Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 28, 2016

Halsall To Face Geophysical Survey Without Planning Permission

Halsall Parish Councillors have been told of a letter to “update them” on Aurora Energy Resouces Limited AERlogo planned geophysical survey that extends into the Halsall Parish Council area. Some of the councillors are amazed by the silence of their sitting councillor who seems to be oblivious to the repercussions of the proposal as it is revealed to be permitted development not requiring specific planning permission. The letter states;

Dear Mr Bond, Aurora Energy Resources Limited (“Aurora”) – Geophysical Survey-Aurora Energy Resources

“I am writing to you to update you on the geophysical survey which we plan to undertake in Lancashire/Merseyside and which extends into the parish council area. You may recall that we had originally planned to acquire this survey in 2014.

“I am Managing Director of Aurora, a privately-owned UK company, based in Aberdeen and focussed on onshore oil and gas exploration and production in the UK. Aurora is a member of the industry body UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) of which you may already be aware. Aurora holds a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (PEDL164) covering 100 km2. The licence area extends across parts of both Sefton and West Lancashire. AER%20blocks3

“Aurora drilled two shallow boreholes on the site of the old Formby oilfield on Downholland Moss, West Lancashire in 2012. Planning permission for these wells was granted by Lancashire County Council in May 2011. We now plan to carry out a 3D geophysical survey over part of the licence area as shown on the attached map. We hope to acquire the survey this summer. The data will be used to progress our technical understanding of the licence area, prior to making any application for future exploratory drilling.

“Acquisition of the survey involves the laying out of an array of geophones (recording devices) across the survey area and the recording of reflected signals generated from an array of seismic sources. The sources are generated by small buried charges or by specialised tractor-like vehicles fitted with vibrating plates.

“Surveys of this nature are permitted developments under Schedule 2, Part 22, Class B of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 and therefore do not require specific planning permission. We expect the acquisition to take approximately four to six weeks to complete.

“I appreciate that the survey may raise some questions from local residents and businesses. [But not from the borough councillor] Further information on Aurora and its operations can most easily be found by reference to our website, We will be adding further details on the geophysical survey to the website as this becomes available. In the meantime, if you have any specific queries about the survey or Aurora’s activities in Lancashire, please do not hesitate to contact me.

“Aurora have informed the local MPs and the development control groups at both Sefton Council and Lancashire County Council of our intention to acquire this survey. We are also informing the relevant members of Sefton Borough Council and West Lancashire Borough Council about the proposed work. In addition, the survey contractor will approach local landowners to obtain consent to access land, and liaise with emergency services, local authorities and other bodies as required. Should the results of the survey prove to be encouraging, it is likely that we will subsequently seek planning permission to drill a number of exploratory wells. Ahead of any planning application for drilling, Aurora will fully engage with relevant stakeholders in the community, as set out in the UKOOG Community Engagement Charter, a copy of which I have attached for your information.

Yours sincerely
Ian Roche Managing Director”

Some Halsall Parish Councillors are horrified by the lack of information about this from the sitting borough councillor Doreen Stephenson. PEDL 164, then held by Tesla Exploration was the subject of a challenge that part of the original map showed the survey area was outside PEDL 164.

Some landowners refused permission for Tesla to carry out the survey on their land and the Labour Candidate Maureen Mills maureenm put in a Freedom of Information request to Department of Energy and Climate Control in May 2015:

“I understand that Aurora Energy Resources Limited have made several applications to obtain right of access to acquire a geophysical survey within PEDL 164, i.e. in Sefton and West Lancashire. Please can you let me know how many requests they have made and the identity of the landowners/geographical location in each case?”

Their response:

“I can confirm that the Department holds information in relation to the identity of the landowners and in relation to the geographical locations covered by this application for ancillary rights. However, after careful consideration, we have deemed Section 40(2) FoIA to apply.

“Section 40(2) relates to the protection of personal data. Some personal information is being withheld. Section 40(2) of the FoIA provides an absolute exemption for personal data which then falls to be dealt with under the Data Protection Act (DPA). In particular, the first data protection principle requires that disclosure must be fair and lawful and must comply with one of the conditions in Schedule 2 to the DPA.

“We do not think that it is fair and lawful to release the names of landowners being approached by Aurora Energy and we do not think that any of the relevant conditions within Schedule 2 to the DPA apply. Complying with your request would therefore violate the first data protection principle.

“Given that the geographical location of the areas where access rights are being sought is intrinsically linked to the identity of individual landowners for those areas, we have determined that releasing the information requested would similarly violate the first data protection principle. We do not think that releasing such information would be fair and lawful and we do not think that any of the relevant conditions within Schedule 2 to the DPA apply”.

Maureen Mills responded:

“Thank you for your response. Very disappointingly, you have only answered the second part of my request therefore I repeat the first part: Please let me know how many requests they have made”.

DECC response:

“In response to your original question on the number of ancillary access rights applications to the Secretary of State by Aurora Energy, the Department informed you that Aurora Energy Resources Limited were “in the process of making an application to the Secretary of State in order to obtain access rights under the Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act 1966”.

“I can confirm that only one application for ancillary access rights has been made to the Secretary of State. However, for the purpose of clarification, I would like to note that the application originally received related to 46 landowners. This same application was revised on 11th of June and narrowed down to cover only 4 landowners”.

So Maureen Mills made another FOI request;

You kindly responded to my previous FOI request on this subject on 16th July 2015 as follows “I can confirm that only one application for ancillary access rights has been made to the Secretary of State. However, for the purpose of clarification, I would like to note that the application originally received related to 46 landowners. This same application was revised on 11th of June and narrowed down to cover only 4 landowners. Please can you advise the outcome of Aurora’s application for ancillary access rights and, if granted, when this expires?”

Their response is due by 4th May.

On 17 December it was announced that “Following the recent 14th Onshore Licensing Round, Aurora Energy Resources Limited, a UK company based in Aberdeen, holds or has been offered four Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) covering ~445km2 (110,000 acres) across Lancashire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester, within the heart of the Bowland Shale exploration area.

“The North West has a long history of oil & gas exploration and production stretching back over 70 years. Many local residents will remember the oil wells near Formby. The recent recognition by the British Geological Survey of the potential for significant gas resources in northern England provides an opportunity to open a new chapter in the hydrocarbon story of the region.

“The UK is highly experienced in the regulation of oil & gas activity, both onshore and offshore, and the public can have confidence that any future activities will be regulated effectively by the appropriate independent bodies. Aurora is committed to exploring its licences safely and with due regard to the amenity of local residents and to the environment”.

It might seem that where Halsall is concerned Maureen Mills cares about its residents far more than any other candidate for the May 2016 elections? mmleaflet


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