The first bid for shale gas exploration in Derbyshire will not need a formal environmental impact assessment, the county council confirmed today.
The decision clears the way for INEOS, the company behind the plans, to submit a full planning application.
INEOS wants to drill a vertical well at the site, at Bramleymoor Lane, near the village of Marsh Lane in north Derbyshire.
The plans have led to an active campaign against drilling and fracking in the area.
A local campaign group, Eckington Against Fracking, described the decision as “a very sad day for Marsh Lane”. But it vowed to fight the plans and a spokesperson said villagers would “stand in front of the bulldozers” if they had to.
Late April submission
INEOS told DrillOrDrop it now expected to submit a planning application for Bramleymoor Lane in late April 2017.
This is likely to be the first of what the company said would be “a number of applications” in its licence areas in the East Midlands, NW England and Yorkshire this year.
Derbyshire County Council said it had concluded that the potential impacts of the well on ecology, air quality, water quality, traffic and visual landscape would not be likely to have “significant effects on the environment”.
Mike Ashworth, the council’s Strategic Director for Economy, Transport and Communities, said:
“The county council has a legal obligation to decide on planning applications about fracking in Derbyshire. Our planning committee considers each planning application on its individual merits and is impartial.
“As with any other planning application, each planning decision it makes is based on objective analysis of evidence, taking into account local and national planning policies and the relevant comments of official consultees – such as parish councils – and the public.
“We have already received many emails and letters from residents about the proposed drilling well and all these views will be taken into consideration by our planning committee.”
Tom Pickering, INEOS Shale Operations Director, said:
“We are very pleased that the latest step in the process has now been completed.
“While we are not required to complete a formal EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment], all relative environmental concerns will be addressed as part of the application and we are looking forward to continuing to work with the Council and community to discuss these as the project moves forward.”
“They have picked on the wrong village”
David Kesteven, of Eckington Against Fracking, said he was very disappointed by the EIA news.
“I find it difficult to believe that the council has taken this decision”.
He said it meant that a planning application for Bramleymoor Lane was now much closer. But he said the campaign against INEOS’s plan was “going very well”. On Saturday, more than 400 people took part in a march from Mosborough, near Sheffield, to Marsh Lane.
Mr Kesteven said:
“They have picked on the wrong village. Tom Pickering said he will continue to consult with the community. If he does listen to the community, he will pack up and go. There is nothing in this application for the community except noise and traffic. There is no money and no jobs.
“We will not give up. The development is too near the village.
“We have seen what is happening at Preston New Road [Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in Lancashire] and we don’t want that here. We will stand in front of the bulldozers if we have to but we don’t want this.”
INEOS said its application would include an environmental report looking at impacts on water, ecology, noise, landscape and visual impacts and cultural heritage, the company said.
It said the well would be used to collect samples to analyse the structure and gas content of underlying rocks. At an information meeting in January 2017, the company said it would not be asking permission to carry out hydraulic fracturing at the site at this stage – but it did not rule out applying to do this later.
The county council’s Mike Ashworth said an EIA may be needed if INEOS decided to apply for any other planning permission.
INEOS has said it plans to drill up to 19 vertical core wells in its exploration licence areas. It said it may then test the production potential of up to 11 sites. This would involve drilling one or two horizontal wells at each site and fracking them (source).