Regulation

What Notts planners say about IGas shale scheme at Misson?

Misson Imagery c2016 Getmapping plc, Infoterra Ltd & Bluesky

Photo copyright 2016 Cetmapping plc, Infoterra Ltd and Bluesky

Planners have recommended approval of the first shale gas exploration plans in Nottinghamshire.

IGas is proposing to drill and test up to two wells at Springs Road, Misson. The application does not include plans to frack, although the company has said it may want to do this later.

A decision on the proposal will be made next week by Nottinghamshire County Council’s planning committee at a meeting starting on Wednesday 5 October.

Councillors will hear presentations from opponents of the scheme including Misson Parish Council, Misson Community Action Group and Frack Free Nottinghamshire. They will also hear from IGas and the industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas.

DrillOrDrop will be reporting with live updates from the committee meeting.

“Impacts outweighed by support for gas exploration”

A planners’ report to the committee, published yesterday, (see Breaking news)  said impacts of the scheme were either acceptable or not significant. It concluded that any impacts were outweighed by support in national and local policy for oil and gas developments.

But the report did concede there would be “a temporary significant effect” from traffic and plant emissions on the Misson Training Area Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

This should, under national planning policy – the National Planning Policy Framework – be enough to refuse the application. But the planners said:

“The NPPF allows an exception to be made where the benefits of the development, at this site, clearly outweigh both the impacts that it is likely to have on the features of the site that make it of special scientific interest and any broader impacts on the national network of Sites of Special Scientific Interest”.

The planners also concluded that there were likely to be alternative drilling sites that would have less impact on the SSSI and have a lower flood risk. This should also mean the application was refused. But the report concluded that neither the impact on the SSSI nor flood risk justified refusal.

Detail

Comments on the application

The report said the council had received 2,630 public comments, of which 2,624 objected and 6 supported the application.

A petition opposing the development had 363 signatures.

A survey commissioned by Misson Parish Council found that of the 396 residents surveyed, 87% opposed the application, 4% in favour and 9% undecided.

Of the organisations that must be consulted, 44 raised no objection and 11 raised objections.

Impacts on Site of Special Scientific Interest

The planners concluded that emissions from traffic and equipment would have a temporary significant effect on the Misson Training Area Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). There would also be some noise impact on the edge of the SSSI.

This meant the application should be refused. But the report said the effect was unlikely to be permanent. It also said an exception could be made under national planning policy where the benefits of the development “clearly outweighed” the impacts on the SSSI. Natural England had recommended conditions to ensure no long-term impact. The planners argued:

“This significantly reduces the weight that is attributed to the impact on the SSSI.”

However, to meet local planning policy, the developer must show there are no other suitable alternatives. The report concluded:

“It is judged that there are likely to be other “reasonably available‟ sites and therefore, the proposed development does not accord with policies DM9 of the Bassetlaw Core Strategy and DM4 of the [emerging] Nottinghamshire minerals local plan.”

But the report concluded:

“The MPA [mineral planning authority] does not consider the temporary impact on the Misson Springs SSSI to be a reason for refusal.”

On other nature conservation impacts, the report said:

The impact of noise, lighting, hydrology and hydrogeology, subject to conditions, would be acceptable on designated ecological sites.

It described the proposed development site as “not valuable in terms of habitat” and said there would be no unacceptable impact on protected species or regionally or locally designated ecological sites”.

Ground and surface water

The report concluded there would not be an unacceptable risk to ground or surface water flows, the level or quality of water or flooding.

However, it accepted that other potential drilling sites had a lower flood risk. This meant the proposal did not pass what is known as the “sequential test” under national planning policy. It also did not comply with Policy DM12 (Flood Risk, Sewerage and Drainage) of the Bassetlaw Core Strategy and SP4 (Climate Change) of the emerging Nottinghamshire minerals local plan and should be refused.

But the planners concluded:

“The MPA [mineral planning authority] does not consider the fact that the Sequential Test has not been passed to be a reason for refusal when it is satisfied that the proposed development would be safe and not lead to increased flood risk elsewhere.”

Climate change

The report said

“The specific contribution of climate change emissions has not been assessed, however, it is judged that emissions would be limited primarily to those from vehicles and drilling equipment which are considered to be generally small. There would be no emissions relating to well testing.”

The report said its position was supported by the Committee on Climate Change document The compatibility of the UK onshore petroleum with meeting the UK‟s carbon budgets.

Impact on heritage

The report said:

“There would be a degree of harm to heritage assets, specifically the setting of Newlands Farm for a temporary period”.

This meant the proposal did not comply with Policy DM8 (The Historic Environment) of the Bassetlaw Core Strategy, which had a presumption against development that would be detrimental to the significance of a heritage asset.

The report concluded that the harm was not substantial. It was justified by the “great weight” given to mineral extraction in the National Planning Policy Framework and the “pressing need” in Planning Practice Guidance to establish whether there were sufficient recoverable quantities of unconventional hydrocarbons.

The planners reduced the weight that could be given to policy DM8 because it did not allow for the balance of significance versus harm or for the consideration of a clear and convincing justification.

The proposal complied with local policies on archaeology, listed buildings and conservation areas, and the historic environment, the report said.

Traffic

The report said:

“Traffic associated with the proposed development would not have an unacceptable impact on the surrounding highways network and measures would be put in place to prevent traffic from using unacceptable routes.”

The planners said the cumulative transport impacts of the development would not be severe and so the application should not, according to the National Planning Policy Framework, be refused on traffic grounds.

A Section 106 legal agreement would ensure heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) used the correct route. Other conditions would control mud and other materials affecting the highway.

Noise

The report says the proposal, subject to conditions, would generate noise at levels below what it called applicable thresholds.

The development complied with policy M3.5 (Noise) of the Nottinghamshire Minerals Local Plan, the report said. This states that development would be granted only where noise emissions outside of the boundary of the mineral workings did not exceed acceptable levels.

It also met Policy DM1 (Protecting Local Amenity) which supports minerals development where is can be demonstrated that adverse impacts on amenity, including noise, can be avoided and/or adequately mitigated.

Vibration

The report said there are no local policies on vibration. It said “there would be no perceptible vibration from drilling activities”.

The report said the development would result in an average of 36 HGV movements, at its peak, over a 12 hour working day, or one every 20 minutes. These levels of traffic would not result in unacceptable adverse vibration, it concluded.

Lighting

The report said conditions would ensure that light reaching nearby homes would be within “acceptable levels”. The proposal therefore met Policy DM1 (Protecting Local Amenity).

Visual impact

The 57m drill rig was “substantial” and would have a visual impact, the report said.

But the report added: “given its relatively short duration of nine months, the impact is not considered to be unacceptable”.

Little could be done to screen the rig and other tall equipment and so additional screening and landscaping was not necessary, the report concluded.

Impact on the landscape and tourism

Because the proposal was temporary and reversible, the impact on the landscape was acceptable, the report concluded, and met local policies on landscape character, open space and biodiversity.

The planners concluded the view of the site may have some impact on leisure and tourism but it would be temporary and they did not consider it would be significant.

Impacts on other businesses arising from perception of the operation were “not quantifiable and specific evidence has not been provided”.

Any economic benefit to local business from workers on site or through the supply chain would be temporary and unlikely to be significant, the report concluded.

Dust and emissions

The report said impacts would be controlled to acceptable levels by planning conditions.

Unexploded ordnance

The proposed site is a former Cold War missile base. Gas has proposed surveying before and during construction to reduce risk of disturbing ordnance the report said

Cumulative impacts

The cumulative impact of this and other local developments was possible, the report said, but was not significant.

Sustainable development

The proposal complied with the sustainable development objectives of the minerals local plan, the report concluded.

On other minerals, it said:

“The proposed development would not unduly affect any other underground mineral resources within the County”.

Other development policies

The development complied with local planning policies on economic and general development in the countryside, and securing economic development, the report said.

Conditions

The report recommends 37 planning conditions. This include:

  • Development must begin within three years of the permission
  • It must finish within three years of the start date
  • The site must be cleared if work stops for a period of three months before permission ends.
  • Drilling must not exceed nine months in total
  • Nottinghamshire County Council must approve the drill rig before drilling begins
  • HGV movements allowed only between 7am-7pm, Monday-Friday and 7am-1pm on Saturdays
  • HGV movements shall not exceed 60 per day (30 in and 30 out) or 198 (99 in and 99 out) in any seven day period
  • Working hours are limited to 7am-7pm Monday to Friday and 7am-1pm during site construction, testing and restoration phases. Work during the drilling phase will be 24-hours a day
  • Night-time noise will be limited to 42 decibels at any nearby home. Daytime and evening noise levels will not exceed 55 decibels at any nearby home.
  • During drilling, noise at the Misson Training Area SSSI shall not exceed 42 decibels
  • Construction and restoration will not be carried out during the bird breeding season (February-August) unless approved by the county council

Link to planners report

Link to details of meeting of Nottinghamshire County Council planning committee


This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s Rig Watch project. Rig Watch receives funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here

15 replies »

  1. This is unbelievable, most of the reasons for allowing this investigation are clearly contrary to the local planning regulations. I was interested to see that the statement states that
    “A planners’ report to the committee, published yesterday, (see Breaking news) said impacts of the scheme were either acceptable or not significant. It concluded that any impacts were outweighed by support in national and local policy for oil and gas developments.”
    Acceptable or not significant to who? Define ‘acceptable’, define ‘not significant’ define ‘outweighed’ by what method? outweighed in relation to what? Define ‘support’ define ‘national and local policy’ which nation? What constitutes ‘local support’ clearly that is not supported by the figureshow is that support assessed? define ‘assessed’. “2,630 public comments, of which 2,624 objected and 6 supported the application” does that constitute local support?
    This is clearly political double speak. Vague spin and white wash epithets do not constitute a democratic evaluation of the situation. These councilors have transgressed every possible interpretation of representation of their constituents and have invalidated their position, their legal obligations and their authority. These councilors by this action cannot be trusted to tell the truth or be responsible to the people they are there to protect. [moderated by me]

    • Phil c – Planners – not Councillors wrote this report. Planners are civil servants and are assessing the application in terms of local and National planning policy. The Councillors may well refuse the application next week, if they prefer to listen to their constituents and are believe they can win an appeal. No diferent to one of the Cuadrilla applications in Lancashire – planners recommended approval, Councillors refused it, Cuadrilla appealed – results also due next week I believe.

      • As I understand it Paul, if the planning dept approve it, the Councillors could be held legally liable if they refused based on non scientific reasoning, as they did in Lancashire. A councillor who ‘beleives’ that fracking could affect water supplies, (or is influenced by his voters who beleive that) when the Environment Agency and HSE have dismissed that is not acting responsibly.

        Local planning looks like a nightmare tho!

  2. 3 questions: 1. why have Notts planners apparently prioritised consultation responses from statutory organisations over responses from individuals? 2. On what grounds do they assert that the Climate Change Committee report on Compatibility of Onshore Petroleum with CC Commitments supports their claim that there will no emissions from drilling this well? 3: Why have they made the judgement call that significant if temporary harms are outweighed by national policy support for petroleum maximisation?

    • Statutory organisations always take preference to members of the public in any planning application when the application is being assessed by a planning officer. The question you may want to ask is who are all these statutory consultees? How did FOE get to be a statutory consultee given their clear anti carbon / anti business agenda?

    • Unfortunately the government has altered and introduced new planning laws, policies and statements all in favour of fracking. Another undemocratic change – some may say.

  3. Councillors cannot be held liable for opposing a planning application – because looking at the report extracts here, legitimate grounds could be used to justify their decision. This threat was made to the Lancs councillors. And counsel opinion categorically stated they would not be liable and they were not. Plus many people misunderstand the legal definition of pre determination as well. Just to clarify – a councillor can voice opposition to fracking and still make a decision on fracking as part of a planning committee. It is about having a closed mind – it is nonsense to expect politicians not to be able to have an opinion or a position on issues – that is why we elect them!

  4. KT – who pays for the Council’s legal team, specialist witnesses, venue etc.? Win or lose the appeal I expect the Council will pay but I may be wrong? Does the appellant pay all the costs?

  5. Here’s an interesting case study from Australia (Aus uses UK/Sovereign constitution model). The whistle blower Simone Marsh gives stunning witness as to how legislation got steamrollered through, how local and opposition voices got ignored and how environmental impact assessments were overridden (altered or ignored). NB. CSG (coal seam gas) mining uses fracking and the majority of issues seen here are the same as those the UK will be facing with shale gas fracking … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayhPNCUoQ7I

    • Hello again Philip – your NB is important. Coal Seam Gas is shallow, typically 300-500m, shale gas is much deeper, 1,000 – 4,000m. The majority of technical issues with CSG / CBM should not be the same for shale gas. The processes and risks are very different. CSG produces a lot more water than is used to frack the wells as it also produces water from the coal seams with the methane, shale gas only produces a portion of the pumped frack fluid as flowback. Overburden is much less in CSG due to shallower targets; higher chance of fracturing to surface and / or shallow aquifers. On the flip side apparently only 40% of CSG wells are fracked whereas 100% of shale gas wells are fracked. The other stuff on legislation being steam rollered and EIAs being overridden I cannot comment on.

      • Hello Paul

        Thanks for your response…
        ‘processes and risks are very different’ … I understand the chemistry to be very different but the risks to be higher. I would like to know more about those risks as I’m sure the public would. I reckon that the mechanical processes and technologies – cluster drilling, pad sites, local pipeline distribution, water/fluid trucking etc will be very similar. People will want to know how the landscape will be transformed/ industrialised – in appearance, noise, trucking and so forth, and of course about the risks to health, water tables, air etc. Could you please point me to the most comprehensive documents shared with the public to date on these matters

        … for the nearest examples to helping people understand what they will see turning up on their doorsteps I think it will be appropriate to post some American shale-gas case studies in this thread. I do not agree that US examples are irrelevant. They have at least a 10 year lead in the kind of processes being introduced here and as (I’m sure you know) the science is still very inexact on several matters – particularly concerning health and environmental impacts. Scientific and other studies now emerging from the States, Canada, Australia and Poland should, I believe, be welcomed along with the accumulating human anecdotal evidence – from people telling their stories about living with theses industrial enterprises in their neighborhoods..

        Can you comment on this Paul – has the chemical composition of the Fracking Fluid been revealed for scrutiny?

        As I understand it the flowback from the shale-frack process is about 40% of the pumped fluid and contains several hazardous substances including heavy metals and radioactive sludge – as found in the Preese Hall case. So, is the public being informed about the flowback waste – disposal and safe handling methods?

        Phil

  6. Philip,

    I posted the EA response to some questions I asked them earlier in Drill or Drop. In case you did not see it it is copied below. With regards to your comment “cluster drilling, pad sites, local pipeline distribution, water/fluid trucking etc will be very similar. People will want to know how the landscape will be transformed/ industrialised – in appearance, noise, trucking and so forth”. I agree with you that these are issues which need to be addressed – and this is what the Planning Officer does as part of the Planning Application process.

    EA response:

    “Regarding all products and chemicals to be used in shale gas drilling and stimulation and approval the information below should help to clarify.

    How do we regulate which chemicals may be used in fracking fluids?
    We have the powers to require full disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. We assess the hazards presented by fracking fluid additives on a case-by-case basis. We will not permit the use of ‘hazardous substances’ for any activity, including hydraulic fracturing, where they would or might enter groundwater and cause pollution.

    The environment agencies of UK and Ireland (JAGDAG, Joint Agency Groundwater Directive Advisory Group) work together to peer review chemicals assessments before we submit proposals to public consultation. You can find out more on which substances have been assessed on the JAGDAG website

    Flowback fluids, which include fracking fluids, are deemed to be a mining waste and require an environmental permit for management on site. Disposal of flowback fluids must be at a regulated waste treatment works, which will also be regulated by us.

    What is the assessment process for defining whether a chemicals is hazardous to groundwater or not?
    The way we assess whether a chemical is hazardous or not to groundwater has been developed under European Union environmental legislation. You can find more information on this methodology here.

    As part of the methodology for the assessment of chemicals, we consulted on a number of chemicals in 2013. You can find the results here, which includes our assessment of polyacrylamide (the chemical used by Cuadrilla in Preese Hall in 2011).

    Do companies have to publically disclose which chemicals they will use?
    In its document Onshore Oil and Gas Exploration in England: Regulation and Best Practice, the Government states that operators should disclose the chemical additives of fracturing fluids on a well-by-well basis. This also is promoted in the guidelines set out by industry that operators must publically disclose all chemical additives to fracturing fluids on a well-by-well basis, including regulatory authorisations, safety data and maximum concentrations and volumes.

    Which chemicals were used by Cuadrilla in Preese Hall?
    Preese Hall site is the only shale gas site to have been hydraulic fractured to date in the UK. Details of the chemicals which we assessed as non hazardous and permitted for use are listed on Cuadrilla’s website. They are:
    • 99.75% of the shale gas fracking fluid is made up of water and sand, beyond that a very limited number of chemicals are used:
    • Polyacrylamide friction reducers (0.075%), commonly used in cosmetics and facial creams, suspended in a hydrocarbon carrier;
    • Hydrochloric acid (0.125%), frequently found in swimming pools and used in developing drinking water wells,
    • Biocide (0.005%), used on rare occasions when the water provided from the local supplier needs to be further purified.

    Cuadrilla only utilised the polyacrylamide friction reducer in their operations.

    Does the Environment Agency put information about chemicals into the public domain? What about commercial confidentiality?
    If the chemicals are mentioned in the application for an environmental permit, we would place this information on the public register, subject to consideration of commercial confidentiality. If commercial confidentiality applied, this information would be excluded from the public register.

    Any request we received for environmental information would be covered under the Environmental Information Regulations. There is a statutory presumption in favour of the disclosure. There is an exception for commercial confidentiality but where this relates to information on emissions, this cannot be used. The injection of fracking fluid would be considered to be an emission and therefore we would release information on chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing.”

    Why don’t you ask the Environment Agency to address your specific concerns regarding water table pollution etc? They have a very large team dedicated to shale gas applications and will respond to you fairly quickly in my experience?

    • I don’t normally cross post, but I think this is important. We have to stop comparing these uses of chemicals to apparent consumer products like cosmetics. The percentages do not reflect the quantity by volume and ‘just add water’ is not good enough….

      This also may be of interest

      http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/polyacrylamide-2/

      Chemicals used in fracking (according to INEOS publications –

      Borate salts.
      ‘Common borate salts include sodium metaborate, NaBO2, and borax. Borax was added to the Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) candidate list on 16 December 2010. The SVHC candidate list is part of the EU Regulations on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals 2006 (REACH), and the addition was based on the revised classification of borax as toxic for reproduction category 1B under the CLP Regulations. Substances and mixtures imported into the EU which contain borax are now required to be labelled with the warnings “May damage fertility” and “May damage the unborn child”‘

      ‘The Indonesian Directorate of Consumer Protection warns of the risk of liver cancer with high consumption over a period of 5–10 years’

      Potassium chloride.
      ‘High doses can cause cardiac arrest and rapid death, thus the aforementioned use as the third and final drug delivered in the lethal injection process’.

      Ethylene glycol.
      ‘Used in anti freeze. Ethylene glycol is moderately toxic, with an oral LDLo = 786 mg/kg for humans.[10] The major danger is due to its sweet taste, which can attract children and animals. Upon ingestion, ethylene glycol is oxidized to glycolic acid, which is, in turn, oxidized to oxalic acid, which is toxic. It and its toxic byproducts first affect the central nervous system, then the heart, and finally the kidneys. Ingestion of sufficient amounts can be fatal if untreated’.

      Polyacrylamide
      ‘Polyacrylamide can break down into acrylamide, which is a carcinogen’

      Hydrochloric acid
      ‘Concentrated hydrochloric acid (fuming hydrochloric acid) forms acidic mists. Both the mist and the solution have a corrosive effect on human tissue, with the potential to damage respiratory organs, eyes, skin, and intestines irreversibly. Upon mixing hydrochloric acid with common oxidizing chemicals, such as sodium hypochlorite (bleach, NaClO) or potassium permanganate (KMnO4), the toxic gas chlorine is produced’

      Ammonium persulfate
      ‘Airborne dust may be irritating to eye, nose, throat, lung and skin upon contact. Exposure to high levels of dust may cause difficulty in breathing. It has been noted that persulfate salts are a major cause of asthmatic effects in women’

      N,n-dimethyl formamide
      ‘The potential toxicity DMF has received considerable attention. It is not classifiable as human carcinogen, but it is thought to cause birth defects’

      Glutaraldehyde
      ‘As a strong sterilant, glutaraldehyde is toxic and a strong irritant’

      Sodium carbonate

      According to INEOS ‘The additives in frack fluid are classified by the Environment Agency as nonhazardous in the proportions proposed’.

      It however does not give the amounts, effects if chemicals are combined or residual.

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