A senior official in Derbyshire is recommending that the county council does not deal with a second identical shale gas application from INEOS for a proposed site at the village of Marsh Lane.
The company submitted plans in May 2017 for a 60m rig to drill to a depth of about 2,400 metres to investigate the suitability of the shale rock for fracking.
In November 2017, INEOS announced it was appealing to the Planning Inspectorate. It said no decision on the application had been made in “reasonable time” and it could not “wait indefinitely” (DrillOrDrop report). This application will now be decided at a public inquiry.
But in December 2017 the company submitted a duplicate application to the county council for the same development at the same site.
Mike Ashworth, Derbyshire’s senior officer responsible for planning, is now advising county councillors against dealing with this new application. The council’s planning committee will meet on Monday 29 January to discuss the issue. Link to meeting agenda
Councils have a right under Section 43 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 to refuse to process so-called twin-track applications.
Developers reportedly use the practice of twin-tracking to force planning authorities to approve one of the applications in order to avoid the resources involved in an appeal.
But Mr Ashworth said in a statement:
“It seems to us that there is nothing to be gained from dealing with this repeat application when an appeal process for the proposal is ongoing.
“We feel it would be confusing and an unnecessary burden on the public to invite comments again on exactly the same proposal.”
The estimated cost of processing the first application has already reached around £100,000, according to the county council. INEOS paid the nationally-set fee of £8,000 on the first application and there is no fee for a second application, the council added.
Mr Ashworth, Strategic Director for Economy, Transport and Environment, said:
“The Planning Committee has to assess whether this is a good use of public money given that the second application is for identical development to the first.
“By processing the second application, the county council would have all the associated costs of repeating the public consultation and its dealings with other official bodies.”
“We still prefer these planning decisions to stay at the local county level and stand by our actions to carry out thorough and robust public consultation about the proposal last year.
“But INEOS took this matter out of our hands when they referred their application to the Planning Inspectorate. We will be pressing for the public inquiry into this application to be held as soon as possible.”
A council spokesperson said all the original comments made to the county council during the public consultation had been sent to the Planning Inspectorate. All views expressed so far could be taken into account for the public inquiry. This is expected to be held later this this year.
A later meeting of Derbyshire’s planning committee, on Monday 5 February, will decide what stand the council will take at the inquiry. This meeting will consider a planners’ report, which will include summaries of the comments received from the public last year.