THE potential for oil drilling to damage Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is “extremely high”, an MP has claimed.

The warning coincides with a call by the leader of Bournemouth council for an independent study to make sure environmental regulations are not broken during the drilling in Poole Bay.

Corallian was originally allowed 38 days of exploratory drilling over the winter, ending on February 28. But the licence was extended to the end of March without any consultation with the public, MPs or councillors.

In a letter to business secretary Greg Clark, Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns said that “while the risk of an oil spill may be considered low, the potential for environmental damage to Dorset’s unique Jurassic Coast and the 54 marine and coastal protected areas within 40km of the proposed location is, in my view, extremely high”.

He asked why Corallian was not required to postpone its drilling until next winter rather than being given an extension “as the spring marine breeding season approaches”.

He claimed an increase in the total number of drilling days from 38 to more than 50 was a “dereliction of duty” by the regulator OPRED.

Bournemouth council leader John Beesley has voiced concern about whether Corallian will be left to monitor itself when it comes to environmental regulations.

He told the Daily Echo: “What I’m concerned about is whether the conditions are being carefully monitored regarding the discharge of spoils and chemicals and making sure the operators are complying with the regulations – and that this is being carefully and properly monitored independently and not by the operators.

“It’s frustrating because we know what needs to be done in order to protect the environment but we’re not confident that that monitoring is taking place independently in the way it should be and there hasn’t been any feedback from the regulator in the way we would normally expect.”

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which speaks for regulator OPRED, had not commented at the time of going to press.

The department has previously said that the proposed chemical use and discharge "would not pose a significant environmental risk".