Opposition

Oliver, 8, appeals to PM to block fracking near new Derbyshire home

oliver-simpson-greenwood-letter

An eight year old boy has written to the Prime Minister asking her to prevent fracking near his new home in Derbyshire.

Oliver Greenwood told Theresa May he was scared the process to extract shale gas would make him ill and said he wanted to talk to her about it in Downing Street.

His letter was prompted by news that INEOS had begun the process of applying for permission to drill an exploration well at Marsh Lane, near Eckington, in Derbyshire.

Oliver’s mother, Wendy, exchanged contracts on a house less than 500m from the site last week but did not find out about INEOS’s plans until this Monday. She said she risks a possible legal challenge and will lose her deposit if she pulls out of the sale.

Ms Greenwood, a single parent, said:

“Oliver was very upset by the situation we found ourselves in. He is very eloquent, he loves school and he wants to help people. When he told me he wanted to write to the Prime Minister I was so proud of him.

“When I saw what he had written I was quite overwhelmed and I thought I am going to have to share it.”

This morning, she posted on Facebook a picture of Oliver’s letter, which she confirmed he had written himself. He wrote:

Dear Prime Minister

Fracking Marsh Lane

I am called Oliver and I am 8 years old. My favourite things are school, football and nature.

My mummy means the world to me and she is the most amazing mum in the whole wide world! She does everything for me on her own.

My mummy is very sad and I am sad too! My mummy is sad because they want to do fracking next to a house that we are buying. My mummy has cried every day. She is so worried that she will lose all her money. I am scared that fracking will make me ill.

I think fracking in Marsh Lane will ruin me and my mummy’s life. Please can you help us and please move fracking far away from houses.

I would like to come to your office in London to talk with you about this.

Copies of the letter have been sent to INEOS, Derbyshire County Council and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

DrillOrDrop asked INEOS to comment on the letter and the family’s situation. A spokesperson said:

“We wold like to sit down with Ms Greenwood and Oliver to talk through our plans and reassure them”.

INEOS plans

INEOS announced on 6 January that it had begun the planning application process for a site on Bramleymoor Lane between Marsh Lane and Apperknowle.

In details sent to Derbyshire County Council, the company said it wanted to drill a 2,408m vertical well to take rock samples that would be analysed for their gas producing properties. (More details)

The document referred only once to hydraulic fracturing, suggesting that the process might be carried out at other sites. A full application is expected later this year.

Wendy Greenwood said nothing had emerged about the plans in legal searches or disclosures.

The first she knew about them was seeing anti-fracking signs when she drove through the area after exchanging contracts. She said:

“I was absolutely devastated. It was supposed to be about our future.

“Fracking is one of the primary things that would have put me off the house”.

eckington-signs-1-170118

Sign in Eckington. Photo: Chloe Sandall

She said she chose the house because it offered “the peace and quiet of the countryside” and was convenient for Oliver’s school, work and family. She said:

“I have still not made up my mind but we are due to complete on Monday. There is so much that is unknown. I don’t think I can win whatever I do. I am trying to put a brave face on it but I have broken down in tears.”

Ms Greenwood said she hoped Mrs May would reply to Oliver’s letter. She said people in the parish had been very supportive.

“There is a huge sense of solidarity. I am sure they will get their voices heard.”

Since the INEOS announcement an anti-fracking campaign has established in the area.

Nearly 60,000 people have signed a petition against the plans and a petition on the government website has attracted more than 1,000 signatures.

Both INEOS and its opponents have organised meetings in the area in the next few days. More details.

Updated at 22.12 to include quote from INEOS spokesperson

47 replies »

  1. I was thinking that too. Was any planning or search information withheld? We’re making assumptions without all the facts. Martin, you appear to be making an admission that knowledge of the drilling (in advance) should have persuaded them not to purchase.

  2. Maybe if Al and Martyn Collyer had read the article they would have discovered that:

    His letter was prompted by news that INEOS had begun the process of applying for permission to drill an exploration well at Marsh Lane, near Eckington, in Derbyshire.

    So the situation that this housebuyer and her family now find themselves in is neither her fault nor the fault of the conveyancer.

  3. Richard Wilkins

    If the question of whether the presence of a fracking site can affect house prices adversely is a valid question, does it really matter how that question is brought to the attention of the public? Either it does or it does not and only genuine evidence will answer that question one way or the other.

  4. Lock the gates-that is really pretty lame!

    Has Ineos suddenly, two weeks ago, acquired the “rights” to this site? Why would anyone expect them to have done so? To grow dahlias?

    Buyer beware, do your homework. I am not being uncaring, I am accepting this is a genuine concern. However, the question of property values again is speculation. Wasn’t this recently examined by ASA?

    Maybe Ineos will have a sensible conversation with the lady, as offered, and be able to put a smile on her face. Maybe they will include a nice trip out, as part of that, into the lovely rural and conservation area around Wytch Farm in Dorset, and play “spot the pipeline” through the New Forest.

    Not being flippant, but these concerns can easily be raised with the operator. I don’t think they are assisted by wild speculation or being hijacked by activists.

    The lady’s concerns are now public, Ineos have offered to discuss. Can’t really see there is much of a story beyond that, at this stage.

  5. Come on Ruth and Co. If articles like this start becoming the norm then intelligent people are going to start tuning out and all you’ll be left with are the anti mob. This is not anywhere near good journalism but mere click bait.
    I’ll get my 7 year old nephew to write a letter advocating energy security and job creation as well as him being scared by the “strange looking people” at protest camps.

  6. What is wrong, Lock The Gates, is there is only speculation this is a site that will be fracked, to start with!

    I would trust that Mrs. May would reply as my mother would have done.

    “Oliver you do not need to be scared of the unknown, embellished by others. Help your mother to establish the facts, and then the unknown will become known and you will probably find your concerns were unfounded.”

    • Cuadrilla have stated publicly that they believe houses next to fracking sites will increase in value. The ‘Aberdeen effect’ if I remember rightly.

      If the sale falls through here is a golden opportunity for those who have lost money through investing in shale to make good.

      “Martin, you do not need to be scared of this investment. Mark Miller said it will make you money so it must be true”

      All those pro frackers on this site should club together and buy the property for the same price it is being sold for at present.

      Then all you have to do is re advertise stating all the enormous benefits of owning a property next to a fracking site.

      Apparently the price will rocket. Quids in guys!

      I will keep an eye on the land registry to make sure you don’t miss out on this obvious money spinner.

      If you don’t buy it we can presume you either

      Can’t raise capital or

      Don’t like making money? or

      We are correct and house prices next to fracking sites in the UK will drop.

    • Regardless of whether INEOS planning application for unconventional shalegas development will be subject to associated hydraulic fracturing ( aka “fracking”), anyone living 300m away will experience at Stage 1 : 2-3 months of wellpad construction, 24/7 wellbore drilling for 4-5 months. If the operator thinks it’s viable, they will put a planning application in to test frack.
      At Stage 2, subsequent test fracking will last for at least 2 months. If the test frack is viable, the operator will put in another application to frack.
      At Stage 3, the production stage, there will be years of associated disturbances.

      At each stage people living near to the site will have to contend with the associated air pollution and noise pollution, increased road traffic and disturbances etc, that goes with shalegas development.

      Stage 1 − Exploration

      This involves building a drilling rig and drilling vertically, deep into the ground to find out how much gas is in the shale. This does not involve fracking.

      Stage 2 − Appraisal

      This involves using the rig to carry out test fracking to see how the gas flows out of the shale.

      Stage 3 − Production

      This involves applying for planning permission to set up a full-time commercial fracking operation. If the company gained planning permission, these works would take several years to complete.
      https://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/council/news_events/news-updates/2017/january/news_items/steps_taken_towards_shale_gas_test_drilling_application.asp

      At the very least, there will be around 8 months of pre-fracking including 4-5 months of 24/7 drilling.

      Even though it might not be a given that the well will be fracked, the request about proximity to homes remains valid. This development is happening 300m from peoples’ homes.

      Isn’t it about time that a minimum distance from homes and publuc buildings was added to our supposed “gold-standard” regulations?

        • Good luck with 1 mile or any setback distance. We tried this with wind farms, with a private members Bill in the HOL. Got a second reading but that is all. There are one or two LPAs with setback distances for windfarms – I recall Allerdale is one. This was approved by a Planning Inspector so may be worth a try. But the issue was height, drilling rigs are nowhere near as high.

  7. This development, as you put it, is an application. It has not been consulted on, it has not been authorised. Maybe during those stages such considerations, and maybe mitigation, might just be discussed? More speculation, interesting in itself but the trouble with speculation is that it moves closer to fabrication than fact.

    I can’t see how this helps Oliver, or his mother, to understand anything. Next, you will be suggesting there really could be something under his bed.

    And, really John! The horse, “Financial Motive” was put down a long time ago. I think your bet on that one is a dead loss.

    If you want to run that one, have a look at Egdon Share Trading. That could be interesting if it avoids a stewards enquiry.

  8. Until drilling operators apply for planning permission to commence drilling activity, the public won’t know which specific sites that the industry is targeting.

    Some experts have suggested a two mile distance from homes and public buildings.

    As some of these exploratory wells may go on to become production wells, a minimum distance from homes and public buildings ought to be enforced at the first stage.

    Any “gold-standard” regulations should stipulate a minimum distance from homes and public buildings.

    This minimum distance could be the max horizontal drilling distance x2 ( 4km).

    • I like your science. How do get to max horizontal drilling distance x2 (4km)? You are clearly an expert Lock the Gates. Horizontal wells have been drilled in excess of 10km horizontal displacement – check out Wytch Farm and Al Shaheen Qatar:

      http://www.maerskoil.com/operations/qatar/pages/qatar.aspx

      “In May 2008, GSF Rig 127 operated by Transocean drilled the world record extended reach well BD-04A in the field. The well was drilled incident free to a record measured depth of 40,320 ft (12,290 m) including a record horizontal reach of 35,770 ft (10,900 m) in 36 days.”

      Why is the well bore lateral extension at 6,000ft depth relevant to the surface?

      As an “expert” I recommend the minimum distance should be 200m.

      • As a person with common sense I suggest 200m as ridiculous.

        Here is what I presented at appeal regarding setback distances.

        I would like to present the risk to public health when considering the proximity of the proposed
        developments with the residential properties at Roseacre Wood and Little Plumpton. I will also
        highlight the failings by the government to address this serious problem.

        Shale gas is highly volatile and contains a mixture of gases many of which have serious health
        implications through a variety of exposure routes.

        Flow-back waters contain substances that are toxic and include BTEX compounds and naturally
        occurring radio active materials, details of which can be found in the report by the Environment
        Agency included with the reports handed to you. These hazardous gases and liquids occur naturally
        so cannot be controlled until they become present at the surface. They should not be confused with
        fracking fluids which need permits for use.

        If developed these sites would produce substantial amounts of flow-back and large volumes of gas
        for the duration of the developments.

        The risks from explosions, blowouts and air contamination are very real and need full assessment.
        In Australia and in the USA there is legislation which provides decision makers with minimal safe
        distances between wells and local residents. This ‘set-back distance’ as it is known reduces the risk
        of harm but is proven to be inadequate in many cases.

        In the UK our regulatory bodies, DECC, HSE,EA and UKOOG have failed to set a legal minimum safe distance.

        They are all eager to promote the perceived benefits of shale but reluctant to commit to what constitutes a safe distance to protect
        local communities from health impacts.

        Hardly a ‘gold standard’. In fact NO STANDARD AT ALL.

        With no guidance from the regulatory regime planning departments must come to their own
        conclusion as to what set-back distance is deemed safe.

        The report I have just given you is from the Environmental Health Perspective, which is a monthly
        peer reviewed journal of research and news published with support from the National Institute of
        Environmental Health Sciences, National Institute of Health and the US Department of Health and
        Human Services.
        Published last month, It highlights the increasing awareness of the multiple potential pathways
        leading to human health risk from this practice. Air pollution, vapour dispersion, blowouts and
        explosions are referenced.

        An example in the report is evidence that air pollution found over 1000 metres away has caused
        adverse health conditions. Elevated levels of cancer have been found in people living within 800
        metres of wells. In many instances set-back distances have been proven inadequate to protect
        people’s health. There are many reports highlighting similar risks.

        In Scotland in 2014 a minimum setback of 2000 metres was discussed but not enacted. Kevin
        Hollinrake MP has recently returned from a fact-finding tour of Pennsylvania. He is a supporter for
        shale development in Yorkshire but has stated there should be a minimum of 1600 metres setback.
        In parts of Australia in 2014 a setback of 2000 metres was made law. In New York State no setback
        distance for this process has been considered safe and the industry has been banned.

        As you are aware, there are people living within 300 metres of both sites and many more living only
        slightly further away. At Roseacre there are 71 homes with 184 people. 29% are over 60, many with
        ill health. 20% are young children. These properties are all within one kilometer of the site. 4,332
        people live within 2 miles of the Little Plumpton site.

        Most wells in the US are single well sites. Set- back distances generally refer to single well
        developments. Roseacre and Preston New Road are proposed to be developed with four wells on
        each site. Four times the emissions, four times the risk of explosion and four times the amount of
        plant and machinery.

        Added to this is the fact that drilling and fracking will be working in tandem for some of the time. Two
        rigs together with supporting plant and equipment. The risks are greatly elevated. The failings at the
        Preese Hall site are evidence that things do not always go to plan. The risks from human error are
        very real. This is a new industry. We are gambling with people’s health.

        By whom and just how is this risk being assessed? Who is looking at safe working practices? Who
        has suggested these are high operating standards? Planning authorities have to be satisfied that
        there is no unacceptable risk to public health. Are people living only a few hundred metres away free
        from risks posed by shale gas development? Guidance from the Environmental Health Perspective
        Report and mandatory set-back distances of two kilometres would suggest otherwise.

        Conclusion

        Section 13 of the National Planning Policy Framework, paragraph 145 states that when determining
        planning applications local authorities should give great weight to the benefits of the mineral
        extraction including the economy. During this inquiry you have heard evidence how these
        developments have limited economic benefits. The weight in this respect is therefore minimal.
        The effects of health must be the first consideration in any planning application. Good health
        benefits everyone and must be given great weighting..

        No imposed conditions could prevent natural occurring volatile gases and toxic fluids returning to
        the surface at these sites. It is hazardous material. That means significant risk.
        Setback distances have a direct relation to public health. I have supplied evidence that there is no
        UK operation standards regarding safe distance. Residents who live within a few hundred metres
        are at significant risk.

        How much weight should we give to people’s rights to stay free from harm and what weight is given
        to the protection of their homes and their livelihoods? Planning requires the proportioning of weight.
        Nothing weighs heavier than protecting people’s health.

        If we are serious about protecting people from harm, we must impose mandatory setbacks based on
        scientific evidence and that these must be non-negotiable.

        The distances between people’s homes and these sites are currently woefully inadequate and cannot guarantee public safety.

        • John – yes, 200m is ridiculous. As is 4km or 1 mile. Did anyone take any notice of your submission above? As you have pointed out, there is no statutory set back distance – for any development in this country. I suppose it’s like saying you want a 20 mile set back distance for a nuclear power station? I agree that setback distances would be useful but some science is required, and a practical distance used that will not automatically rule out any particular activity (which is what you want).

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