THE founder of the Seahorse Trust has won his judicial review into the consent given for oil drilling in Poole Bay

Neil Garrick-Maidment, who was backed by the trust, argued the drilling application by Corallian Energy Limited had not been subject to a transparent, environmental impact assessment process.

He was granted permission to bring judicial proceedings in July, after seeking a declaration from the courts that the current regulations are not fit for purpose.

Now, Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has agreed to carry out a detailed review of the Offshore Petroleum Production and Pipe-lines (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1999 and amend them following public consultation.

Mr Garrick-Maidment says he wants to ensure any future drilling in UK waters will be subject to proper scrutiny and consultation, so that sensitive species – such as seahorses – are protected.

"I am delighted with this result," he said. "There has never been a more important time to look at environmental protection and by winning this case it is a major step in making sure that environmental laws are abided by and more crucially fit for purpose.

"Although the case was brought by me, it was supported by many people worldwide and without them, it could not have been done, especially the incredible legal team I was lucky enough to have.”

The Secretary of State and the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) permitted exploratory drilling of oil in Poole Bay, northeast of Studland Bay.

According to the Seahorse Trust this area is an important breeding site for the UK’s native seahorse species, the spiny seahorse and the short snouted seahorse.

Drilling started in February 2019 and continued into March 2019.

Corallian, which has declined to comment on the legal action, found reserves of oil during its exploration of the area known as Colter South.

The Echo reported that Colter South could yield up to 15 million barrels of oil.

At that time, Corallian said it was not seeking to extract the oil itself, and that the oil could be accessed via the existing facilities at Wytch Farm in Poole Harbour. Any future plans to drill for oil or gas would have to be sanctioned separately by the government.

On the latest developments, Susan Ring, partner at Harrison Grant Solicitors, said: “It has become clear in the course of these proceedings that environmental impact assessment of offshore oil projects is still in the dark ages – in contrast to the planning system generally – and the 1999 Regulations need urgent amendment to bring them into the 21st century.

"This may be because the oil drilling projects take place offshore so they are not generally visible to the public.

"In any event, the Government for a very long time has got away with failing to consult the public properly about these major projects and that now has to stop.

"At a time of climate crisis, the environmental effects of offshore oil drilling and extraction need to be properly consulted upon and assessed.

"It has been a privilege to act for Neil in this case who has selflessly sought to protect the seahorses."