Check here for live updates from the meeting deciding IGas’s application for two shale gas wells at Springs Road, Misson, north Nottinghamshire.
The meeting of the county council’s planning and licensing committee, is at County Hall, starting at 10am.
It is expected to hear from the council’s planning officer, the company and opponents of the application. Key facts on the site and meeting
Cllr John Wilkinson, committee chair, tells the meeting
At 1.30pm today a letter was received from a Friends of the Earth solicitor. I have decided to defer this item. this means that our meeting will be adjourned until November 15. On that date our meeting will commence at the point we now leave it.
The reason for this adjournment is to allow members to receive definitive legal advice. A copy of the representation will be circulated. I would advice members that we are still in committee, retain your papers and observe the rules on lobbying.
Committee adjournment continues
Legal officer, Rachel Clark, says Friends of the Earth had sent a letter on the restrictive covenant existing on the application site. Ms Clark said a covenant was not a material planning considering. And she says late representatives cannot be considered. But if highly significant relevant information came to light then the decision could be adjourned.
Cllr Wilkinson says an adjournment will take place or 20 minutes to take advice on the issue. Back at 4pm.
Local councillor: Cllr Liz Yates
Cllr Yates says the committee had a difficult job in deciding the application and that the decision must be made within the bounds of planning rules.
The decision would be unprecedented in the county. The subject matter is emotive, she says. “I hope the concerns have been properly considered”
Cllr Yates asked for particular attention to be given to Misson Parish Council. Their letters of objection are insightful and knowledgeable, she said.
She stressed the importance of complying with conditions and enforcing them.
Cllr Yates said she had not had any comments about the monitoring boreholes previously approved.
Public speaker: Jeanie Thompson
Ms Thompson said national policy gave great weight to hydrocarbon extraction. This was introduced by a government in favour of fracking, she said. There is a bias in the officers’ report, she added. This was used to override your policies about heritage, biodiversity and cumulative effect. There has been a bias against cumulative effect on the community.
Your own local policies can take priority over national policy, she says. There are many planning policy reasons to reject this application. The applicant has not justified why this should be on this site.
There are issues on drinking water supply for the region, she added.
Cllr Stan Heptinstall asked Ms Thompson about her concerns about the IGas finances. The viability of shale gas has been massively affected by low prices, she said. An up-to-date assessment of a company’s viability was important.
Ms Thompson said there was a mismatch between the company being able to refer to the advantages of extraction but opponents were not able to refer to the disadvantages.
She questioned Mr Blaymires’ integrity about his comments made at a parish council on damage to a borehole. She described photographs of a rubber glove on the valve of a tanker visiting an IGas site.
Cllr John Wilkinson said he would not accept impugning the character of individuals. He asked her about which policies could be used to refuse the application
She replied these included: Bassetlaw Core Strategy policies on heritage, biodiversity, geodiversity, flood risk and Notts County Council policies on protection of biodiversity and geodiversity, mineral provisions and cumulative development.
Nottinghamshire County Council planner, Jonathan Smith, said the application had been assessed against local planning policy. Mr Smith said the weight to mineral extraction should be considered because the planning practice guidance includes exploration as a stage of extraction.
Public speaker: Richard Souter
Mr Souter said the committee must consider the implications of the application for climate change. The applicant had not considered this adequately.
If sufficient quantities of shale gas were found, would the company sell of the rights or recover the gas themselves, he said.
Each local authority had to contribute to tackling climate change, he said. The proposal is not supported by a policy in the Bassetlaw Core Strategy, he said.
The report accepts the site is in the wrong place and would be unacceptable. He urges the committee to reject the proposal.
Jonathan Smith, planning officer, said the mineral planning authority had addressed the impact of climate change.
Public speaker: Helen Mitcham
Ms Mitcham said the IGas accounts show the company may not be a viable proposition.
“How can Notts County Council allow a company to drill under our homes by a company that is itself unstable?”
She asked where would the responsibility res if something went wrong.
Ms Mitcham pointed to Natural England comment that it would take a different view on a longer application. Who tells the birds that this is only temporary?, she asks.
“This application is not safe for locals or for wildlife and I ask you say exploratory drilling is not happening here.”
Cllr Yvonne Woodhead said she had not seen IGas’s recent accounts. Cllr John Wilkinson said the figures were not part of the planners’ report. They did not need to be circulated, he said.
Cllr Wilkinson said the concern about finances were genuine. He said oversight was continuous. Why was this not enough to convince Ms Mitcham.
Ms Mitcham said personal experience had prevented a project being completed by a failing company. If Nottinghamshire County Council approved the application people would have asked why did you not take this into account.
Cllr Wilkinson said this issue had been taken into consideration. He asked Ms Mitcham what would you have us do. She replied if the company were no longer there, does the council have the money or expertise to clear up the site. Cllr Wilkinson asked if a bond was needed. Yes, she said, if that is what needed.
Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, said restoration bonds could be used if there was financial uncertainty about a company. “We have had assurances from the OGA that they make checks before drilling takes place”. He said there was also joint liability with other partners in the licence.
Response by planning officer
Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, said the alternative sites had not been subject to the scrutiny applied to the application sites.
Questions to John Blaymires
Cllr Jim Creamer, Labour (pictured left), asks how monitoring will be made public. Mr Blaymires it will be published on a website and through the community liaison group.Mr Blaymires said monitoring would be monthly, at the very least.
Cllr Andy Sissons asks about rig choice and noise levels, if the second borehole is purely exploratory and how the site was chosen. Mr Blaymires said the site was an existing brownfield site, screened and was further from Misson than alternatives. It would have the least impact, he said.
Yes the SSSI is close, Mr Blaymire said. On balance, we decided this was still the better site.
Mr Blaymires said he couldn’t give details of the rig because IGas did not know what would be available. The modelling had taken the worst case scenario. The impact on the SSSI would not be signficant.
A 6 inch core of rock would be taken from the first well, he said. What we need to understand is how does it vary over an area. That’s the reason for the second well, Mr Blaymire said. The rock will vary a lot and the second well will help to understand the rock.
There is no application for a mini-frack, Mr Blaymires said. It will not happen.
Cllr Keith Walker, Conservative (pictured), asks if the company has the finances to carry out the operation. Mr Blaymires said “The short answer is yes”.
Cllr Rachel Madden asks if methane leakage will occur during exploratory drilling. Mr Blaymires says “My short answer is no”. But he adds that very small amounts might be released from shale extracted from the well. But it was “not meaningful, at all”, he said.
Cllr Madden asked
“Can you assure us that there will no seismic activity or if there is will be equivalent to jumping off the bottom rung of a ladder.”
Mr Blaymires said: “My short answer is no”.
He said the Lancashire earthquake was caused by fracking and the company did not have 3D seismic results. We have 3D seismic, he added. It would highlight significant faults. One of the reasons for choosing the area in the first place was that there are no significant faults, he added.
Cllr Madden asked if 100% of the drilling mud would be recovered. Mr Blaymires said a very small amount of water would be lost to the Sherwood sandstone. But it was water filtrate coming out of the drilling mud. “We measure what goes in and what comes out”, he said.
Mr Blaymires said three exploration wells had been drilled in shale in the north west of England. He said local oil wells had been drilled using large rigs. Shale well sites would be less intrusive than the oil sites.
Cllr Madden put it to him “The locals still have to put up with your rig for 39 weeks.”
Mr Blaymires replied “Yes they do, and that is why we take care on where we locate”.
Cllr Stan Heptinstall, Lib Dem, said: “What I’ve heard so far the decision will be made on two things: whether this is the right location and second on the control of the environmental consequences.
On the right location, Cllr Heptinstall said:
“I would desperately like to know whether somewhere else was considered where you don’t have a SSSI, you don’t have flooding risk and where you don’t have th eimpact on the local community”
Cllr Heptinstall added:
“Some of us fear that the very worst thing that can happen will happen. My fear is that despite monitoring that the noise levels will be so severe that they will have the impact described [by Notts Wildlife Trust] and that the monitoring won’t be robust.
“A whole lake [in an Australian national park] has disappeared. You said 1cm might change [in waterlevel) but what if it is not like that. What happens if there is some change in water levels. I want to be assured that if that happens some action will be taken.”
Mr Blaymires said
“We are under enormous scrutiny”.
“We have 24/7 someone looking over our fence. The local community have a vested interest in seeing we do this properly.
“We are under more scrutiny than any other industry in this country.
“The consequence of that is that we are held to account every day, 24/7”
Mr Blaymires said anything that fell on the site would stay on that site. We don’t take water from anywhere other than trucked in water. We are not extracting anything from the site means water levels should not change. Some water on site that would normally drain into the SSSI will not now find its way there. It would be disposed of.
Mr Blaymires said the chosen site was the best available.
We as an industry have been poor at communicating how we operate, Mr Blaymires said.
Cllr Steve Calvert (pictured) also asked Mr Blaymires about a comment in the planners’ report that alternative sites would do less harm.
Mr Blaymires said other sites were closer to villages, less well-screened and were on agricultural land. We had to weigh up these issues, he said. This site was on balance the optimal solution.
Cllr Calvert asked what were the benefits of the application site. Mr Blaymires said it was a mixture of geology, road access, brownfield site, natural screening and traffic route.
Cllr Sue Saddington (vice chair) asked Mr Blaymires where in the report did IGas identify the sites or explain why they were not suitable. “We don’t have the information”, she said. “There is no proof.”
Mr Blaymires said the information was in an appendix.
Chair, Cllr John Wilkinson said the company had represented itself as open and transparent so what went wrong.
Mr Blaymires said
“There is a lot of misinformation. We do this day in day out. As an industry we have failed to communicate this effectively.
“In the pecking order, there are bankers, then frackers and then regulators”.
“There has been a vacuum in explaining what we do.
“The only way that people are only going to buy into this is when they see what we do.
“There is a long history of drilling wells without incident. We have not been good at communicating this”
Cllr Wilkinson (left) said:
“You are asking us to take it on trust”
Mr Blaymires said: “In a way you are right”.
He said the South Downs National Park had agreed planning applications without this level of scrutiny. This was because we were known in that community.
“It takes time to build that trust. I am not arrogant enough for you to give us that trust unequivocally”
Cllr Wilkinson said this was an elliptical argument, like a burglar inviting you to leave your door open.
“You are saying you are going to be open about your monitoring. If your monitoring reveals something disconcerting at what point will that be shown?
“What weight can we give to your assurances on monitoring and the results if it is found to be wrong?”
Mr Blaymires said monitoring would help IGas. In the north west, the company was accused of contaminating a local water sources. But because it had monitoring data it could demonstrate that it was not to blame.
Cllr Wilkinson asked how quickly would monitoring data be released of something had gone wrong. Mr Blaymires said “reasonably quickly”. If anything goes wrong, IGas must have the information to respond in the first instance.
Cllr Andy Sissons (left), Mansfield Independent Forum, refers to a submission from Professor David Smythe which said a fault line goes through the site. “Could you reassure us about this”.
Mr Blaymires said 3D seismic surveying builds up a better image and more accurate portrayal. Professor Smythe made his submission using surface data, without the benefit of 3D survey data, Mr Blaymires said. “We have 3D seismic that he did not have. There is no fault there. The reason we chose those locations was because of the absence of faults”.
Presentation by John Blaymires, IGas
Mr Blaymires, the company’s chief operating officer, was supported in his presentation by six staff from IGas.
Mr Blaymires said the community liaison group had commented on the company’s plans. He referred to the IGas Community Fund, which provides grants to organisations in the areas in which it operates.
He said 50% of IGas oil production comes from the East Midlands. The company employs 60 people and spends £7.5m a year. The company had won a safety award for the 10th year.
He described the Misson site as brownfield which had hosted industrial activity for many years.
This application is like any construction project, he said. He said the wells were no different from wells elsewhere in the country, though they had been subject to greater scrutiny.
IGas takes local concerns very seriously, he says. He says the company has been clear that fracking might happen in future.
IGas has been very thorough, going beyond what was needed, in preparing the application, he says.
“We appreciate there are concerns and fears from local residents and action groups.
“We have sought to maintain dialogue with the liaison group and will continue to run the group as long as we are in the local community.”
We hope the members will support the application, he says. It is an important step to understanding the shale potential in north Nottinghamshire, Mr Blaymires said.
Questions to Ken Cronin
Cllr Alan Sissons put it to Ken Cronin that the importance of shale gas could not be considered by the committee. Mr Cronin said it was important to find out what was below our feet. Cllr Sissons said the committee should also consider the disbenefits
Cllr Rachel Madden asked whether the industry had learned from problems along the way and in the past.
Mr Cronin said the industry always learned from the past. He gave as an example, baseline of water quality.
Cllr Stan Heptinstall, Lib Dem, asked what assurances could be given about problems, such as earthquakes that had happened in Lancashire in 2011.
Mr Cronin said a lot of the seismic activity in the US is due to injecting water into formations after it has come out of the well. “We are not allowed to do that in this country”, he said.
He said seismic monitors would pick up activity on a site. At 0.5 activity would have to stop.
The committee chair, John Wilkinson, asked Mr Cronin which human right in another country would be improved by the planning application being approved. Mr Cronin had quoted from the GMB union, which said human rights and regulations were lower than our own in countries from which the UK imported gas. Mr Wilkinson asked how this applied to the current application. Mr Cronin said we needed to look for alternative sources of gas, including those under our feet.
The planning officer, Jonathan Smith, said the application dealt with exploration, not extraction.
Presentation by Ken Cronin, UK Onshore Oil & Gas
Mr Cronin, of the industry body, tells the committee that IGas, the applicant, was a founder member of UKOOG.
He says we don’t have a solution for heat or feedstocks for UK from renewables. He said onshore oil and gas had low emissions than imports. He says 9% of UK gas comes from the East Midlands.
Government supports shale gas, capable of creating jobs and growth, he said. The UK has drilled over 2,000 wells, he said. There are currently 230 operating wells. The East Midlands has a long history of drilling, dating back to World War 2. 84 wells in the region were still producing.
He said he understood some of the community were concerned about the application. But he said:
“They should take comfort from four independent regulators.”
UK regulation is “formidable”, he adds.
He runs through protection to prevent groundwater contamination. The Environment Agency will not allow the use of toxic chemicals, he says.
“Many fears come from stories from the US”
He acknowledges there have been problems in the US but the situation was now comparable with the UK because many practices were not allowed.
It is wrong to assume what can happen in other countries can happen in the UK, he says.
Break for lunch
The committee breaks and will begin again at 1.30pm.
The council’s legal officer, Rachel Clark, said the decision of the committee does not pre-determine or prejudice a future application for fracking. They should consider only the application before them she said.
Ms Clark said the planning committee could not replicate what was dealt with by separate regulatory regimes or permits. It must take it as read that the other regulators would carry out their roles effectively and that regulation and enforcement would be robust.
Response by planning officer on Frack Free Notts
Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, said there was no guarantee that the application would lead to further applications. There was no guarantee that shale gas would be found.
Emissions related to exploration were generally small, Mr Smith said, quoting government documents. Pressure testing or mini-fracks were no part of the application, he added.
He said pollution impacts had been considered in the application as a whole and the risks considered acceptable.
Mr Smith said the Defra report, which suggested house prices may fall by 17% because of shale gas developments, was a draft and little weight should be attached to it.
Questions by councillors to Frack Free Notts
Cllr Steve Calvert (Labour) asked Brian Davey, of Frack Free Notts, about its written submission. This referred to pressure testing or a mini frack.
Mr Davey said the application for an environmental permit included the possibility of a mini-frack on the second well.
Mr Calvert also asked about leakage of methane wells. Mr Davey said leakage was usually when wells were in production. But he added that air monitoring in the US had shown there was leakage at the exploration stage.
Cllr John Wilkinson (Labour) said some section of the presentation could be taken into account when considering the application. Mr Davey said he understood it as an exploratory well. But he said:
“Sustainable development, which is like a journey, is supposed to run through the considerations. I do not see how you can talk about sustainable development if you only look at the first stage of it, without discussing where it is going. How can it be part of a development if it is not be followed through? If it cannot be followed through it is a futile exercise.”
Cllr Stan Heptinstall said I have nine grandchildren and I care about them. For you to say to me that if I act in a certain way I am damning my grandchildren really hurts me.
“We are looking at a planning application in a particular way, in planning terms.
“This is nothing to do about the wider concept of fracking.”
He said fracking could provide alternatives to overseas fuels. There is another way of looking at it.
Mr Davey said approval would be a profoundly unethical decision.
“This would set a precedent, he said. You should look at what would happen if others followed this precedent.
I don’t think that people have got this idea. It is not possble to develop any more fossil fuel resources and exploit them without breaching what was agreed at Paris.
If it goes above 1.5 degrees were are commiting genocide on future generations. That’s what it means.”
Presentation by Brian Davey, Frack Free Notts
Mr Davey, an ecological economist, said:
Already developed resources from oil and gas fields and coal mines contain enough carbon which, if burned, would increase the planet’s climate system way over 2 degrees C. We cannot exploit all the carbon in already developed fields, let alone develop new fields. That is what this diagram shows – comparing carbon budgets with carbon in fuels accessible from already developed infrastructures.
That means any new development of more fossil fuels would make what is already a perilous situation even worse. I realise that this is about exploration and not production. But exploring for something that cannot be sustainably produced has no conceivable benefits and would not be sustainable either.
He said rising sea levels resulting from climate change could not be considered sustainable.
Mr Davey said an organic farm near the site, which employs 77 people, is threatened by anything that goes wrong on the site.
The Environment Agency had said this would not happen, he said, but there were good reason not to believe.
Mr Davey said IGas itself was not sustainable and could go bust
“Unless oil and gas prices also rise to match the rising extraction costs the companies will make losses. They get deeper into unrepayable debt because they cannot cover their rising costs. Unfortunately rising energy prices takes money out of everyone’s pockets and has a depressing effect on the economy. The sustainability crisis of this industry takes the form of a catch 22. Above a certain level of prices for oil and gas the economy crashes. Below those prices the industry cannot get the revenue that they need to make a profit. They run up unrepayable debts, just as IGas has.”
He said there could be a fall in the capital value of £500,000 in local houses if there was a fall of 17%.
Exploring for gas was futile in climate terms, he said. It could millions of people at risk in future.
“If you vote against this planning application you could have it taken up by the government and there will be a lot of hassle. But if pass this application you will have to explain to your grandchildren why you did it. You will be passing something that has grave implications for their future.”
Response by planning officer to presentations
Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, was asked to respond to presentations by Misson Parish Council and Misson Community Action Group. Specifically, he was asked about the accusation by Janice Bradley of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust that conditions were not sufficient to protect the Misson Carr Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Mr Smith said Natural England had concluded that the integrity of the SSSI would not be affected. I would not underestimate the level of detail they have considered the application.
Mr Smith said the noise level of 42 decibels had been set by Natural England. This would not be met in 1% of the SSSI, he said. This was why Natural England had not objected. Natural England also said the total level was not as important as the increase.
On nitrogen levels, Mr Smith said Natural England had not objected.
On water levels, he said conditions had to be reasonable. Predicted reductions in water levels of 1cm made a condition on water level unreasonable. He said the Environment Agency was confident about what IGas was proposing on water quality.
Mr Smith said the council took advice on SSSI from the statutory agency, Natural England, which had not raised an objection.
Other sites would have less impact on the SSSI but Natural England had concluded the impact of the Springs Road site on the SSSI was not unacceptable.
On unexploded ordnance, Mr Smith said IGas had done some investigation but no ordnance had been found.A condition would require a method statement on reducing risk of unexploded ordnance, he said.
Cllr Sue Saddington said Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust said a temporary impact on the SSSI could be significant. She asked Mr Smith:
“Are you certain that the SSSI will be protected?”
Mr Smith said:
“We have placed great weight on the advice from Natural England.
“If Natural England had an issue with the SSSI I have no doubt they would have submitted an objection.
“Their response is critical.”
Cllr Andy Sissons asked about whether Natural England was satisfied with the robustness of the noise modelling.
Mr Smith acknowledged there was no condition on noise in the SSSI. If Natural England had any doubts, he said, it would have objected.
Questions by councillors to MCAG
Cllr Andy Sissons asked about the sensitivity of long-eared owls to noise. He asked whether planes did not disturb the birds.
Janice Bradley, of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, said the plane noise was less perceived in the SSSI than in Misson village. The birds had got used to the plane noise over time. The drilling noise would be new and at a higher level.
Cllr Stan Heptinstall asked about the previous use of the site. Simon Gledhill said the former bombing range covered the whole of the SSSI and the IGas site. It was used as a bombing range for 20 years. The MOD admitted it “had not a clue” on the level of explosives in the area, he said.
Farmworkers would regularly dig up unexploded ordnance, he said.
“Would you if you had a number of choices choose to drill in a place where people have dropped bombs and not everything had been recovered.
“Would you put at risk your staff?
“Why would anyone do that.”
Cllr John Wilkinson asked about cumulative impacts on the SSSI and asked what proportion of the SSSI would be affected.
Ms Bradley said the IGas plans would push the SSSI towards the tipping point on nitrogen emissions. This would add to the potential damage to the SSSI from other cumulative impact. This is why it is particularly vulnerable. She said the rare breeding owls nested in the most vulnerable section of the SSSI.
Cllr Wilkinson asked what weight should be attached to conditions. Ms Bradley said:
I have great concerns on the robustness and scientific credibility of imposing conditions in circumstances like this.
If a rare breeding bird is choosing a site to nest. It may only take a couple of days of excess noise to make it chose to go somewhere else. It may have nowhere to go.
I don’t have certainty that this information could be monitored, recorded and reported back to the council to take action.
I wouldn’t question the officers’ integrity but I don’t think they could be implemented in a timely manner to make any difference.
Cllr Sue Sanderson (Conservative) asked which rig would meet noise limits. Ms Bradley said the applicant was not able to say which rig would be used.
Cllr Heptinstall asked if this were to go ahead, what recommendation do you have for conditions to prevent destruction of the SSSI. Ms Bradley said it would require monitoring of the quantity and quality of water that feeds the SSSI from the direction of the IGas site, and monitoring of invertebrates and plants that rely on the water quality.
Presentation by Misson Community Action Group (MCAG)
Presentation by Janice Bradley, Notts Wildlife Trust, and Simon Gledhill
Ms Bradley asked the committee to consider:
“Are you certain that the precautionary principle of protection of the SSSI has been applied? Are you certain the SSSI will not be harmed?”
She said the sensitivity of the SSSI had been identified early on in the planning process. It is the largest remaining wetland fen in the area.
Breeding birds were affected by the change of noise, not just absolute levels, she said. Long-eared owls will vacate their nests if they are disturbed by noise, she said. The change would be 15 decibels. This is a huge difference, she said.
She questioned the accuracy of the IGas noise modelling. Only one of the rigs proposed could meet the noise guidelines of 42 decibels impact on the SSSI. Natural England said it had asked for noise monitoring because there was no certainty about the impact on wildlife.
We do not believe the noise levels could meet.
The operation would exceed nitrogen oxide levels. IGas has not proved it would do no harm, despite repeated requests, she said.
Ms Bradley said the water modelling had predicted changes to levels in the SSSI. These models were notoriously unpredictable. There is no condition proposed to test whether models were accurate.
Noise conditions would have to assume breaches would be picked up within 24 hours. There would have to be an action. How quickly could actions be taken? On nitrogen impacts, how fast could action be taken?
On water levels, what is the certainty that there will not be an impact on this incredibly important site, Ms Bradley said.
She said the precautionary principle required the burden of proof fell on the applicant.
Simon Gledhill said Natural England had advised relocation of the site to reduce the impacts.
Presentation by Misson Parish Council
Presentation by Jayne Watson and Peter Edwards
Mrs Watson says:
“I am here to ask you to refuse this application”.
She says IGas cannot use the benefits of extraction to support the application. She says the site is unsuitable and the harmful impacts will outweigh any benefits.
We are concerned that the cumulative impacts of gas exploration have not been sufficiently considered in the application.
She said quarrying from nearby Tunneltec had affected local lives and dominated the western approach to the village. Continued extensions to the quarry was likely in future.
But she said gas exploration could be in other places. “So why does it have to be here”, she asked.
She said the village was overflown by flights from Robin Hood airport every 8 minutes, the only village to be overflown.
Three sources of negative impacts on air quality had been accepted already. And emissions from the drilling site would add to then.
“We will be placed with another problematic site bringing heavy industry to the village.”
She said IGas’s site selection process was not sufficiently robust.
“IGas does not have to use this site so why does it have to be here?”
We believe the adverse cumulative imipacts to MIsson parish will be unacceptably high.
IGas hasnot fully justified its site selection.
You have the power to refuse this application. There are strong planning grounds to do so. Misson residents are wholeheartedly against it.
She asked the committee to reject the application.
It goes against your own planning policy.
It is wrong for the people of Misson.
Mr Edwards said the target shale could be accessed from this or any other area. The presence of effective screening, recognised by the planning officer, did not benefit local people, only the company. This could make the council appear to be favouring the applicant, not local residents.
Communities like ours rely on the mineral planning authority to adhere to policy, he said. It is wrong that the decision is weighted so far in favour of the applicant, he added.
we urge this committee to use the powers it has to reject this application.
Presentations on the plans
Presentations begin. Speakers have 10 minutes each.
Motion to recommend
Cllr John Wilkinson formally moves the recommendation to approve but this is only a formality, he says. The motion is seconded by the vice chair, Sue Saddington.
Questions to planning officer
Cllr John Wilkinson
Cllr John Wilkinson, the chair, (Lab) asked about the weight that should be given to benefits of the site and the reasonableness of application. The benefits of the application may not make it reasonable, Cllr Wilkinson suggested.
Jonathan Smith, planning officer, said that may be the effect. We have set out the reasons why the application is reasonable, he said.
He also asked how much weight should be given to the failure of the application because it did not pass the sequential test on choice of sites and flooding.
Mr Smith said the sequential test is government policy and it carries great weight.
Cllr Wilkinson also asked whether later information on IGas’s financial circumstances had been assessed.
Mr Smith said the OGA had said checks were made at various times.
Cllr Stan Heptinstall
Cllr Stan Heptinstall (Lib Dem) said he didn’t understand why two boreholes were needed, one of which was horizontal. He asked what would happen to waste water and whether the water treatment works were fit for purpose or had sufficient capacity.
“I would hate for there to be not enough capacity.
I want some assurance that the water treatment works are fit for purpose.”
He also asked what will happen as a consequence of noise monitoring on the SSSI near the drill site.
“Will there be action taken if the levels are too high and if so what will that action be. Will drilling cease or will it not. Or will it simply be you are naughty boys.
“Has there been any consideration of what the consequence of any results of the monitoring?”
Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, said the vertical borehole would give the applicant a greater understanding of the shale. He said IGas may be able to clarify.
Mr Smith said disposal of waste water would be dealt with by an environmental permit. There is no proposal to discharge it into nearby water courses, he said.
Are we confident there are enough facilities, Cllr Hepinstall pressed.
Mr Smith said two plants in Sheffield, one in Stoke and another in Leeds were able to accept waste water with naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) but the waste was not expected to contain NORM and there would be no limits on treatment plants available to IGas.
Mr Smith said monitoring would be frequent and if noise exceeded conditions the operator would be required to make changes.
Cllr Steve Calvert
Cllr Steve Calvert (Labour) asked about the two areas identified by IGas as the best location for application sites.
Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, said the council had asked the company about how the areas had been identified. Arup confirmed the two areas were reasonable, he said.
Cllr Andy Sissons
Cllr Andy Sissons (Mansfield Independent Forum) says the application is not a sustainable development unless it led to a further application for fracking.
He says national planning policy framework gives great work to mineral extraction but the application was about exploration. This application is nothing to do with the economy, it is about exploration.
“We are told not to consider fracking but it is inherent in the application”
Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, says the councillors have to consider the application in front of them.
“We can only assess what is being proposed at the moment”
Mr Smith acknowledged there would be no mineral extraction and the weight of national planning policy should not apply to the application.
Cllr Sissons questioned why the second borehole was described as horizontal when it was not. He said:
“It is not horizontal anywhere”
The planning papers should call it a deviant borehole, he added.
Cllr Sissons said:
“I am just concerned that the second borehole is for fracking and not for exploration”
Jonathan Smith, NCC planning officer, said the application had been scrutinised. There would be a significant impact on the SSSI nearby but they would not be permanent damage.
The site was in Flood Zone 3 (1:100 risk of flooding) and two other sites had a lower risk which were dismissed by IGas. This put the application against national planning policy. But Mr Smith said the development would not increase flood risk.
He said the application was considered acceptable.
Jonathan Smith, NCC planning officer, said the Oil and Gas Authority has confirmed that checks are made on the viability of companies that get licences. He said a bond was not required.
Jonathan Smith, NCC planning officer, said any benefits to the local economy were likely to be very limited.
Jonathan Smith, NCC planning officer, said the risk of finding ordnance from the previous site use was regarded as low.
Jonathan Smith, NCC planning officer, said Public Health England had not objected to the application.
Jonathan Smith, NCC planning officer, said the effect on landscape of the rig was not regarded as unacceptable. This was because the rig would be temporary and short-term, he said.
The impact of lighting would be greatest during drilling, Mr Smith said. He said conditions would require a lighting scheme before work could start to prevent impacts on local homes.
Air quality and noise
Jonathan Smith, NCC planning officer, said increases in nitrogen oxide from the development would be below acceptable limits at nearby homes.
Conditions would limit nighttime noise to 42 decibels at nearby homes. At site construction, the maximum noise could reach 64 decibels, just below the daily noise limit of 65 decibels. Noise monitoring is recommend, Mr Smith said.
Vibration would not be perceptible at more than 25m from the rig, Mr Smith said.
No traffic would go through Misson village, said Jonathan Smith, NCC planning officer. A legal agreement was proposed to require lorries to follow a set route.
A condition would limit the maximum daily number of lorry movements to 60 (30 in and 30 out). The weekly maximum would be set so that there would be no more than an average of 36 daily movements, he said.
Key planning issue – flooding
Jonathan Smith, NCC planning officer, said other sites had a lower risk of flooding. This meant the application should be refused. This meant it did not pass what is known as the sequential test.
The Environment Agency and the County Council flood authority were asked to comment. Neither objected to the application.
Mr Smith said the development would not increase flood risk and was safe. Failure to pass the sequential test was not justification for turning down the application.
Key planning issue – SSSI
Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, says the location of Misson Carr Site of Special Scientific Interest, 125m from the site, was a key planning issue.
He said there would be no impact on the SSSI from dust from the development. Hydrology or hydrogeology would also not be affected.
But he said site construction should not take place in the bird breeding season. Noise monitoring should take place during the development, he said. Natural England had not objected, he added.
National and local planning policy would normally prevent a development which had an impact on SSSIs, Mr Smith said. But there were exceptions. Impacts on the SSSI would be temporary and he concluded that benefits of the site should outweigh any impacts.
Consultation and comments on covenant
Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, says there were three rounds of consultation on the application. 2,630 people commented. Of these all but six were objections. Further 75 objections received since last week, all objections. These included concerns about IGas’s financial viability. They called for a bond.
Friends of the Earth had raised the issue of restrictive covenant on the site. Officers have sought legal advice on the issue, Mr Smith said. Restrictive covenants are not a material planning consideration, he added.
Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, begins his report on the application.
Mr Smith says the site is in PEDL 140 held by a consortium of companies. The operator will be IGas.
He outlines the phases of the development:
- Site construction
- Drilling of two wells (one vertical, one vertical/horizontal)
- Assessment of results
- Abandonment and restoration
He says two types of drilling mud will be used. Water will be tankered to the site. Waste will be removed to a waste water treatment centre. The maximum rig size would be 57m. Approximately 3,700 tonnes of drill cuttings would be produced. Restoration would take 14 weeks, Mr Smith said.
The application duration of 3 years would allow for delays, he added.
Planning committee chair, John Wilkinson, opens the meeting. He says there will be five special presentations which should be
Council chamber filling up
Officers and IGas representatives take their seats
County Council officers and supporters take their seats in the council chamber
Small group of opponents of the IGas scheme gather outside County Hall.