Regulation

INEOS Harthill shale gas well recommended for refusal

Common Road Harthill Paul Rowland

Common Road, Harthill. Photo: Paul Rowland

The first INEOS shale gas site to come before a council planning meeting has been recommended for refusal.

A report by Rotherham planners published this afternoon has advised against the proposals at Harthill on highway safety and ecological grounds.

The site, off Common Road, is on a narrow single-track lane in the Green Belt and within a local wildlife site.

INEOS’s application to drill and pressure test a 2,800m well, is due to be discussed by Rotherham Council’s planning board next week (25 January 2018). But the final decision will be made after a public inquiry because INEOS has appealed over the council’s non-determination of its plans (DrillOrDrop report).

“Unsuitable route”

10 tonne lorry on Common Road Harthill Paul Rowland

Common Road, Harthill. Photo: Paul Rowland

This afternoon’s report said the proposed route to the site, along narrow country lanes, was unsuitable for what it called the “significant increase in commercial vehicular traffic”.

The planners said the stated width of the some of the abnormal loads that would visit the site was greater than the distance between the boundary hedges on part of the route.

They also said the limited informal passing places on the route would not allow a standard sized car to pass a large commercial vehicle.

Rotherham’s highways unit said it could not support the application. It also raised concerns about restricted visibility, adverse alignment and lack of separate pedestrian facilities.

The report concluded:

“The development, if implemented, would therefore increase the risk of vehicular conflict with vulnerable road users and other vehicles to the detriment of road safety, contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework which expects developments to include safe and suitable access for all people.”

The report said the measures proposed by INEOS, including one-way traffic signs and banksmen directing traffic, would “not satisfactorily address the road safety concerns”. It added:

“Vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and horse-riders would be particularly at risk along those parts of the route where there is no verge.”

“Wildlife information deficient”

The report also recommended refusal because it said the ecological information in the application was deficient.

The council’s ecologist had refuted INEOS’s argument that the impact on wildlife would be “not significant”.

The officer raised 17 concerns about the company’s application, including a lack of a breeding bird survey, insufficient details about bats and a habitat survey carried out in January during temperatures when key species were less likely to be active.

The application did not identify ancient woodlands or nearby sites of scientific interest (930m and 1,146m away), the ecologist said. The habitat survey had not identified conservation headlands, which are useful for ground nesting birds and small mammals. Nor did it provide a plant list. The application did not give the names and credentials of the people who carried out the surveys.

The ecologist also commented that INEOS had not contacted Derbyshire Biological Records Centre. More detailed surveys of birds, badgers and bats were recommended before the application could be approved.

The planners concluded:

“The applicant has not sufficiently demonstrated that the development can satisfactorily mitigate the potential for harm to the ecology of the surrounding rural environment, contrary to paragraph 118 of the National Planning Policy Framework which indicates that if significant harm resulting from a development cannot be avoided then planning permission should be refused.”

1,300+ objections

Common Road Harthill Harthill Against Fracking

Photo: Harthill Against Fracking

The planners said there had been objections from Harthill and Woodall and Thorpe Salvin parish councils, Friends of the Earth, CPRE and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

There were also about 1,300 public objections to the proposals and no letters in support, the report said.

About 70% of the objections were standard letters, while the rest were bespoke comments. Up to 40% of responses to the public consultation were from outside Rotherham borough, the planners said. But the site is on the edge of the authority’s area. The boundary with Derbyshire is less than 700m away.

As well as traffic and ecology, objectors raised concerns about fracking, noise, groundwater and air pollution, impacts on archaeology, health, landscape and the general environment, inappropriate use of the Green Belt and high quality agricultural land. People were also concerned about the High Court injunction granted to INEOS against protesters, the company’s safety record and the loss of house values.

The police raised concerns about protests including lock-ons, blockading the site entrance, slow walking in front of deliveries and occupying vehicles.

The report said there were no objections from Natural England, the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England.

Other issues

Green Belt. The planners accepted that the proposed 60m rig, security fencing and equipment would have an impact on the openness of the Green Belt. But they said the impact would be temporary and the development would not be inappropriate.

Landscape. The planners concluded that there would be short-term substantial adverse effects on landscape and views. But the council’s landscape team did not formally object to the application and a refusal on landscape grounds could not be justified.

Noise. The planners said the noise from the site could potentially have adverse effects on the health of residents. But they said the drilling would be for a maximum of three months and could be controlled by conditions and monitoring.

Climate change. The report concluded:

“It is not considered that there are any specific objections to this proposal on climate change grounds.”

Cumulative impact. The planners acknowledged that there were similar proposals 10km from the Harthill site at Bramleymoor Lane, in Derbyshire and at Misson Springs in Nottinghamshire. But they concluded that the application was “a discrete proposal that could proceed independently”.

Meeting

Discussion of the Harthill application at the meeting of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council planning board begins at 1pm, Town Hall, Moorgate Street, Rotherham. S60 2TH.

  • Planners in Lancashire today recommend refusal of Cuadrilla’s Roseacre Wood application. Also this afternoon, in Cheshire, planners recommend approval of IGas proposals to test a well at Ellesmere Port. Links to DrillOrDrop reports on Roseacre Wood and Ellesmere Port

11 replies »

  1. Well done to Rotherham Council’s officers, traffic officers and ecologist and who clearly scrutinised the evidence and found it wanting. The fact that Natural England, The Environment Agency, Health & Safety Executive and Public Health England did not object leaves me with little faith in their ability to protect us and our environment from harm. Did they even look at the lack of detail in Ineos’s ecological report? Did they not question the gaps in the report? Did they not notice the same evidence of traffic safety issues? Shame on them if they didn’t and shame on them if they did, and yet still found no reason to object.

    • Natural England, The Environment Agency, HSE and Public Health England are all under the thumb of the government and we all know the government is falling over backwards in favour of the fracking companies.

  2. Hmm, very flimsy grounds for refusal. I guess INEOS will address the points very easily one by one and resubmit a successful application. I certainly hope this will be the case. I’m sure it will.

    [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

    • GBK on what grounds do you think transport issues are insufficient to prevent development either locally or nationally? The NPPF clearly outlines that refusal is valid on transport grounds where the residual cumulative impacts of development are severe. That would be the yardstick for approval/ refusal whether the decision is made by local planning authorities or by national planning national planning inspectors / SoS.

  3. Will the Conservative Derbyshire County Council now follow a similar line on the INEOS application for the use of the site next to Bramleymoor Lane, for the local Conservative MP and two Conservative County Councillors near the area are supposed to be against the application? We are approaching the final delivery time.

  4. It would be a consideration, crembrule, not a yardstick. You may think that the authorities are not versed in the “too close to housing and busy roads”, then ” roads too small for construction traffic and countryside too pretty” dual arguments but they and anyone used to the system are well versed in that. Developments still happen.

    • It’s not a consideration Martin, if a development proposal doesn’t meet NPPF it can be refused. If Government provides a set of Planning Guidlines and then overrides them they would quite rightly be at risk of challenge. That is why a Planning Inspector assesses the merit of a decision at law, not on a commercial basis.

  5. Depends why they override them, Crembrule. You are right, it “can” be refused, but it can also be passed.
    But, I find it interesting that whilst these bodies could not complete the work on time, so Ineos have taken it to a Public Enquiry, they then find they can do the work! Not surprising these decisions will be taken away from them, which many of them are hankering for. The system is not designed to deal with contentious/complicated applications.

    I remember a fairly recent multi £ billion application that took years of work by the applicant, £100,000s of money spent on producing documentation and at the final planning meeting one councillor had to ask what a lorry movement was!

    • Martin the Planning Inspector at an Inquiry judges the application against national planning policy, as well as local planning policies( which are formulated in line with national policy) they don’t make an arbitrary assessment. The question that will be asked is does the proposal comply, if yes it can go ahead, if no it should be refused. If a decision was made contrary to Planning law it would be challenged in Court and again the criteria used would be does the decision fit with planning policy.

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