Conservationists have raised concerns for spring wildlife after an extension was given for an oil company to continue drilling off the Dorset coast.

Corallian Energy’s contract had required it to close the well in Poole Bay on February 28 – however the government has granted an extension request, which had been anticipated due to the delay in commencing drilling.

It means it will continue drilling an appraisal well in the ‘Colter Prospect’ until the end of March.

The rig ENSCO 72 arrived in the bay on the first weekend of February, having been delayed for almost a week due to bad weather.

Dorset Wildlife Trust is concerned as the drilling was going to be limited to protect the highly sensitive wildlife, environment and livelihoods in Poole Bay.

It says important commercial species such as cod, herring, sandeel and sole spawn in March whilst many birds such as ducks and geese are migrating through.

DWT Chief Executive Dr Simon Cripps said: “It is bad enough that this oil drilling operation has been allowed to proceed in such a sensitive and important area between Studland and Bournemouth, without the work extending into a time that is critical for a large range of wildlife in the area.

"If the company can’t manage to fulfil their commitments it isn’t the wildlife and local people who should suffer. At the very least this potentially risky operation needs to finish by the 28th Feb.”

DWT Living Seas Officer Emma Rance added: “The warnings in recent months by the world’s scientists that we are already passing the point of no return of damaging climate change means the UK should not be allowing yet more oil and gas to be extracted. The money should be spent on supporting renewable energy sources.”