PLANS to explore whether the Isle of Wight could be the site of oil and gas drilling have been submitted.

UK Oil and Gas (UKOG), which owns 95 per cent interest in Petroleum Exploration Development Licence 331 at Arreton, has submitted a planning application to explore whether it would be viable for further production.

A site in Arreton, close to the New Barn Business Park, on the A3056, called Arreton-3, which was previously agricultural land, could be the site of an exploration borehole and a side-track borehole.

Previously, boreholes have been drilled on the Island, such as those UKOG are proposing, but when it was found nothing was flowing to the surface the sites were closed.

Now, following a public consultation in December and a public notice published in March, permission is sought to construct, operate and then decommission a well for three years.

The site, which would include drilling rigs, ranging from a 10m water well rig up to a 38m high hydrocarbon rig would be used to explore and appraise the site for hydrocarbons and to see if it would be viable for round-the-clock operation.

UKOG said the final design of the site minimised residual negative environmental effects through all phases of development, leaving a legacy of

environmental and biodiversity ‘net gain’ and would not lead to the loss of valuable features which contribute to the landscape character.

In more than 50 planning documents, some being over 100 pages long, released yesterday (Thursday) the company stressed the Arreton-3 site, which would have 2.4m high fencing and an on-site security team, would not be the site of fracking.

In a site identification report, the company said that the exploration of hydrocarbons at Arreton represented an efficient use of natural resources in an environmentally responsible manner and that the development would not overlook neighbouring farms and dwellings - the closest houses being 600m away.

Speaking at the public consultation, Stephen Sanderson, UKOG's chief executive, said the drilling would benefit the Island's economy, providing security and transportation jobs and he pledged to give a percentage of profits to the Island if the drilling went ahead.

The work on the site has been proposed in four stages: access and well construction; drilling, testing and appraisal; well plugging, abandonment and decommissioning; and site retention or restoration.

The planning documents include a visual impact and ecology assessments, habitat survey and major accident and/or disaster risk assessment, all arguing for the proposals to be accepted.

To read more about UKOG's plans for the site, you can view the application, 20/00513/FUL, in the council's planning portal.

However, the five-week public consultation on the site will not start straightaway due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions because a public site notice cannot be put up.

As planners have classified the development as major, as well as having an environmental statement, until planning legislation or lockdown restrictions are changed, the consultation cannot start, so public comments can not be accepted.