Planning permission had first been granted in 2013 for the temporary wellsite for a period of three years, and initial exploration showed potential for some 2,150,000 barrels of oil to be recovered. Applications to retain the wellsite and access track for the long term production of hydrocarbons were refused and dismissed at appeal in January 2018, although in recognition of the significant investment made, the inspector granted an extension requiring restoration to be complete by 28 April 2018. The present appeal application sought to extend the time limit for a further twelve months from the date of the decision, to allow time for a new and revised application for hydrocarbon production to be decided. This application had recently been refused by the council and the appellant intended to appeal.
The inspector reasoned that although the exploratory phase had ended and development plan policy required restoration without delay, the NPPF recognises that it is essential that a sufficient supply of minerals is available, that they can only be worked where found and great weight should be given to the benefits of mineral extraction, including to the economy. Acknowledging that it is not acceptable for temporary permissions to be renewed indefinitely, the inspector decided in this case, taking account of the planning history, to grant the further temporary consent sought, to allow the appellant time to appeal the council’s recent refusal without incurring further costs and abortive work if planning permission were subsequently granted.
Inspector: Elizabeth Pleasant; Written representations