Live updates: Rotherham councillors vote unanimously against INEOS shale gas plans for Woodsetts


Photo: cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Mat Fascione –

Live updates on the Rotherham Borough Council meeting discussing the INEOS planning application for a shale gas well at Woodsetts.

170926 INEOS injunction Woodsetts Against Fracking

Photo: Woodsetts Against Frackingf

Councillor officers have recommended the planning board refuse the application because INEOS has not carried out sufficient ecological surveys.

The meeting, at Rotherham Town Hall, is expected to hear from INEOS and the local opposition group, Woodsetts Against Fracking (WAF), which submitted a 76-

page objection.

This includes concerns about pollution, traffic, wildlife and financial resilience of companies. More details here

The site, off Dinnington Road, is 25m from an area of ancient woodland and about 500m from homes. It is subject to an injunction against protests granted to INEOS in the High Court.

This report has been made possible by individual donations to DrillOrDrop

13.06pm: Vote

The board votes unanimously to refuse the application on ecological and highway safety grounds.

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Unanimous vote to refuse planning permission to INEOS for shale gas exploration at Woodsetts, 8 March 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

13.02pm: Chairman

Cllr Alan Atkin asks whether other reasons for refusal should be added. Cllr Whysall says dust should be added. Cllr Atkin says this is covered by the environmental permit.

Eight councillors say they want to add highways concerns to a reason for refusal.  They say they are concerned about the increased number of HGVs and unsafe access to and from Dinnnington Road.

13.01pm: INEOS

Tom Pickering says he wants to make a number of points.

The chair says:

“I am chairing this meeting and I am chairing. INEOS has not covering itself in glory over this application or the last one.  I am not having anyone ride roughshod over our planning.”

12.59pm:  Planning board members – Jenny Andrews

Cllr Andrews says the reasons for refusal should include people’s right to live – not just include ecology.

12.57pm:  Planning board members – Bob Walsh

Cllr Walsh says the proximity to Dewdales Wood is a surviving piece of rare ancient woodland is a concern.

He asks whether the site could be somewhere else. It is an application he can’t support, he says.

12.55:  Planning board members – Jonathan Ireland

Cllr Ireland, the local ward councillors, says the route is not safe for the combination of more lorries and cyclists and horse riders.

He says a recent application in the greenbelt was refused for playing fields. Allowing the INEOS application would be inconsistent.

He says there’s also uncertainty about the impact of the application on the ecology of ancient woodland.

12.52: Planning board members – Cllr John Vjestica

Cllr Vjestica says there are three material considerations which will have an impact.

One is highways, he says. Cyclists use a section of the lorry route, he says. Dinnington Road can become congested, particularly the area around the entrance and Berne Square.

On visual amenity, he says this will be a significant adverse impact, he says. It will certainly affect the greenbelt appearance.

He agrees with planning officers on ecological concerns. If there was any adverse impact, the ancient woodland would be affected. It is ancient and it can’t be protected sufficiently ,he says.

He supports the recommendation to refuse the application.

12.48: Planning board members – Cllr Simon Tweed

Cllr Tweeds says “I can’t  believe that INEOS have come here today and made this presentation.”

He says the company has cut corners.

Tom Pickering interrupts and says “You need to be very careful about the accusations you have made”.

Cllr Tweeds says he will retract the remarks. “I’ve hit a raw nerve somewhere”.

As a resident, he says, the lorries cannot negotiate Dinnington Road.

“What councillor would vote for 24 hour drilling in an area, with vulnerable people in that area.”

He says he will vote to refuse the application.

12.43: Planning board members – Cllr Whysall

Cllr Whysall agrees with the ecological concerns.

She also raises concerns about dust. Research shows an increase in asthma cases from coal mining and grain transport. Public Health England should look into this for drilling and it should be considered by the planning board.

Cllr Whysall says the area is surrounded by what were coal mines. I don’t think that it can be accepted that it was just one coal workings. The Coal Authority’s information is not definitive. We have to accept that there could be many more coal workings. This should be given more weight.

She congratulates the opponents. She warns INEOS: Don’t underestimate the bigness of this community.

12.39pm: Council transport officer, Ian Ferguson

Mr Ferguson says during the 85-day construction phase there would be up to 70 vehicle movements, of which 60 would be HGVs above 7.5 tonnes. At other stages, there would be 60 traffic movements per day.

The seven-day average above 7.5 tonnes would be 12 development HGVs per day on Woodsetts Road. This would be a significant increase, he says.

Safe and secure access to the site is possible and the impact would not be severe, he says. Subject to conditions, there is no reason to refuse, he says.

A member of the public asks about conditions. They would include a traffic management plan but this has not yet been submitted.

12.36pm: Local Parish Council Network

The chair of the parish council network thanks speakers for representing their communities. This is about human rights, she says. We are here today about how it impacts on our future.

The government is not listening to concerns in research, including those that call for a precautionary approach, she says. The government has also not investigated the impact on human rights. She urges the planning board to take on board what has been said. Let’s not set a precedent and fail our people.

12.35pm: Meeting resumes

12.17pm: Break

The meeting has a break until 12.30pm

12.13pm: Kenneth Goodall

Companies like INEOS pick on greenfield sites. This is an industrial site. This is a search for methane and ethane. INEOS has a chemical plant at Grangemouth, which gets ethane from the US. There is no need for this. It will damage the environment, through groundwater and air pollution.

Rotherham could become the fracking capital of the UK, he says.

We should be fearful for the future of our greenbelt. The most communities at risk are those near old mine workings, he says.

He calls for permanent monitoring by independent third parties.

12.09pm: Nigel Butler

Mr Butler is a lifelong resident of Woodsetts. A former civil servant, he is now semi-retired and works as a delivery driver.

Mr Butler refers to traffic flows through and around Woodsetts. 150 caravans are parked near the site, which increases the risk on the roads.

Because of the width of the likely heavy goods vehicles, it is likely to be a nightmare, he says. This is the wrong location for this sort of application by a streak.

12.06pm: Adrian Knight

Mr Knight lives 520m from the preserved site. He refers to political statements about energy security. He says the page of the application says INEOS depends on gas as a feed stock and fuel in its plastic and chemical works.

Why have my family and my community become a sacrifice community so that INEOS can get gas to make chemicals.

INEOS wants to make more plastics because it makes money. It is all there to see from the application.

INEOS does not hide what it will do with the shale gas if it finds it. Why should my community endure five years so that INEOS can look for more gas. This application should be stopped in its tracks.

12.03: Gary Pickering

Mr Pickering, a resident of Woodsetts. He worked in the steel industry. He says he has seen first-hand how industrial sites affect the countryside.

He says he is not an activist but a concerned resident.

He refers to local council planning policy. One is to preserve ancient woodlands and to refuse applications that may threaten them. Another seeks to protect conservation areas and areas of high landscape value. The proposed site is in an area of high landscape value and close to a conservation area.

This site is a greenbelt and policies say applications should be refused unless there are special circumstances. The number of jobs likely has been overstated. There are no special circumstances.

These policies need to be implemented, he says.

12.00 noon: Andy Tickle, CPRE

Mr Tickle says: This is unnecessary industrialisation of sensitive countryside. Sustainable development is the bedrock of the English planning system. The climate change act puts a responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Rotherham can and must do more.

There is no long-term future for fracked gas in the UK.  Even if you accept the case for fracked gas the impact on Woodsetts are unacceptable. Other impacts are unknown and this is a reason for refusal.

CPRE would support the council if a refusal resulted in appeal.

11.53: Monica Carrroll, Woodsetts Parish Council

Cllr Carroll says Woodsetts Against Fracking has been professional in its objection to the scheme and she thanked the group for its work.

Woodsetts Parish Council had worked to improve traffic safety, including attempts to slow down vehicles. There was also a walking bus to the school and crossing patrol. There are three near-misses by cars a month, the crossing patrol has reported.

Cllr Carroll says Berne Square is 400m from the site. Seven residents have dementia, The residents relish the peace and quiet and access to the surgery. Some of them have lived in the village for 40 years or more.

The council has worked to improve the environment of the village and has kept its promises.  If Rotherham Borough Council grants permission, it would be letting down residents. There would be no point

What would residents live near the site do for peace and quiet. There is a real danger they would need to leave their homes. What would be the point of a status of a dementia-friendly village.

11.49: Wendy Hamilton, Firbeck Parish Council

Cllr Hamilton says the council was concerned about the application, not allayed by responses from INEOS.

The parish council’s concerns included: industrialisation of the countryside and proximity to the village.

INEOS said the effects on local people would be substantial  but short-lived. The parish council believes this is not an acceptable level of disturbance and does not reflect an understanding of the lives of local people.

INEOS says the actual number of HGV movements would be modest. Cllr  Hamilton says the impact of 60 HGV movements through a village a day would have an impact.

Submitted a small community to the stress that will and has been experienced if this goes ahead is indefensible, she says.

11.46: Martin Ladbrook, Letwell Parish Council

Cllr  Ladbrook says his great niece goes to school in Woodsetts. It is for children of her generations that he is speaking.

Letwell Parish Council unanimously objected to the INEOS’s plans and it wants to stand with the village of Woodsetts.

He urges the council to put the people of Woodsetts before the profit of one company.

The parish council objects on the grounds of traffic, drilling and diesel noise, light pollution, industrialisation of the greenbelt, air pollution from noxious emissions, loss of a large area of prime farmland, vulnerability of listed buildings with no foundations.

INEOS has no experience of fracking in the UK. This application is a precursor to fracking. He opposes the technique but if it is to take place, why next to a quiet village.

11.42am: Cllr Clive Jepson

Cllr Jepson says he is disappointed that traffic was not a reason for refusing the application.

This area has just recovered from coal mining. The government and INEOS want to blight the area again.

“If this application to drill in the green belt is not inappropriate development I don’t know what is.”

He says the community has been subject to bullying by INEOS.

INEOS has shown how not to carry out a public consultation, he says.

As a ward councillor, he says, he has received one email from the company.

He calls for the application to be refused.

11.09am: Woodsetts Against Fracking

Seven members of Woodsetts Against Fracking begin their presentation against the proposal

Richard Scholey

Mr Scholey says he is a lifelong resident of Woodsetts. His family have farmed land near the site since 1928. The site is in the greenbelt in an area of high visual value, next to treasured right of way and a conservation area with red-listed birds and bats.

To build the site, up to HGVs will need to pass through the village. The industrial nature of the proposal is inapproparite To research for shale gas that the country does no need

The nearest residents are just over 400m away and they are the community’s most vulnerable.. The school is about 800m away. The tropical butterfly site, Rotherham’s jewel in the crown for tourism is in line of site and 1,500m away.

If there was a competition to find the most inappropriate location for a site of this kind, INEOS have just won first prise.

Chris Burton

Ms Burton says INEOS has not considered the community. There is a pre-determination to get what they want. They disregard and underplay local planning policy and local people. Proximity to the village and the location in the greenbelt are examples. Since when has five years been temporary, she says. Rotherham;s core strategy is trampled over. she says.

INEOS says there will be noise impacts but not from drilling, transport or coring. They say it will not have an impact of local people. We disagree, Ms Burton says.

The noise levels will exacerbate stress levels over 12-hour working days. INEOS have not considered shift workers or vulnerable people. The company has not considered traffic noise, she says.

The drilliing stage will be for 24-hours a day, she says. INEOS says driling at night will be the sound of a quiet library. At night it is very quiet. When the wind is from the sound we can hear trains at Shirebrook. We think the estimate of noise is an underestimate and people will have disturbed sleep.

The estimates are based on models, not reality, Ms Burton says. INEOS says the noise impacts will be temporary – so do we not matter, Ms Burton asks. The residents of Woodsetts and Berne Square have every reason to be concerned

Barry Cartwright

Mr Cartwright, a resident for 30 years, says the lorry route will carry vehicles through the village on an unclassified road 12 hours a day.

INEOS has used guidance that did not cover qualitative factors that were not considered. INEOS defines HGVs which includes small pick-up trucks, rather than 42-tonne vehicles. Using this definition would increase HGV traffic to 300-600%.

The impacts will increase noise, traffic congestion, safety issues and traffic emissions. Large vehicle convoys are going to pass 103 houses along this route. INEOS are trying to play down the impact of the traffic that will bring through the village.

The impact will be particularly damaging for people in Berne  Square near the site entrance.

On ecology, Mr Cartwright says the application is for an industrial site in the greenbelt. INEOS did not name the survey ecologist or give the qualifications. The site surveys were carried out at sub-optimal times. They did not consult with the local bat or bird groups.

They did not carry out bat surveys at the wrong time of year. The badger survey was carried out in February in cold weather. The company did not an award-winning bird record group. We did, Mr Cartwright says, and it told us red-listed species in the area. The company consulted the landowner who gave permission for the development and he said there were no sky larks in the area. He would say that, wouldn’t he, Mr Cartwright says.

To say additional surveys would have no impact on the mitigation is prejudging. INEOS does not know. The application should be refused. The company should do the necessary transect surveys at the right period of the year and resubmit.

Kelly Jennings

Ms   Jennings says the site is in a groundwater protection zone because a principal aquifer lies below the site. It supplies my home, she says, but INEOS has screened out any consideration from the application’s likely impacts.

There are three aquifers below the site, she says. The word ‘well’ is part of local street and place names.

The limestone rock below the site can be dissolved by water, she says, so there is a risk of sink holes and subsidence. The rock is highly permeable. A petrol station was refused permission because of the risk of spills to the ground.

There are also abandoned mines in the area. The nearest was abandoned because of ground instability. Underground workings are below the site and the access track. There are underground transport routes nearby she adds. Who would people claim from if there was subsidence, the coal authority or INEOS, she asks.

There are geological faults throughout the area. There are also concerns about gas explosions.

The Environment Agency has given permission for drilling and mini-fracking (pressure transient test).

Ms Jennings says this sounds like pin the tail on the donkey, or more pin the drill on the Northern monkey.

It is an environmental recipe for disaster. There are too many known unknowns. Too close to the people of Woodsetts.

Richard Scholey

Mr Scholey says the application says the site will be restored. But the company has contradicted this by saying what will happen is not yet known.

Should we be concerned about this site becoming a production site. INEOS has repeatedly tried to buy acceptance with a 6% of revenues. Because of this we should. There can’t be achieved without fracking.

Sue Gilversleve

Ms Gilversleve, a Woodsetts resident of 37 years, ask councillors if they saw children crossing the road to school. Wilil they be able to do this if the scheme goes ahead. Will people be able to eat outside if the application is approved.

There are no dedicated crossings on the road that will be used by INEOS HGVs. Will the youngest to oldest residents be able to cross the road safely?

The road is at its narrowest at Berne Square, closes to the site entrance. One resident living there is disabled has to park on the road. Another resident has chronic insomnia – how will he fair when there is 24-hour noise. Another resident has a complex potentially life-limiting lung condition moved to Woodsetts on the council’s recommendations. Her carers are very worried about the impact on her health, she says.

This is probably the most important application this council will ever take. It will change a rural community to industrial landscape and affect the lives of people for decades. Don’t let people down. Fracking uses technology that makes people sick. Don’t let it happen here.

Green energy is here, it works and it safe. Fracking is the last gasp of a bullying petrochemical industry that breaks the rules and promises. It has polluted the environment and caused misery to communities.

The shale gas will be used mostly to make plastic, not to heat our homes.

We need you to protect our homes. Say no to shale gas, say no to INEOS, say no to this planning application.

11.05am: Matthew Sheppard, INEOS planning consultant

Mr Sheppard says he is pleased that the council planners have accepted it is an acceptable use of the greenbelt. The impact on the local area will not be significant and temporary, he says.

Officers have raised concerns., he says, and identified with the issues of ecology. Most are academic in nature, Mr Sheppard says. There are not likely to be significant effects on the environment, he says.

INEOS has sought and received professional advice that the surveys are sufficient. Additional surveys were submitted, he says. Further surveys would not alter the approach to mitigation, he adds.

Protection measures would be included or work delayed if breeding birds were identified. The site has little ecological value, he says. The concerns raised could be mitigated by conditions. We consider there is no reasonable justification to refuse the application on ecological grounds.

10.58am: Tom Pickering, Operations Director, INEOS

Mr Pickering says he has drilled and cored many wells across the UK. Any gas beneath the gas is a national resource, he says. INEOS has licence commitments with the government. This includes drilling exploratory wells, he says.

The application is no different from those I have drilled over the decades, he says. It allows for the drilling a vertical coring well, no different from those drilled by the coal industry over the decades.

The UK energy supply is less secure than people think. There is a real potential that people will be unable to heat their homes at times of energy stress, he says. Shale gas allows the UK to strengthen energy supply.

He thanks the planning team for supporting the technical aspects of the scheme. Our ecology report was written by one of the world’s largest ecology consultancy using accepted methodologies. I was surprised that the application was recommended for refusal. I think the concerns can be overcome.

He says he is listening to the community’s concerns and will be committed to engaging with the community. We will continue to work to explain the process, the benefits, the importance of incremental science and the benefits could bring to Rotherham. It is important we improve our scientific understanding.

People in the public gallery say the company has not talked to them.

10.57am: Public contribution

A speaker says the site does have a planning history. A previous application for methane gas extraction was withdrawn on advice

10.45am: Planning officer – key issues

Rotherham planning officer, Nigel Hancock says there had been a significant number of objections. He says the council has to consider whether it is an acceptable application.


The site is in the greenbelt. Under planning law, mineral development is not unacceptable providing it is preserves the openness of the greenbelt.

Mr Hancock said there would be an impact on the greenbelt but it would be for a temporary period. The proposal is not considered inappropriate development in the greenbelt.


Mr Hancock says planning officers do not have the same highway safety concerns about Woodsetts

It would increase heavy goods vehicle movements (HGV) but it would merit a refusal. We don’t think the noise and disturbance would be enough to justify refusal,


Mr Hacock says We think the supporting information is deficient. There are no breeding bird survey or badger study. There is also inadequate information on bats. We cannot assess the impact on surrounding ecology.

The site is also 25m from ancient woodland. There is no evidence of the impact on them in the application, Mr Hancock says.

Natural England has given advice on the likely impact of ancient woodland and this has to be taken into account, Mr Hancock says. Because the company has not surveyed the ancient woodland so it is not possible to consider how impacts could mitigated, Mr

The government has increased protection for ancient woodland. The Woodlland Trust has recommended a buffer of 50m between the site and the woodland. Natural England also recommends a buffer.

We need to make a recommendation within the required timescale, Mr Hancock says there is no information on impact. This is part of the reason for a recommendation for refusal.

The applicant has not sufficiently demonstrated that the impact could be mitigated.

Mr Hancock adds that a draft revision to the National Planning Policy Framework increases protection for ancient woodland. Applications should be refused if there is no way of mitigating impacts on irreplaceable habitats like ancient woodlands.


Mr Hancock says there have been more than 200 extra objections, bringing the total objections to more than 800. There has been one letter of support, he says. This says exploratory drilling would bring investment to the local area.


The benefits of the scheme do not outweigh possible impacts and it should be refused. [Applause from the public gallery]

10.33am: Planning officer – introduction

Rotherham Council planning officer, Nigel Hancokc, introduces the application for a shale gas well on land off Dinnington Road at Woodsetts. He tells the council will be making a decision on the application, unlike a similar scheme at Harthill, where the decision would be made by a planning inspector.

The Woodsetts application was for core sampling, rather than fracking, the planning officer says. The site is close to two areas of ancient woodland. A bridleway runs along the edge of the site. Mr Hancock says a 2.1m fence would surround the site, along the bridleway. The application is for five years.

Phases of development

Mr Hancock says there are several phases.

Phase 1: Site development. This includes clearing top soil, creating perimeter bunds,  laying an impermeable liner, drilling the well cellar. Duration: 3 months.

Phase 2: Drilling. The maximum height of the rig would be 60m. Drilling would be to 2.8km below ground. There would be pressure testing. A 32m rig would then be used to seal the borehole. Duration: 5 months, of which drilling would be 3 months. Drilling would be 24-hours a day.

Phase 3: Listening well. This depends on whether another well was used for hydraulic fracturing.

Phase 4: Restoration and abandonment. Duration: 6 weeks.

10.30am: Meeting begins

Cllr Alan Atkin opens the meeting

10.15am: People take their seats in the council chamber

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Photo: DrillOrDrop

10am: Opponents gather outside Rotherham Town Hall


09.50am: Robin Hood street theatre

Actors perform street theatre portraying Robin Hood opposing fracking.

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Street theatre portraying Fracking vs Robin Hood before the Rotherham Planning Board meeting, 8 March 2018. Photo: Chris Crean

180308 Woodsetts decision 7 Chris Crean

Street theatre portraying Fracking vs Robin Hood before the Rotherham Planning Board meeting, 8 March 2018. Photo: Chris Crean

Updated 14/3/2018 to correct the name of a speaker

28 replies »

  1. Life expectancy may increase if there are funds for community projects to assist those who need assistance. Cuadrilla are already starting to contribute. What you think Ronin will not be the issue-it will be real help and support to deal with existing problems. Usually that requires funding, whilst I see antis geared up to remove funding from those communities via the costs of dealing with them
    Hope you can sleep at night. Only collateral damage.

  2. As a Sandgrownun I say no shame on you Martin, conflating issues again to feebly underpin your weak argument. Blackpool has many issues in relation to unemployment, drugs use, health, social poverty etc like many seaside towns. Fracking won’t help one jot with those issues. How many people has this wonderous new industry taken out of unemployment so far and what is that as percentage of the total unemployment figures for Blackpool. The town needs serious investment in proper long term jobs not short term security work and jobs cleaning site cabins.

  3. “He says he is listening to the community’s concerns and will be committed to engaging with the community.”

    He is not listening to the National Trust nor North Yorkshire Moors National Park nor the communities who have said ‘no’.

  4. Not being pedantic, but its “Berne Square ” and not Burns Square that was often mentioned in todays hearing.. ( my grandparents live there)..
    Anyway I would like to congratulate, amongst others, the people of Woodsetts, but especially the WAF group for their
    determination and resolve in bringing about todays result. .
    P Kindle.

    • Dear Paul. Thanks very much for pointing out the mistake. Apologies for getting the name wrong repeatedly. They should all be corrected now. Thanks again and best wishes, Ruth

  5. I think you answer your own question crembrule, “so far”. By the way, take a look at property values. You know, the ones that will be decimated. Seems it has happened without any input from fracking.

    Too many inconvenient facts for you to digest? I should get used to it, as with a fair wind we will actually have some real facts to go by soon. It doesn’t appear as if the antis are anywhere near prepared for that.

    • As you like to point out its very early days so the impact on housing prices wont be filtering through, but what will be noticeable is a change in the number of completed sales. Any figures for those in the areas at risk of being fracked?

      And fair wind or foul it would appear the tide is turning against the industry by the day with more and more communities and their elected representatives of all parties and persuasions whether MPs, County Councils or Local Councils rejecting the industry’s proposals.

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