THE company behind the plans for exploratory oil drilling on the Island is considering whether to appeal last night's unanimous rejection of its planning application.

UK Oil and Gas's (UKOG) plans for two boreholes in Arreton were turned down by the Isle of Wight Council's planning committee, who were not willing to jeopardise the Island's tourism and local economies or the Biosphere status.

In a statement released today by UKOG it said it was 'disappointed' with the decision which went against the council officers' planning recommendation.

The statement went on to say UKOG would now consider its position and whether to lodge an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate, which has the power to overturn the decision.

The company said they 'took considerable care and undertook much research to minimise the potential impacts of the site', with no objections raised by statutory consultees on environmental, drinking water, landscape or health and safety grounds.

UKOG's chief executive, Stephen Sanderson, said: "This decision underscores UKOG's change of focus over the past year towards the international arena for oil and gas, plus its new direction into geothermal and hydrogen-based energy in the UK.

"In accordance with the Company's stated growth strategy, plans and evaluations are reasonably advanced in several new projects designed to grow the Company in these new areas."

Local councillor for Arreton, Suzie Ellis, said if UKOG were to appeal the application to the Inspectorate, she would write to the Secretary of State who has the power to take over, or 'call-in', the decision rather than letting the local authority or other parties decide.

At the meeting, Matt Cartwright, UKOG's commercial director, said importing 36 per cent of the UK's energy made "no economic sense when we have oil right under our feet. We estimate in the success case that we could produce up to 18m barrels from our Isle of Wight licence."

Mr Cartwright went on to say the level of investment would be £6 million, 'keeping expenditure with the Island economy to the maximum extent possible' and if successful, this could be increased to £30 million.

Councillors unanimously voted against the plans and struggled to find a local benefit the exploratory oil drilling would have, despite planning officers' recommendation the exploration of hydrocarbon would benefit the national economy.

Cllr Matt Price questioned whether the planning officers could name one boost but the officer responded "not particularly, no."

Chair of the planning committee, Cllr Michael Lilley, said he had listened to all the facts but was finding it difficult to see any benefits for the Island.

He said: "Three years can absolutely devastate our tourist industry. We are coming out of a difficult pandemic and we are getting much more eco-tourism on the Island. People are clearly coming here and we rely on them.

"If in those three years we have something that would damage that, it would be very hard for our tourism to come back."

Isle of Wight County Press: