Council officers have done a U-turn over whether people can give their views at a meeting to discuss INEOS plans for shale gas exploration in a Derbyshire village.
The County Council had told opponents of the company’s plans at Marsh Lane they would not be able to address the meeting of the planning committee next week.
But this afternoon, the council announced a change of heart. A statement said:
“Now local groups together with INEOS are being offered an opportunity to speak about the proposals at a meeting on Monday (5 February 2018) when the committee is due to consider a report from the senior council officer with responsibility for planning matters.”
The meeting in Matlock will decide what position the county council will take on the plans for a 2,400m shale gas exploration well at land off Bramleymoor Lane.
The application will be decided by a public inquiry because INEOS appealed last year to the Planning Inspectorate. The company said it was not prepared to allow more time for the county council to make a decision.
Derbyshire’s Strategic Director for Economy, Transport and Environment, Mike Ashworth, said today:
“We’re aware of the depth of feeling about this planning application and have reviewed our approach to the meeting next week so that the committee has a chance to hear views from relevant parties speaking for and against the proposal.
“Our planning committee considers each item on its individual merits and is impartial. Each planning decision is based on objective analysis of evidence, taking into account local and national planning policies and relevant comments of the public and official consultees such as parish councils.”
This week, the council decided not to consider a second, almost identical planning application from INEOS for Bramleymoor Lane. DrillOrDrop report
The local campaign group, Eckington Against Fracking, criticised this decision, arguing that it was undemocratic and residents should have a chance to address councillors.
INEOS also said the second application – known as twin-tracking – should have been considered by the county council. The company said this was “a route whereby a speedy determination could be reached”, reducing costs and delay of an appeal.
But Mr Ashworth said:
“Processing the first application has already cost the public purse around £100,000 compared to the nationally set fee of £8,000 paid by INEOS.
“Processing the second application would also have been expensive with no guarantees that we would have been in a position to decide on the application before the public inquiry is concluded.
“We would need to ask the public to comment again and there’s every chance that any decision taken by the committee could be appealed and subject to a further Public Inquiry.”
Last week, a report by planning officers concluded that the shale gas plans at Marsh Lane were acceptable only if strict planning controls were put in place on dust, ecology, the impact on roads and traffic, archaeology, lighting, and noise.
The report said there had been more than 3,000 individual objections but this figure could have reached as high as 5,000. A worldwide online petition against fracking at Marsh Lane and nearby Eckington has topped 90,000 signatures.
Residents and campaign groups have said the site is too close to local homes and a school and will harm the openness of the Green Belt. They are also concerned that night-time noise will breach maximum guidelines and disturb sleep patterns. More details on objections and the planning report in this DrillOrDrop report (see Key issues)
David Kesteven, chair of Eckington Against Fracking, has made a video for Derbyshire councillors outlining the group’s arguments against the Marsh Lane site. Link to video
Thursday 1 February 2018
Public meeting about fracking by Eckington Against Fracking, 7.30pm, Eckington Miners’ Welfare, Pipeyard Lane, Eckington S21 4FA. Link
Friday 2 February 2018
Deadline for people who want to speak or make comments to the public inquiry on INEOS plans for Marsh Lane Link
Monday 5 February 2018
Meeting of Derbyshire County Council planning committee to decide the council’s position at the public inquiry, 1pm, County Hall, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 3AG. The meeting is to be webcast at: www.derbyshire.gov.uk/bramleymoorlane and a shuttle bus is running from Matlock interchange next t the train station to County Hall from 11am-1pm.
Tuesday 20 March 2018
Pre inquiry meeting. Venue to be confirmed.
Tuesday 19 June 2018
Opening date of public inquiry on INEOS plans for Marsh Lane. Venue to be confirmed.
Updated 1/2/2018 with link to video by Eckington Against Fracking