I READ with interest your news story about the proposed oil drilling rig later this year in Poole Bay.

Back in February, I wrote on behalf of Bournemouth council expressing our concerns and opposition to the proposals from Corallian Energy.

Fundamentally, whilst the local and national economic benefits resulting from a viable oil well are acknowledged, the proposal runs counter to Bournemouth’s strategic ambitions to be a Green Economy Leader. In addition, this and other risks will come into sharp focus in the minds of visitors once the oil rig is in the bay and highly visible.

Aspects of Corallian’s Environmental Impact Assessment are comprehensive and reasonable. However, there are a significant number of areas in which risks have not been properly assessed, consultation is lacking, serious concerns about the impact of the operation on the environment and ecology of the bay, as well as the potential impacts on bathing water quality for our Blue Flag beaches.

Furthermore, we do not support the use of polluting materials such as drill cuttings, muds, cement and drilling fluids being permanently deposited on the seabed or being allowed to disperse.

If this proposal is allowed, Bournemouth council will insist that any residues are monitored, contained and extracted. It should be a condition of any consent that Corallian are required to deploy and record all the technical issues raised in our response, to be monitored by an independent third party, at their expense.

There is a lack of detail about the measures that will be taken in providing a robust and comprehensive response in the event of an incident, given the immediate proximity of the drilling to beaches and marine wildlife. Any licence must contain a condition requiring Corallian to stop activities until such time as the water quality has improved to the independent inspector’s satisfaction.

In the event of an accident, the potential impact for the environment and tourism economy is very high and potentially catastrophic. Corallian acknowledge that in the event of an oil well blowout there is a 100 per cent probability that a spill would land on the South Coast within 2.5 hours. The council has assessed that the risk to our environment remains high. Significant insurance is required to indemnify against the considerable losses that could occur immediately following an accident.

Bournemouth council does not support the proposal. All the measures we have proposed must be implemented before a licence is granted by the regulator. It is essential that there is further discussion directly with the regulator to express our valid concerns.

I hope that we can present a united front with our MPs, just as we did with the proposals for the Navitus Wind Farm in the Bay. We must do our best to see off these proposals, or at the very least have proper consultation over the significant risks for our local economy and the environment.


Leader of Bournemouth council