Live updates from day 5 of the public inquiry into plans by Egdon Resources to produce oil from its site at Wressle in Lincolnshire.
Today’s session is expected to hear the cross-examination of Egdon’s planning witness, Paul Foster.
Egdon is appealing against refusals of planning permission by North Lincolnshire Council in January and July 2017. The company is seeking permission for 15 years of production at Lodge Farm, Clapp Gate, Appleby. The proposals include the use of two production techniques, proppant squeeze and acidisation.
For a summary of the arguments from last week, click here.
The inquiry, at Grange Farm Hobbies Centre, in Scunthorpe, is expected to last until tomorrow (15 November 2017).
The inquiry resumes at 12.50pm to discuss conditions. DrillOrDrop will be reporting from the inquiry on Wednesday 15 November 2017 for closing statements
Appeal on extension of planning permission
In July 2017, North Lincolnshire Council refused an application by Egdon Resources an extension of time to restore the Wressle well site. Egdon appealed against this refusal and it has become known as “Appeal C”.
Alan Evans for the council says if the production appeals were allowed there would be permission in place for extended restoration of the well site and there would be no harm to allow the extension.
If the appeals on production were not allowed, Mr Evans says, there would be harm in allowing retention of the well site. There is a well site with a liner in open countryside, he says. Sites should be restored as soon as possible, he says.
Richard Glover, for the company, says if the production appeals were refused there would not be harm to warrant refusal of the extension. There is no evidence to substantiate harm, he says. Paul Foster, for Egdon, says the company is seeking an extension to April 2018. It should be decided on its individual merits.
12.25 The company’s case
Richard Glover, for Egdon Resources, says the application for an extension of planning permission was submitted after the first production scheme had been refused.
The council refused the application for extension because it is contrary to M21 of the local plan, Mr Glover says.
Paul Foster, Egdon’s planning consultant, says the original planning permission expired on 28 April 2017. It had no choice but to apply for an extension when the first application for production was refused in January 2017.
Mr Glover says a significant amount of capital investment had been made in the site.
“It seems perverse that this should be done away with.”
He says retention of the site does not give rise to any adverse environmental impacts and no evidence had been provided by the council.
“We cannot find any breach of policy”, Mr Glover says.
12.18 The council’s case
Alan Evans, for North Lincolnshire Council, says the council is not seeking enforcement action against Egdon Resources. But he says there is no good reason to allow an extension of time for restoration after the council refused permission for the production schemes.
If the schemes were refused by the inspector, there would be no good reason to extend the planning permission, Mr Evans says. Restoration should be carried out at the earliest opportunity. This is an open countryside site that now has a well site on it, he says.
This stands and falls on the substantive cases, Mr Evans says.
11.52am Public statement
Gayzer Frackman describes his experiences following fracking in Lancashire by Cuadrilla in 2011 and the company’s operation at Preston New Road
Mr Frackman says the conditions are being breached on a daily basis in Lancashire and regulation by email is not working. Campaigners and residents are forced to keep watch of breaches of conditions.
The result of an appeal hearing 11 weeks ago against the permission granted for Preston New Road is expected soon, he says.
He says he is attending the inquiry to support friends against what he says will be a threat to their health. The Environment Agency said at a meeting in Broughton there would not be hydraulic fracturing. It was acidising, he says, which he described as a way to get round planning rules.
If we have no faith in our regulators, how can we allow this toxic industry to continue, Mr Frackman says.
Mr Frackman says “No one should suffer to heat my home or put food on my table.”
He says diesel-burning trucks associated with oil and gas wells are contributing to air quality problems and damage to roads. Pumps and other equipment add to the damage and make it less likely to reach climate targets.
Mr Frackman refers to research on methane emissions from shale gas production wells. He also mentions the tests set by the Committee on Climate Change on shale gas development for it to be compatible with UK climate commitments.
He gives details to the inquiry of breaches by Cuadrilla of planning and permit conditions, none of which led to enforcement action. Examples include deliveries were made outside agreed hours and to agreed routes. Run-off from the site has led to silt reaching a brook. A wheel wash was never on the site. Mud from a jet wash was deposited on the road.
“We have no faith in them. I have to go to the site tonight to keep an eye on them. None of the enforcement is going on”.
Mr Frackman urged the inspector:
“Learn the lessons learned from Preston New Road and please ensure that all conditions are enforced to give peace of mind to residents”.
11.44am Public statement
Mr Roberts says he has a long-term concern about climate change. Known global fossil fuels are around three times higher than the level needed to limit global warming to 2 degrees C.
A third of oil reserves, half of gas and over 80% of coal reserves should remain unused from 2010-2050 to meet the 2 degrees C limit, Mr Roberts says.
Policy makers instincts to exploit domestic fossil fuels are inconsistent with commitments to limit warming.
2017 is set to be one of the three warmest years on record, Mr Roberts says. No unconventional extraction of oil, including the Wressle well, should be permitted, he says.
Richard Glover, for Egdon, says the extraction is unconventional. Mr Roberts says there is debate about that. But he says any new sources should remain in the ground.
11.30am New Edgon documents
Mark Abbott, managing director, Egdon Resources
Union objection Mr Abbott says responses from Community and GMB have no objection to the proposed application at a national level.
Elizabeth Williams says local level convenors at British Steel in Scunthorpe had supported the Unison stand against the proposed production at Wressle.
Use of acid at Crosby Warren Mr Abbott presents an extract of well documents from RTZ at the Crosby Warren site. This confirms matrix acid washes have been carried out with a 3% dilute hydrofluoric acid solution, he says. This level of solution is routinely used to clean brickwork, he says.
Jean Turner puts it to Mr Abbott that she researched all three companies which had explored for oil at Crosby Warren. I have every document dealt with by councils, she says. There is no evidence of any acid use at Crosby Warren. The depth of the wells in the Crosby Warren document submitted by Egdon is different from the planning applications submitted to local authorities, Mrs Turner says.
Mr Abbott says the wells would have been drilled deeper than the zones that were treated with acid.
Elizabeth Williams asks whether acid squeeze is of a different magnitude of mud acid jobs and acid washes. Mr Abbott says the acid squeeze will use pressure, with acid frack at a higher fracture gradient than the rock. Mr Abbott says an acid wash is proposed at Wressle, under the fracture gradient of the rock.
Ms Williams says why the Environment Agency refers to it as a acid squeeze. Mr Abbott says it is an acid wash.
Gayzer Frackman asks why are there three different names. Mr Abbott says Egdon was not involved with the Crosby Warren acid operations. He says the best description of work at Wressle is a “mud acid matrix wash”.
The inquiry resumes at 11.30am with a round-table discussion
10.58am Egdon Resources case
Re-examination of Paul Foster, planning director, Barton Willmore
Air quality Richard Glover, for Egdon Resources, refers to the second planning committee hearing and a report submitted on air quality. Mr Foster says the council’s environmental health department and the Environment Agency had no concerns. The company had addressed the issues, he says.
Harm Mr Foster is asked whether there is any evidence to support the council’s case that the proposed development would cause substantial harm. He says he has not seen any. Mr Foster says there was no evidence put to the inquiry to demonstrate that there would be unacceptable impacts.
10.52am Egdon Resources case
Questions from the inspector, Keri Williams, to Paul Foster, planning director, Barton Willmore
Gas production Mr Williams refers to benefits of the scheme, including gas production. This is not yet known, Mr Williams suggests. Mr Foster agrees.
Storage Chemical storage is described as an HGV trailer. This could be dealt with by conditions, Mr Williams asks. Mr Foster agrees.
Landscape On impact on the landscape, Mr Williams questions this if production continues for 15 years. Mr Foster says the council has agreed with Egdon’s assessment.
Objections Mr Williams asks how Mr Foster’s comment that most objectors lived outside the area was relevant to his decision. Mr Foster says it was a fact and accepts it is not relevant
Scale of find Mr Williams asks whether the development, if successful, would be small or large-scale. Mr Foster says there is a proven 2 million barrels, which would be a significant find.
Council decision-making Mr Williams asks how the council’s process was relevant. Mr Foster says it was relevant to costs.
10.43am Egdon Resources case
Questions from the public to Paul Foster, planning director, Barton Willmore
Elizabeth Williams refers to inadequacies in the Richard Elliott report for Egdon. She asks whether this has a bearing on the AECOM report on ecology and enhancements for water voles, bats and nesting birds. Mr Foster says the council’s ecology officer accepted provisions in the report were appropriate and proportionate. There were no objections from Natural England or Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust on this
If the hydrogeological mitigation is called into question, is the AECOM recommendations not now in question, Ms Williams asks. Mr Foster says he doesn’t accept the Elliott report is in question. The AECOM report is fine, he adds.
Ms Williams says the AECOM report looks only at flora and fauna, She asks whether there is any assessment on human health. Mr Foster says there is no specific human health impact assessment submitted with either application. But he says health has been considered in reports on noise, traffic and air quality assessments.
Ms Williams says pollution has been measured for flora and fauna but she asks how has pollution impact been assessed for human health. Mr Foster says there has been assessment of traffic and flare emissions. The conclusions of all the technical reports on air quality, traffic and noise concludes there will be negligible impact on the environment and therefore on human health, he says. The inspector says Egdon has accepted that there isn’t a human health impact.
Jean Turner asks whether Mr Foster’s evidence was sent to the Environment Agency. It wasn’t he says.
9.37am Egdon Resources Case
Cross-examination of Paul Foster, planning director, Barton Willmore
Alan Evans, barrister for North Lincolnshire Council, puts it to Mr Foster that the inspector will look at all the evidence before him at the inquiry.
Mr Foster says he inquiry looks at the evidence before the council at the two committee meetings and at the inquiry hearing.
Mr Evans says the inspector is entitled to refuse the appeal on the basis of evidence that may not have been before the council committee meetings. Mr Foster says if the evidence conflicted with the development plan, the inspector should look at national planning policy. Great weight is given to policies on mineral development in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), he says. Mr Evans puts it to him that a dismissal of the appeal could be based on evidence available now even though it was not available to the council. Mr Foster agrees.
“Right information” for decision-making
Mr Evans refers to paragraph 121 of the NPPF deals with protection of the natural environment. It requires adequate site investigation prepared by a qualified person. Mr Evans says this is an example of making decisions on the right information. Mr Foster agrees.
Mr Evans say the concerns in this case about the adequacy of the site investigation for laying a liner. That falls within the requirement of “adequate site information”. Mr Foster says I don’t agree with the council’s case. I believe Egdon has presented adequate site information.”
Mr Evans says that issue falls within paragraph 121 for consideration by the inquiry. Mr Foster agrees.
Decisions on new information
Mr Evans puts it to Mr Foster, the council has identified to Egdon what it considers to be short-comings in providing information. Mr Foster says this was done after the event, during the appeal process. Mr Evans says this inspector is not in the same position at the council, because Egdon has been given the opportunity to address information deficiencies.
Mr Foster says there are two issues: decisions made by the council on the information it had and the information available now.
Environment Agency advice
Mr Foster agrees that the council does not have to accept the guidance of the Environment Agency, provided it has evidence to back up its decision.
Mr Evans put it to Mr Foster that the inspector must take account of the environmental permit issued to Egdon but he is free to take a different view if he considers that the evidence justifies this. Mr Foster agrees.
Evidence of harm
Mr Evans refers to the NPPF guidance on environmental harm. There are two parts, he says. One is about unacceptable risk and the other deals with unacceptable levels of pollution. Mr Foster agrees. The planning system can operation on the basis of risk, Mr Evans suggests. Mr Foster agrees.
Mr Evans refers to the advice in planning practice guidance on minerals (PPGM) on what issues can be left to other regulatory regimes but may be relevant to planning authorities. The issue of groundwater and mitigation of problems is characterised as risk, Mr Evans suggests. Mr Foster agrees.
Mr Evans suggests that if a planning authority can concern itself with groundwater risk, there is no reason why the authority should not apply the precautionary principle, also applied by the Environment Agency. Mr Foster agrees.
Risk from hydrocarbon development
Mr Evans says planning permission for exploration does not establish a principle of production. Mr Foster agrees. Paragraph 147 of the National Planning Policy Framework distinguishes between exploration, appraisal and production, he says. Mr Foster agrees that the fact that exploratory drilling has taken place at a site is material only in that establishes the presence of hydrocarbon resources.
Mr Evans says local policy M21 on minerals production aligns with paragraph 120 of planning practice guidance on minerals (PPGMM). Mr Foster agrees.
Anglian Water letter
Mr Evans refers to a letter from Anglian Water, submitted to the first planning committee. This letter refers back to a May 2016 report by Richard Elliott on risk assessment, raised earlier in the inquiry.
If there were limitations to that Elliott document, Mr Evans suggests, they would have to be taken into account when deciding how much weight should be given to the Anglian Water letter. Mr Foster says this would depend on whether the Elliott document was deficient.
Mr Evans says the two sides agree that the development plan policies deserve full weight. Mr Foster agrees. The key issue is whether the proposal accords with the development plan policies. Mr Foster agrees, though says national policy must also be taken into account.
Local policy on minerals
Mr Foster referred in his evidence to local policy M1 on general minerals development. It was not given as a reason for refusal. Policies M21, 22 and 23 refer to oil and gas.
Mr Evans says M23 refers to the production phase. Mr Evans suggests that a specific policy should have more weight than a general question. Mr Foster says all the policies play a part. Mr Evans puts it to him that the specific policy on that form of development should have more weight. Mr Foster says “I’m not sure that’s right.”
Mr Evans suggests that if the inspector were to share the view that M1 was complied with but M23 was not, he should take the view that the development plan was not complied because M23 was the most specific. Mr Foster says part of policy M1 are linked to policy M23. The policies are consistent, he says.
Mr Evans says visual and amenity impact, covered in part of policy M1, do not cover all impacts from an oil and gas development. Mr Foster says references to water and detrimental environmental conditions is covered by amenity.
Mr Evans puts it to Mr Foster that policy M23 does not refer to amenity, but to environmental protection measures required to mitigate impacts. Mr Foster agrees.
Local policy DS15, which deals with water resources, was one of the policies used to justify refusal of Egdon applications. The policy spells out, Mr Evans says, that mitigation must reduce impacts to acceptable levels. Mr Foster agrees and that the policy deals with groundwater. 50% of the local population rely on water from groundwater aquifers, Mr Evans says, and British Steel draws on water from a local borehole.
This makes groundwater particularly relevant to a local authority, Mr Evans suggests. Mr Foster agrees.
Land drainage policy
Mr Evans says policy DS13 is titled groundwater protection and land drainage. Egdon argues that it is just a land drainage policy. Mr Evans suggests the title suggests groundwater has an independent role. Mr Foster says the title gives the reader a general idea of what the policy is about.
Mr Evans says there is little information in the explanatory text which suggests that groundwater protection contributes to the control of water in the land drainage system.
Mr Evans refers to policy CS18 of the Core Strategy. This is about sustainable resource use and climate change. It seeks to improve the quality of air, land and water. Mr Evans puts it to Mr Foster that there is no reason why groundwater should not be included. Mr Foster agrees.
9.30am Inquiry resumes
Richard Glover, for Egdon, hands in new documents to the inspector. He says documents from the GMB and Community unions state that Martin Foster, of the UNITE union, was not speaking on their behalf.
Another document, Mr Glover says, provides historic evidence that hydrofluoric acid was used as a well treatment process at the Crosby Warren oil well in north Lincolnshire
This report has been made possible by the individual donations of DrillOrDrop readers