GREEN campaigners have described the decision to grant permission for oil production at Purbeck’s Wytch Farm oilfield for another 21 years as ‘illogical’.

Dorset County Council (DCC) agreed energy company Perenco UK could extend the operational life of the site – the largest onshore oilfield in western Europe – at a meeting on Friday.

Perneco, who bought the oilfield in a 610m US dollar deal from BP last year, will now be able to continue producing oil from 2016.

However, the council included a number of conditions including the prevention of fracking for shale gas.

East Dorset Friends of the Earth coordinator Angela Pooley told the Daily Echo: “We’re obviously disappointed. It seems somewhat illogical that they (DCC) are giving permission for this, yet there is so much local opposition to the offshore wind farm.

“Dorset County Council has approved a countywide renewable energy strategy, so agreeing something like this seems somewhat illogical.”

Wytch Farm oilfield, extending under Poole Harbour, produces around 20,000 barrels of oil a day, and there are an estimated 43m barrels still in the ground.

Sam Fox-Adams, team leader of the DCC planning team dealing with the application, said: “Because of concerns around fracking we agreed it would be appropriate for us to put in a condition on all of the 39 applications to preclude fracking from shale gas formations.

“This means they can carry on doing what they’ve been doing, but we’re just making sure there won’t be fracking by the back door.”

The county council also approved extensions for oilfields at Wareham and Kimmeridge.

A PERENCO spokesman explained the company submitted 39 planning applications to Dorset County Council in order to extend the lifetime of its current planning permissions, many of which were due to expire in November 2016.

He added: “The applications did not seek to expand the sites themselves, or add new sites. This is about continuing our business-as-usual activities and operations.”

Wytch Farm is not a shale gas field but a conventional oil field that uses conventional techniques, assured the Perenco spokesman.

He explained: “We believe that the current public concern about ‘fracking’ relates to extensive, high pressure, hydraulic fracturing using high-volumes of liquid in very low permeability rock to extract gas from shale, and methane from coal-beds.

“High volume hydraulic fracturing of this type has not been carried out at Wytch Farm. In the meantime, we look forward to maintaining the highest operating standards and making a positive economic and social contribution to the area.”