turn up in their masses.

Vix Lowthion led the activists as they chanted “Say it loud and say it clear oil drilling is not welcome here”. Inside the Council building UK Oil and Gas said that the UK will still rely on oil and gas for many years to come and it makes no economic or environmental sense to import those supplies. However committee members agreed that they could find no benefit to the local economy. This verdict was accompanied by the comments of Cllr Geoff Brodie who had argued that the application would have had “demonstrably adverse effects on our environment”.

With the petition of over 4,400 Islanders and the rallying war cry of the protesters it seemed that the Councillors made the right decision to reject the plans to drill for oil on the Isle of Wight. The rejection of this proposal is a huge success not just for the activists but for Island residents who’s health could have been seriously affected if the water supplies had been contaminated. On behalf of Blue Seas Protection we would like to thank everybody who has come together to make the petition such a great success and without its completion would have potentially allowed many local voices to go unheard.