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Oil and gas firm bids to drill near quiet villages

A CANADIAN company wants to start drilling for oil and gas in a picturesque area of the East Riding.

Residents fear the exploration, between Walkington and Cherry Burton, will lead to disruption and noise and may affect the local water supply.

East Riding Council planners will decide tomorrow whether two petroleum wells can be dug at Crawberry Hill, Walkington Heads.

Rathlin Energy (UK) Ltd, a subsidiary of Canadian company Connaught Oil And Gas Ltd, has made the application after extensive seismic testing last year showed there could be oil and gas in the area.

Walkington Parish Councillor Paul Drummond will speak against the application at the planning meeting.

He is concerned the application will eventually lead to a controversial technique called hydraulic fracturing – known as fracking. The practice involves blasting water underground to force up oil or gas and has caused earth tremors.

Mr Drummond told the Mail: “The drilling company came to see us to go through details and they assured us fracking would not be undertaken.

“But the planning application does not rule it out. I’m going along to the meeting to ask that the decision is deferred until we have more information and more guarantees in place.”

The lack of a cast-iron guarantee against practices with environmental consequences has prompted mums from Walkington Parents’ And Toddlers’ Group to launch an anti-drilling campaign.

Angela Ward, 36, of Meadow Way, Walkington, has two children, Charlie, 5, and Gabrielle, 3, and is worried about the future of the village.

She said: “You move to a village for a certain standard of living and environment.

“We’ve been here more than three years. I’m opposed to anything that harms the environment.”

Another mum, Staisha Stubley, 37, of Autherd Garth, Walkington, said: “If there’s a potential contamination of the water, I don’t want my little boy subjected to that.”

Rathlin’s application is for permission to drill a one and a half mile-deep borehole in an operation that will take ten weeks. A second well will be drilled if tests on the first one prove successful.

If the application is approved, the work will be done by Bridlington-based Moorhouse Drilling And Completions.

Moorhouse’s health, safety, environmental and planning manager, Jonathan Foster, said fracking was not part of the application. But he could not rule out the process being part of future applications.

Mr Foster said: “I can say it’s not part of this development. The rocks we’re looking at have porosity and permeability, so it’s a different process.

“Whether those rocks contain oil or gas, the only way to find out is by drilling. Fracking is not proposed, it’s not in the programme.

“It’s an experimental well, it may contain oil or gas. That’s what the seismic study has found.”

When the seismic studies ended in December last year, Tom Ruissen, Connaught’s chief operating officer, based in Calgary, Alberta, told the Mail the local area would benefit from oil being found.

He said: “We’d like to think we would be part of the community and support them. The landowners will see benefits because we’ll be paying rent on their land.”

However, under the law, landowner Andrew Oxtoby, of Finkle Street, Bishop Burton, has no rights to the oil or gas under his land. It is regarded as being the property of the Crown.

The drilling company enters into an agreement, for which the landowner is paid. It also pays a licence fee to the Crown, which allows it to search for and extract oil or gas.

The report to the planning committee tomorrow recommends the decision should be deferred until comments are received from highways control officers.