Councillors in Nottinghamshire are discussing an application by IGas to drill a shale gas exploration well at Tinker Lane, between Blyth and Torworth.
The council’s planners have recommended approval of the application, subject to 52 conditions, including a restoration bond and legal agreement. The application does not include proposals to frack. Details here
DrillOrDrop is reporting live from the meeting at County Hall so check here for updates.
Application passed by 6 votes to 5
5.58pm: Discussions continue
Cllr Sue Saddington says she’s still not happy about seismic survey data. Despite this issue, members had expressed concerns about dangers of crossing the road. Cllr Saddington said a crossing was essential. We would be allowing this to go ahead with no facilities to cross the road with additional lorries.
I think it should go a crossing should go in the Section 106.
Oliver Meek, planning officer, says the criteria are not met for a crossing and this development is likely to tip the balance because it doesn’t generate enough traffic.
5.45pm: Second request for deferment
Cllr Jason Zadrozny says the reason for requesting more information was reasonable. The seismic survey from 1984 does not take account of mine workings that may have aggravated a fault. I think it is a reasonable reason to ask HSE if its recommendation is as robust as it could be. I have no doubt you have followed the regulations. But I am not confident that I can look residents in the eye if something goes wrong.
We need a deferment to re-consult the HSE and re-evaluate the data they need to make that determination.
If IGas is going to appeal and go for costs that is not the sort of relationship they want to have with us.
Cllr STan Heptinstall says “a perfectly reasonable doubt has arisen. It is not in our remit. To reflect this, can we not add that the HSE will be asked to confirm on all available evidence.”
Cllr John Wilkinson, chair of the committee, says We are perfectly within our rights to append an expression of our concerns regarding the data available on mining in the past.
Cllr Sue Saddington, deputy chair of the committee, says once the application has been approved it doesn’t matter what the concerns are.
Cllr Jim Creamer says if the committee expresses its concerns then the other regulators would look again at the issue.
Cllr Creamer proposes an extra 30 minutes either side of the period of time when lorries don’t pass the school. This is passed by nine votes in favour and two abstentions.
5.33pm: Debate over traffic
Cllr Roy Allan says the crossing point near the school is his main concern. Oliver Meek, planning officer, says lorries can pass through the road without moving on to the pavement. The highways department has not raised concerns about vehicles past the school.
Cllr Steve Calvert asks what would happen if there was a diversion on the A1. Planning officer, Oliver Meek, says it depends where the diversion takes place. The applicant would be expected to work with county council over a diverted route.
5.05pm: Discussion over information
Meeting resumes to discuss the applications.
Cllr John Wilkinson, the chair of the committee, formerly moves the recommend to approve the application with conditions.
Cllr Andy Brown recommends deferral of a decision until the committee has more data on the mine workings in the area.
Cllr Keith Walker backs this recommendation. He says he is worried that IGas is using old data. 3D data would put people’s minds at rest.
Cllr Stan Heptinstall says he understands this is not a matter for the planning committee. It is under the remit of the health and safety part of the application.
Cllr Jim Creamer says he is concerned about the lack of the information. But he says I don’t think asking for a survey is in our planning remit. He proposes moving the time frame for the truck movements.
Cllr Andy Sissons says the age of the data has put doubts in my mind. Should we not seek clarification. Are we making a deliberation on something that will go wrong, he says
Cllr Sue Saddington says I don’t think this is a cop out at all. We are here to be concerned about the residents. I have a definite concern about the HGV route. Mr Boeuf has released new information. We have every right to ask them to check. The residents are not happy that a seismic survey has not been done. If there is nothing to hide, please do it. We are in the dark with some information.
I am not happy to support this application without all the information we need.
Cllr Steve Calvert says the committee should take legal advice.
Cllr Jason Zadrozny says the officers are basing their advice on the consultation with the HSE. He asks: “Were the HSE aware that the data was from 1984.”
Planning officer, Oliver Meek, says minerals planning authorities should assume the other regulatory bodies will operate effectively. One of those bodies is the HSE. Part of that regulatory function is part of the borehole regulations. They require information and assess the boreholes in relation with other boreholes and mines.
I am absolutely satisfied that this aspect is covered by another regulatory body and we can rely on the assessment undertaken by them.
Mr Meek says the HSE independently assesses the borehole design.
Legal officer, Rachel Clack, says it is perfectly right for officers to request more information. For the committee to adjourn to request more information it must be reasonable. The statutory consultees did not consider the information necessary.
Ms Clack says:
If you are minded to defer to seek more information or to refuse that would be likely to attract an appeal. It is highly likely that the Secretary of State would rule that this was not reasonable and this would put the council at risk of quite a considerable risk of a cost aware.
Cllr Wilkinson asks if the committee has the right to ask for the information.
Ms Clack says it is not within the remit of the committee to request the information.
Cllr Wilkinson says a regulatory body may not have information that arisen during this application.
Cllr Zadrozny says the applicant has provided the same information to the HSE as us. We are within our rights to re-consult the statutory consultee.
My assertion is that the HSE did not have the full information.
Cllr Wilkinson asks whether it is within the power of the committee to do that.
Oliver Meeks, planning officer, says the maps the council has seen from the Coal Authority which will be up to date. We have up to date information on coal mining. The HSE has the Coal Authority maps and the 2D seismic surveys.
Rachael Clack says re-consulting a consultee puts the council at risk of a costs award.
Cllr Wilkinson says there is no grounds for asking for a deferral.
4.37pm: Presentation by Cllr Liz Yates, local county councillor
Cllr Yates says there is a great concern and distrust where shale gas exploration may lead in future.
She says she has received comments in support of the application, particularly concerns about energy security.
Should we as a country be exploring all possible energy options?, she asks.
She hopes concerns of people who have been properly addressed. She praises local people who have objected in a professional manner to the application.
She refers to mistrust of IGas about planning breaches and the lack of 3D surveys. But she confirms IGas has organised visits and meetings.
She says she is very concerned about traffic movements to the proposed site. She says the site is remote and is already used by HGV. But she says the 60 mph speed limit is too high. She also raises concerns about HGVs moving through Blyth.
There must be no mistakes if permission is granted, she says. Any breaches must be enforced, she adds.
Mr Meek tells the committee there is no justification for reducing the speed limit.
4.30pm: Response by planning officer, Oliver Meek
Mr Meek says there are no habitats for roosting bats and foraging bats would not be disturbed by the site.
Mr Meek says Planning Practice Guidance for minerals says it up to operators to decide how much data they wish to gather. The safety of the well is regulated by the Health and Safety Executive and we are “duty bound” to follow the advice of other regulators.
Cllr John Wilkinson asks whether it is in the remit of the committee to seek further data or analysis.
Mr Meek replies it is within the remit of the committee to seek data on many issues but the acceptability of the site from a geological point is assessed by the Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority. Relevant consultees have not objected to the planning application, he says.
Cllr Wilkinson says he is concerned that the fullest information has not been sought from the applicant.
We may be allowing something to happen in an area where we don’t have knowledge.
4.23pm: Presentation by Rob Beouf
Mr Boeuff says the IGas 2D seismic data dates from 1984. It should not be relied upon, he says. Some of the 2D data pre-dated mining operations. IGas should be required to do a 3D survey, Mr Boeuff says.
The community’s concern had been referred to at the liaison group and ignored. The choice of site is a bad one and should be rejected. There are better sites, away from homes and with access to the A1. Our communities oppose this application.
4.19pm: Presentation by Bev Fulwood
Ms Fulwood is a member of both community liaison groups for Tinker Lane and Springs Road, Misson. She says the application should be refused because of contamination risk. 5% of wells leak immediately, she says. “I don’t want to drink what is under my sink”, she says, referring to comments by Ken Cronin.
Traffic had not been properly modelled. The site is between two blind bends on a very fast road used by cycling clubs. The risks in Blyth cannot be designed out, she says.
The site had not considered the popularity of cycling in the area. The lack of 3D surveys was for economic reasons, she says. She adds that there should have been a bat survey.
In line with Bassetlaw District and every single survey carried out, please refuse this application, Ms Fulwood says.
4.14pm: Presentation by Peter Wild
Blyth resident Peter Wild, lives just over a mile from the site. He says the village is already “over-trafficked”. My concerns are noise pollution, leakage from the borehole, hazards from the borehole. Radon gas is present in this area. Why has no one picked up these hazards, he asks.
4.11pm: Comment by planning officer
Planning officer, Oliver Meek, says the permission would be subject to a Section 106 agreement, which would take time, currently set for June 2017. Another condition would require implementation of the application within one year.
3.31pm: Questions to John Blaymires, of IGas
Cllr Sue Saddington says
“You say you have support for this application. You don’t have 100% support because we have residents here today who have concerns.
“If you are doing this where I lived I would be anxious too. Why didn’t you go the extra mile and do the seismic surveys. There is nothing to show that the residents have nothing to worry about.You knew they were worried.To go that extra mile would be a great plus for your company.”
The Torworth Parish Councillor referred to the committee as being dysfunctional. If this application is successful you should reinstate the local liaison committee and try to liaise with the residents. Is it functional?
Mr Blaymires says IGas has multiple 2D seismic data. That is sufficient to drill an exploratory borehole. If we were to develop a field, then we would do 3D seismic surve.
Drilling a vertical hole nearly a km away from old coal mines will have no impact on them. There is absolutely no risk. There is a lack of understanding and that is something we try through the community liaison group to help people understand.
There is absolutely no need for 3D seismic surveys to drill this vertical well safely
Mr Blaymires says there is a lot of misinformation out there.
There is a lot of emotion. We talk from a fact-based position. You can’t have a very effective conversation.
We have been operating since the second world war safely. People don’t know we are there. It becomes part of the background.
If we can be accused of anything we can be accused of failing to communicate.
Most of the people who are opposing us are members of the CLG, Mr Blaymires says. We don’t drive the CLG, he adds.
Some of the comments upset me, he says. We have struggled to organise meetings. There hasn’t been the same level of appetite [as at Springs Road, Misson] for meetings.
We would dearly like to have much better relationship, Mr Blaymires say.
I apologise to members of the CLG if they feel they do not trust us.
We are trying to be as open as we can so that people can understand what we are doing
I want to do a good job but I also want to be respected for it.
Committee chair, Cllr John Wilkinson, says I completely accept your faith in wanting to reassure local residents.
I have sat through a perfectly sensible answer to your problem.
If it is about a doubt about a well. If you are doing this five miles away, why not take the option of waiting and show there is no doubt because you have proved everything you said has come true.
Mr Blaymires says 2,000 wells have been drilled safely. At what point do you have to stop proving yourself?
Part of what we are trying to do is quickly understand will the gas commercially flow. The issue of drawing out this period of uncertainty it feeds on itself, it creates more anxiety than it is necessary. One single well is not going to answer the question. To get through that process quickly is the best way to address that anxiety.
The quicker we can get to the answer, the quicker we can get to what a development looks like.
It is very difficult to talk about that until we have got this first stage.
Cllr Jim Creamer asks when work might start if permission were granted.
Mr Blaymires says IGas would want to move “reasonably quickly”, looking towards the end of the year.
Cllr Stan Heptinstall says he finds it “incredible” that IGas believed planning permission was not needed for security cabins on the site. If this application is passed today there will be all sorts of planning conditions.
Local residents want assurance that those conditions will be adhered. Because we’ve seen one instance of it going wrong, we fear there something could go wrong again”
Mr Blaymires replies
“We do not, and never would, do anything that we believed to be illegal.
“Once a site is identified there is a history of people occupying sites. They were a temporary nature. In our understanding we genuinely believed that planning permission was not needed.
IGas operates over 100 sites, Mr Blaymires says. We are monitored and audited on these sites. Every day we are complying with conditions.
Cllr Steve Calvert asks for a 100% assurance there would be no methane leakage. Mr Blaymires says yes but adds it was as 100% as you can get. All we are doing is drilling. There is no pathway for methane to come.
Cllr Jason Zadrozny criticises the company for not knowing about planning permission for the cabins. This does nothing to inspire confidence, he says.It demonstrates that you do not understand planning. Cllr Zadrozny asks for more reassurance of the company’s financial
Mr Blaymires says the company has $31m in the bank. The share price is irrelevant and a reflection of the history of concern about the future of the company. The company was robustly financed.
Cllr Zadrozny invites Mr Blaymire to undertake a voluntary abandonment bond. Mr Blaymires says it operates with the partners of the licence. If any company is in trouble, the other companies have “to step into the shoes”. There is no point in tying up mattes already addressed by the OGA.
Cllr John Wilkinson questions whether the share price is irrelevant. The very notion of a share price is a reflection of a collective view of the robustness of the company.
Mr Blaymires says shareholders are concerned about the share price. Other factors affect the share price, he says.
A substantial amount more shares are about to be issued. That has a immediate impact on diluting the share price, Mr Blaymires says.
Cllr Wilkinson pushes Mr Blaymires on restoration. Mr Blaymires says the surface site restoration lies with the applicant and the landowner. The only recourse i law to planning officers if there is any doubt about the applicant is a site restoration bond.
The site restoration bond would cover the after care, Mr Blaymires says.
Cllr Andy Sissons asks about contamination from dust. Mr Blaymires replies most of the dust is likely to occur during construction and remediation, not during drilling. The company would not be extracting water from the aquifer so it would not affect water levels.
3.20pm: Presentation in support by John Blaymires, IGas
Mr Blaymires is the chief operating officer for IGas.
He says the company is conscious of its role in the local community. It has set up a community liaison group for Tinker Lane. It has met eight times, he says. It has also organised presentations, site visits, web page and exhibitions.
He says the area is no stranger to oil and gas. IGas produces 1,200 barrels a day. It spends £7.5m locally in the previous year. He says:
We have coexisted quietly, sensitively with local communities
This application is subject to the most intensive scrutiny, he adds. Three sets of monitoring boreholes would monitor groundwater and gas before, during and after the development. The result would be
Mr Blaymires says legal advice said IGas did not need planning permission for the cabins. IGas agreed to include a retrospective request in the application, he says.
We would rather not be in a position to fence sites before they become operational but past experience means the company needs to secure site, he says. That is not a decision we take lightly.
Mr Blaymires says any borehole goes through an aquifer at some stage. Of all of those boreholes it is the oil and gas boreholes that are the most regulated and have the highest integrity.
On financial viability, Mr Blaymires says IGas has $31m in reserves.
“We have been extremely thorough”, Mr Blaymires says, “engaging the community at every stage”.
At this stage we are trying to establish if the potential shale gas resources exist in commercial quantities.
All the impacts have been assessed as acceptable or not significant. There is considerable support for the development, Mr Blaymires says.
The development is purely for exploratory purposes and is temporary.
3.19pm: Response by Oliver Meek
Mr Meek says benefits of oil production should not be considered. During construction there would be 20-25 people on site and during drilling 20-30.
3.06pm: Questions to Ken Cronin
Cllr Jason Zadrozny criticises Mr Cronin’s comment that chemicals were “appropriate”. He asks how the industry would benefit the East Midlands and generate wealth.
Mr Cronin says the chemicals are approved by the EA, as non-hazardous to groundwater. They are to make the process more efficient. You will find many of them under your kitchen sink.
Mr Cronin says most of the jobs are created in the supply chain. All of that comes into the 64,000. Those numbers have been developed by EY based on figures from the US and UK.
Cllr Zadrozny asks how many jobs would be created at the site. Mr Cronin says he doesn’t know.
Cllr John Wilkinson asks how many people would work on the Tinker Lane site dealing with the drilling well. Mr Cronin says he should ask
You are an expert sir. With your experience of the industry. How many people would be required to tend this drill?
Somewhere between 20 and 50 on that rig but you would need to ask IGas specifically on this site.
Cllr Stan Heptinstall said the past 10 minutes
We have been treated to a treatise on fracking. This application is not for fracking. As a committee, we have been told the only issues we can consider are about planning.
Not issues about wanting to move forward with gas exploration.
All those who have spoken in opposition, none of them brought up being against fracking and bringing up that as a reason to oppose this application.
I will not be voting on whether fracking is a good idea. I will be voting on what the impact of this application on the local community.
Your speech was totally inappropriate for this particular application.
Cllr Andy Sissons asks about the impact of the level of the aquifer. Mr Cronin says there will be no impact of the level of the water table.
Cllr Jim Creamer asks whether Mr Cronin is a qualified engineer. Mr Cronin explains he works for the trade organisations. He says he has worked in the energy industry for 25 years, mainly on finance and communications.
2.58pm: Presentation in support by Ken Cronin, UK Onshore Oil and Gas
Mr Cronin gives details of the use of gas for heating, cooking and as a feedstock for products.
The neighbourhood of Tinker Lane has 44,000 homes with gas meters. But he says the UK has become more dependent on imports and this is likely to increase in future. Gas use is expected to remain constant over the coming decades.
I believe this country must address the balance and begin producing its own energy again.
Mr Cronin says we need to gather more information. That is is the project before you.
We need to address the moral issues of transporting gas across continents.
The chemicals used would be appropriate. The EA has issued permit for the site. He says isolated incidents in the US do not apply to the UK or to this project.
He quotes UK reports which he says conclude that in a properly regulated industry risk will be minimal and that isolated incidents cannot be applied here.
We believe we can make an investment of £33bn, creating 64,000 jobs but to do this we need to understand the geology beneath us.
He adds that the UK has drilled over 2,000 wells, with 250 active sites, producing enough energy for about 1 million homes.
2.51pm: Questions on issues raised by Rachel Kitchen
Cllr Andrew Brown asks about the quality of the agricultural land and the policy of developing greenfield sites. Oliver Meek, planning officer, says safety is a key consideration.No road safety issues were raised by highways officers, he says.
He says diesel emissions assessed by IGas would not have a significant impact. The design of the wellpad would mean any spillages would be collected. The Environment Agency says any leaks would be such small quantity and concentration to have no impact on groundwater contamination. On air quality, he says, there is a condition for a dust management plan.
54% of the land on the site is in grade 3a and the rest is grade 3. Grade3a is high value agricultural land, Mr Meek says. He says this is a temporary application and a condition requires it be returned to agricultural standard. He says the water table level had been addressed by the EA
2.40pm: Rachel Kitchen, Tinker Lane Community Group
Mrs Kitchen was born on a farm near the site. More than 3,000 people signed an online petition against the plans, later presented to Nottinghamshire County Council.
The road outside the site is used by cycle time trials involving around 40 cyclists at a time.The road has a blind bend on it, she says.
Mrs Kitchen shows photos from the route that lorries to the site would take. She says large HGVs visiting the site would have 8 inches spare on the carriageway on one section of the road through Blyth.
She adds that the area is highly productive. Crop yields are at the top end of the national average, with some,such as potatoes, higher than average.
Her family farm produces good wholesome food, she says. Without producing the highest quality food would mean the farm would go out of business.
The farm draws its water from the underlying aquifer.Mrs Kitchen says the business is concerned about water contamination or a fall in the water table. The crops could also be contaminated by dust settling on it during the drilling process.
These concerns could affect the financial viability of the business, resulting in a loss of local employment.
She urged the committee to consider risks to children and the local community.
2.35: Response by Oliver Meek
Planning officer, Oliver Meek, says this is a vertical well only. The nearest mine working over 900m from the site. The Coal Authority and the Health and Safety Executive have no objection. We are satisfied that the principle of the development is acceptable.
Planning practice guidance says it is a matter for operators to decide how much preliminary data they have before drilling. It is not a requirement for us, he says.
The site access has been considered by the highways authority, which requires suitable visibility splays and this is a condition.
Cllr Sue Saddington says:
The residents of these villages do not have the confidence of IGas.
By doing a 3D seismic survey it might gain the trust of residents. If I was a resident I would not be concerned with planning practice guidance. I would be concerned about my house.
At the end of the day, they have to work with these residents.
We have IGas on one side and the residents on the other and there is an impasse.
Would not 3D seismic surveys be an answer, she asks.
Mr Meek says those questions should be directed to IGas
2.31pm: Answers to Cllr Willis
Cllr John Wilkinson asks Cllr Willis whether if the application were delayed would it deal with local concerns. Cllr Willis said not entirely but it would help IGas prove that it could work with the community and follow the rules. But the mining and traffic would still need to be addressed.
Cllr Wilkinson put it to Cllr Willis that it was a temporary development. Cllr Willis says
We still have strong concerns about mining at Torworth and the surrounding areas. There are published faults going through the Tinkeer Lane. What would happen if the drill hit that fault.
The daily impact of traffic on the life of residents for the peak seven months it would add to the daily misery of getting work and children to school. IGas could be a year or two down the line and these developments need to be taken into consideration.
2.20pm: Presentation by Christie Willis, Torworth Parish Council
Cllr Willis, chair of Torworth Parish Council, says the council was concerned about underground coal workings and subsidence. The area suffers from minor earthquakes and properties suffer from minor subsidence, according to the British Geological Survey. Cllr Willis says:
The last thing we need is to add drilling into this mix.
An IGas geologist has confirmed to villagers the well was near old mine workings, she says. 2D seismic data has not shown a fault identified by an academic geologist, Cllr Willis adds.
We have always been concerned about the lack of 3D seismic surveys of Tinker Lane.
We remain perplexed about why IGas refuses to .
Cllr Willis also refers to concerns about traffic impacts of housing and industrial developments that have been approved around Torworth.
There is still incomplete traffic modelling that needs to be addressed, especially around Blyth.
The addition of the Tinker Lane vehciles makes traffic “completely unmanageable”, Cllr Willis says.She adds that a blind bend on the A634 main road. Opponents have asked for a speed reduction but this has not been added to the condition. There is also no where for protesters to stand, she adds. The situation is made worse by authorised and unauthorised cycle races.
Cllr Willis says the breach of planning permission over the cabins has led to distrust of IGas at a very early stage.
The risks make parish councillors anxious and villagers fearful
How can we find IGas to be trustworthy?.
And why does IGas need another exlporatory well when they already have planning permission five miles away at Springs Road, MIsson.
This would allow IGas to fix relationships within the Tinker Lane area.
2.10pm: Response by Oliver Meek
Planning officer, Oliver Meek, refers the committee to the cumulative impacts section in his report. He says Highways England and the Highways Authority have no concerns about the capacity of the road network. Mr Meek says future developments would be completed after the end of the permission for Tinker Lane.
The shale gas company was offering to avoid peak school hours. Mr Meek says the council hasn’t looked at the popularity of after-school activities. Cllr Jason Zadrozny recommended an extra 30 minutes on the condition requiring lorries to avoid the school.
1.59pm: Questions to Cllr Peter Thompson, Blyth Parish Council
Cllr Stan Heptinstall asks whether the officers’ traffic predictions were based on old data.
Cllr Thompson says there has been a massive increase in traffic through the village. All traffic goes past the school and pre-school.
He says: The advice given to Bassetlaw District Council in July this year was that unless something was done we would have severe traffic problems. We think it is already severe.
Cllr John Wilkinson asks whether it made any difference that this was a temporary development.
Cllr Thompson says the intensive period would be for seven weeks. But he says it adds to large amounts of traffic already there, would go past the school and the difficult of navigating mini-roundabouts in the village.
Cllr Jason Zadrozny asks about the liaison group and alternatives to traffic times. Cllr Thompson says the traffic movements should take into account the breakfast and after-school club. He says the Blyth Memorial Hall is used regularly and there has been no consideration for how the risks of people using that.
Cllr Thompson says part of the community liaison group has been very useful. But there had been lots of little measures that had meant it had fallen into disrepute. There was the issue of the temporary cabins, the cancellation of a meeting with the Environment Agency after attendance was expanded.
The community is well and truly against it.
Cllr Steve Calvert asks about methods for controlling traffic speeds. Cllr Thompson says there is a 20mph limit, advisory outside school hours, an interactive sign on the edge of the village and speed traps.
Cllr Calvert asks whether the survey was about the Tinker Lane development or fracking. Cllr Thompson says the door-door survey was about the Tinker Lane development. A petition collected on Saturday was about fracking.
1.48pm: Opposition presentation: Peter Thompson
Cllr Peter Thompson, member of Blyth Parish Council, makes the first presentation against the application.
He shows the committees pictures of lorries in Blyth. We know there is a cumulative impact of lorry traffic. They will become severe to the detriment of residents, Cllr Thompson says.
He says industrial development north of the village could start as early as next year. The A1 hub was approved this month. Quarries at Barnby Moor and Botany Bay already have an impact, he says. Traffic at the Thievesdale Lane residential and industrial development in Worksop and possible vehicles from the Misson shale gas site could also come through Blyth. Vehicles from Tinker Lane would make this worse.
Cllr Thompson says a breakfast club at the school starts at 7.40am. A pre-school on the high street is active five mornings a week and has not been taken into account, he adds.
Last year, the highway authority forecast queueing on Blyth high street.
Cllr Thompson says there should be no pressure tests without a 3D seismic survey.
He says there are concerns about the viability of the company. The share price had fallen from more than £1 to 5p in over a year. Cllr Thompson calls for a bond that would fund the after care. It shouldn’t be so expensive to cover that risk if they are so low.
70% of people surveyed in Blyth opposed the development. 12% supported and 19% didn’t know. At the weekend, people queued in the street to sign a petition against the development.
The applicant has disregarded the planning rules on the cabins at Tinker Lane.
“The past 14-months, I have been on the community liaison group. But I have grave doubts. There are four members of that group to make presentations against the application. This is not a good start to win the local community’s trust.”
1.10pm: Committee breaks for lunch
Meeting resumes at 1.45pm
12.37pm: Questions to planning officer
Cllr Stan Heptinstall asks what activity taking place on the site and why was it happening without planning permission.
Planning officer, Oliver Meek, says cabins have been on site since October 2015. They are there without the benefit of planning permission and they are unauthorised. He says they are for security. The application seeks permission for those cabins retrospectively.The council would require them to be removed if permission was not granted.
In response to another question on abandonment bonds, Mr Meek says the Oil and Gas Authority review finances before offering PEDL licences, before drilling takes place and during activities. They can require other measures to ensure abandonment can be carried out. Because those measures are in place, planners believed there are not exceptional reasons for a bond. But Mr Meek says those securities are not extended to the surface level elements and a bond was needed to ensure the surface would be restored.
Cllr Jason Zadrozny asked about noise at the nearest properties, which was close to the threshold. Mr Meek says it was close but was below the threshold in the guidance.
Cllr John Wilkinson asks what happens if there is any difference between soil samples taken before and after operations. Mr Meek says the design of the development requires an impermeable wellpad. Spillages would go to the surface water tank and taken offsite. We don’t any contamination of the soil. Testing is there to confirm there has been no failure of the protection measures, he says.
Cllr Wilkinson also asks whether other partner companies are jointly liable, if anything happened to the operator. Mr Meek says the planning authority can take action only against the operator or, it is not in existence, against the landowner. The authority could not take action against partners.
Cllr Sue Saddington asks what guarantees would be given to ensure planning conditions were not granted. She says the failure to enforce the lack of planning permission for the cabins does not give much confidence to the committee.
Tim Turner, the council’s enforcement officer, says any conditions would be monitored. If there was a breach, this would be enforced. He says the cabins were investigated. The officers were aware that a planning application was in process, requesting permission for the cabins. On balance it was decided to wait for the application to come to the committee, he says. There had been no long-term harm, he adds.
Cllr Saddington also asks why the abandonment bond was not in the conditions. Mr Meek says restoration is required before the end of the planning permission. The purpose of the restoration bond would be to provide money to restore the site if it is not done by the applicant. There is an application for surface restoration. Abandonment is covered by the OGA and there are no exceptional circumstances.
Cllr Saddington says she wants a definite financial bond on any permission.
Cllr Wilkinson says there is a bond for above ground but not for below ground.
Cllr Andy Sissons (left) asked about what would happen if noise levels were exceeded.
Mr Meek replied drilling noise would be 40-41db at the nearest home. Drilling would be below the 42dB guideline. To be satisfied, he says noise monitoring should be carried out for the first week of drilling to ensure levels are not exceeded. If noise levels are being exceeded and measures can’t be put in place work could be stopped.
He also asked about why a 3D seismic survey had not been carried out and that drilling would be trough an aquifer. Mr Meek is there is not a requirement for 3D seismic survey. It is up to the operator how much information they choose to gather before drilling. Many wells have been drilled without 3D surveys. The nearest coalmining is 930m from the site. The Coal Authority has not raised objections, Mr Meeks says.
On the aquifer, Mr Meeks says there is an important aquifer beneath the site. The Sherwood Sandstone is a principal aquifer. The well would be drilled through the aquifer. The Environment AGency has stated the concentration of drilling fluid would be so low as to eliminate risk to water quality.
Cllr Steve Calver (right) asks about the temporary nature of the development.
Mr Meek says the drilling for four months is regarded as temporary and so the impact on the landscape was considered acceptable
Cllr Stan Heptinstall asks about HGVs in Blyth. This was said to be “less than substantial harm”. This sounds to me like moderate harm, Cllr Heptinstall says. John Mann MP was concerned about the traffic impact on Blyth village, Cllr Heptinstall says.
Mr Meek says his quote was referring to the impact on the conservation value of Blyth. The term he used is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, he adds. The traffic impact on Blyth has been assessed, he says. There are no concerns about highway capacity.
Cllr Heptinstall asks if this has taken account of other developments. Mr Meek says the assessment has taken account of other industrial developments and existing quarrying and potential extensions. He says they are unlikely to come online during this development, which is temporary.
12.35pm: Planning officer – Summary
Oliver Meek, planning officer, says the application has been subject to detailed scrutiny. All impacts were either assessed as acceptable or not significant when set against the great weight in favour of hydrocarbon exploration. The recommendation is to approve.
12.32pm: Planning officer -Financial liability
Oliver Meek, planning officer, says many objectors raised concerns about the financial viability of IGas. He says the Oil and Gas Authority has the power to require financial document from a company and can require action by the operator to satisfy financial liability. Mr Meek says there are steps in place to protect the plugging and abandonment of the well and so a bond is not recommended for this work.
But the OGA has no powers over the surface. He says the planning authority is satisfied there are exceptional circumstances for the restoration of the site surface. This is based on the latest financial information on the company and guidance.
12.32pm: Planning officer – Cumulative impacts
None had been identified, says planning officer, Oliver Meek.
12.31pm: Planning officer – Leisure and tourism
The impacts would be considered temporary and therefore not significant, Oliver Meek, planning officer tells the committee.
12.29pm: Planning officer – Climate Change and health
Planning officer, Oliver Meek, says many comments had been received on climate change grounds but he says emissions would be low and limited to traffic.
He says the proposed development met the NPPF on health concerns.
12.28pm: Planning officer – Lighting
Planning officer, Oliver Meek, says lighting would have the biggest impact on local people during drilling, when the rig would be lit. But the effects were not considered unacceptable.
12.26: Planning officer – Landscape impacts
Planning officer, Oliver Meek, says a 60m drilling rig would have the biggest impact on the landscape.
Six viewpoints would have moderate impact. None would have significant impact because the rig would be temporary.
There would be “very slight harm”, according to the developer, to heritage assets, Mr Meek says.
The council concludes the lorry traffic would cause less than significant harm to the Blyth Conservation Area.
12.21pm: Planning officer – Air quality and noise
Mr Meek, planning officer, says there will be no air quality impacts at the “human receptors”.
Noise levels would depend on the rig chosen, Mr Meek says. Noise from the noisiest rig at the nearest homes would be below the 42dB limit set in planning guidance for night time noise.
During construction, noise at the nearest property could reach 55dB. This would meet the planning threshold, Mr Meek says. Conditions would require a noise management plan, working hour restrictions and required action if noise levels are exceeded.
The council has concluded noise from the site would not be unacceptable. Vibration is expected to be imperceptible for nearby homes.
12.19pm: Planning officer – Water issues
Mr Meek, planning officer, says the design of the well and the site would prevent contamination of groundwater. There have been no objections from Anglian Water, Environment Agency or Health and Safety Executive. Soil contamination testing will be required.
A late representation suggested sensitive invertebrates in local watercourses could be monitored. Mr Meek says there are no water courses and the council considers there are significant risks from the site to water quality.
12.17pm: Planning officer – Ecology
Mr Meek says no statutorily designated sites will be adversely affected. The site is acceptable to species including bats, badgers, repitiles. No bird survey had been carried out, he says, but it is accepted that most birds would be common. Hobby and corn bunting could be affected. But a condition would prevent drilling during the bird breeding season, unless a survey had showed no evidence of breeding Hobby.
12.14pm: Planning officer – Traffic issues
Planning officer, Oliver Meek, says the highest number of lorry journeys would be during site construction and restoration. The impact of traffic is consider acceptable, Mr Meek says. Conditions of a permission would include avoiding school drop off and pick up times, traffic route, driver code of conduct, maximum weekly journeys.
Mr Meek says the development complies with the National Planning POlicy Framework on traffic issues.
The primary school has said increased traffic would deter people from walking or cycling to school. Mr Meek says there will be condition on lorry hours.
12.11pm: Planning officer – Role of regulators
Planning officer, Oliver Meek, describes the different responsibilities of the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive, Oil and Gas Authority and the mineral planning authority.
Mineral planning authority should rely on the assessment of other regulatory bodies.
Mr Meek says a late comment sets out regulatory failures elsewhere. Another comment, from the primary school, 2,5km away, says it will have to undertake a risk assessment if the application is approved.
12.09pm: Letter from John Mann MP
John Mann MP has written to the council. He says: local people should have a final say on the location. Fracking should go ahead only with the consent of local people, he adds.
There are specific traffic issues on this site, which have been not accounted for, Mr Mann says. He says lorry traffic from two quarries will be made worse by vehicles from the shale gas site. Traffic is a key issue, Mr Mann adds, even though it is not for fracking.
A full traffic assessment should be undertaken and put to local people. They should also have a say over the rig and the working hours. He calls for a delay on the application for these issues to be discussed by residents.
Mr Meek, planning officer, says no additional issues have been raised in Mr Mann’s letter.
12.05pm: Comments on the application
Mr Meek says there have been 797 comments on the application, all but four wee objections. Most were from the nearby area. A 2,869-name petition was presented to the council opposing the application. Another 150+ objections were received since the officers wrote their report, Mr Meek says.
11.55am: Planners’ presentation
Planning officer, Oliver Meek, begins presentation to the committee on the application.
He says the application is for a single shale gas well on land off the A634 road. The site is between Barnby Moor, Blyth and Torworth. The A1 is just over a mile away.
Two cabins are currently on the site, without planning permission, Mr Meek says.
Mr Meek says the site is in PEDL200 and would be operated by Dart Energy (East England), an IGas subsidiary. He describes the phases of the operation.
Phase 1: Construction
3 sets of up to three monitoring boreholes each; stripping of top soil, creation of bond and drainage ditches; wellhead cellars; 2.5m boarding and 2m heras fencing. 12 weeks
Phase 2: Drilling
4 months. Single borehole of up to 3,300m. 1,300m3 of drill cuttings would be generated, which would be stored before disposal. A water-based drilling mud would be used in drilling through the Sherwood Sandstone. Deeper sections of the well would use an oil-based drilling mud. IGas cannot say which drilling rig would be used and so the application has been assessed on a worst-case scenario. The Bolton 92 model would measure 60m high. Drilling be 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
The logging programme would include vertical seismic surveying. This would be carried out under permitted development. A pressure determination test would 10 holes in the casing, to test the strength of the rocks. Water would be pumped in at low pressure. The perforations would then be isolated.
Phase 3: Well suspended
This phase could last up to two years for analysis of findings. Surface equipment would be removed from the site
Phase 4: Abandonment
The site would be cleared and restored. The well would be abandoned under industry requirements.
11.50am: Meeting reconvenes
Cllr John Wilkinson, committee chairman reconvenes committee to consider Tinker Lane application.
Representatives of IGas and opponents of the application take their seats in the council chamber
10am: Meeting opens
Nottinghamshire County Council’s planning and licensing committee meeting opens to consider two non-shale planning applications
9.30am: Opponents gather outside
Opponents of the scheme gathering outside County Hall