PLANS to drill for fossil fuels on the Isle of Wight have moved a step closer — after UK Oil and Gas (UKOG) said it intended to submit applications for sites in Arreton and Godshill.

In a public notice, published in the Isle of Wight County Press, UKOG said it would hold a public information event next month before any planning application was submitted.

UKOG, which holds a petroleum exploration development  licence, has carried out tests at the sites — one west of Arreton and the other south west of Godshill.

The Arreton site was previously drilled in the 1970s by British Gas, but it was not deemed economically viable to develop the site as oil did not flow to the surface.

If planning permission is granted, it said an oil and gas well would be built at both sites.

A UKOG spokesperson said there would be no fracking and no pollution of the surrounding area. He also said the drilling would not cause earthquakes, after tremors were reported at another drilling site.

The spokesperson said: "We are not fracking. Our well will involve drilling a small 6ins diameter hole, the size of a small domestic drainpipe, which will be lined with steel and impermeable concrete some three-quarters of a mile or more below the surface."

The company, which has previously clashed with Frack Free Isle of Wight over plans to drill on the Island, said it would share profits with the community if the projects were successful.

Vix Lowthion, the Green Party's Isle of Wight parliamentary candidate, said the move was 'devastating news' for the Island.

The party will hold a public meeting at the Riverside Centre, Newport, at 6.30pm on Tuesday, December 3, to decide how to fight the proposal.

She said: "Although we have known it was coming, the reality of seeing the public notice brings up all sorts of concerns.

"The damage to our countryside, our water supply, our roads, our entire biosphere and tourism and agricultural industries will be substantial.

“Our Island is beautiful and precious to all who live and work here. We must protect it for generations to come."

A spokesperson for the Isle of Wight Council said there was no blanket ban on drilling for fossil fuels and any planning application would be determined on its merits.

The spokesperson said: "National planning policy supports a range of energy sources and, therefore, any scheme must be determined on its merits.

"The Isle of Wight does not have any policy guidance for oil extraction and, therefore, any decision will be based on national policy guidance contained within the National Planning Policy Framework."

The UKOG information event will be held on Monday, December 16, from 1pm to 8pm, at Newclose County Cricket Ground in Newport.

Representatives from the company will be on hand to explain the plans and answer questions.

UPDATE 12.52pm: Labour's election candidate Richard Quigley said: "Labour's Green New Deal is very clear — we need to leave fossil fuels in the ground and focus on building our renewable energy infrastructure. It's ironic this story has broken on the same day Labour's regional manifesto for the south east confirms plans for thousands of jobs in green industries, paid for from our £250 billion Green Transformation Fund."

UPDATE 1.30pm: Sylvia May, a member of Frack Free Isle of Wight, have urged people to attend and make their views known.

She said: "It is essential that as many people from both the local and wider communities attend this meeting with UKOG in December.

"However it is also imperative that key questions are asked and their responses recorded. Sadly UKOG has chosen to hold a community meeting as a type of full day "drop in" event.

"This gives them the advantage to speak with smaller gatherings and individuals, dividing what would be a much a larger audience at a formal forum where searching questions can be scheduled and asked with press present."

Frack Free Isle of Wight is proposing a meeting of its own — for more information you can visit its website or Facebook page.


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