“We are fighting for our community” –villagers celebrate another vote against shale gas and INEOS

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Opponents of INEOS shale gas plans outside Rotheerham Town Hall, 8 March 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The UK’s biggest shale gas company, INEOS, has suffered another vote against its exploration plans.

A packed public gallery at Rotherham Town Hall this lunchtime watched as councillors unanimously opposed the company’s application for a vertical coring well in the village of Woodsetts. See DrillOrDrop live updates

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Vote on INEOS shale plans for Woodsetts, 8 March 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

This is the second unanimous vote against INEOS by Rotherham councillors in six weeks. It means that all the company’s schemes going through the planning system have now been opposed by local authorities. It brings to five the number of onshore gas applications rejected by planning authorities this year.

At Woodsetts, a local campaign group submitted a 76-page objection to the INEOS scheme. After the meeting, members said they were “elated” and “thrilled, thrilled, thrilled” with the result.

Woodsetts Against Fracking spokesperson, Richard Scholey, said:

“By the turn-out you can see the overwhelming support and the passion with which people spoke. It means so much. People feel we are fighting for our community and our way of life.”

INEOS said this afternoon it was disappointed by the vote. It said its application, to take core samples, was no different from those drilled by the coal industry locally in previous decades. It also said the shale gas industry could bring energy security and lower fuel prices. (See full statement below).

“Bigger picture is petrochemicals”

The company did not ask for permission to frack. But its application said INEOS depended on a supply of raw materials for its chemicals business. And speakers at the meeting appeared in no doubt that they thought the Woodsetts scheme was a precursor to fracking for shale gas to supply INEOS plants.

Mr Scholey said:

“There is a bigger picture here. The shale gas industry is not about keeping the lights on, as Theresa May keeps saying. It is about making money for the petrochemicals industry.”

He said of INEOS:

“This is a company that came to the north thinking they can roll on through and we are a small community that cannot stand up to a large company. We have proved them wrong.”

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Shale gas opponents outside Rotherham Town Hall, 8 March 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Rotherham councillors voted in line with the recommendation of planning officers to refuse the application on ecological grounds. The officers said there were deficiencies in surveys submitted with the application on bats, breeding birds and badgers. They were also concerned about the lack of evidence about possible impacts on ancient woodland 25m from the site.

Councillors also added a second reason for refusal: the impact on highway safety of the increase in heavy goods vehicles. Planners had said these issues did not justify refusal.

“We’re ready for the inquiry”

Woodsetts against Fracking expects INEOS to appeal against the refusal and the application to go next to a public inquiry.

INEOS has already appealed against Rotherham Borough Council over its failure to decide a similar scheme at the village of Harthill by the target date. Another appeal is underway against Derbyshire County Council for the same reason over the company’s shale gas plans for the village of Marsh Lane.

Deborah Gibson, of Harthill Against Fracking, attended the meeting and said afterwards:

“The councillors were totally unanimous in their decision on Harthill and they were totally unanimous for Woodsetts.

“I think INEOS is running out of places to go.

“We are ready for the inquiries for Harthill and Marsh Lane. We expect this decision will go to an inquiry and it looks as if Woodsetts are ready too.

“It gives me heart. We feel we are right in the middle of all this.”

A spokesperson for Frack Free South Yorkshire, said:

“Once again, a Minerals Authority that understands its own area and the wishes of its people has rejected exploration for shale gas. There is an increasing demand for a sustainable and clean energy system locally and across the UK to meet our carbon targets and stave off the consequence of global warming. And that means greater efficiency and more cost-effective renewable energy and storage. Shale gas and fracking will not achieve that.”

“Victory for local democracy”

Chris Crean, of Friends of the Earth, said:

“This is an example of what local people can do to stand up to this dirty industry. This is a victory for local democracy.

“It’s deeply significant that Rotherham Council rejected a second INEOS test drill application in as many months.

“Along with Derbyshire’s rejection of the Marsh Lane application last month and Rotherham Council rejecting the Harthill application in January, which now makes three INEOS applications rejected by local councils in short succession already this year.

“Surely it’s time for would-be frackers to accept that this risky technology is not needed, not wanted, won’t address the challenge of climate change, and their best bet is to stop throwing good money after bad, and invest in popular, clean energy alternatives instead.”

Also this year, Lancashire County Council unanimously opposed Cuadrilla’s shale gas fracking plans for Roseacre Wood near Blackpool on traffic grounds. At Cheshire West and Chester, councillors voted to refuse IGas plans to test a gas well at Ellesmere Port.

“INEOS has not covered itself in glory”

There were moments during today’s meeting when discussions verged on bad temper.

Minutes before the vote, INEOS’s operations director, Tom Pickering, said he wanted to make some extra points.

But the planning board chair, Alan Atkins, said:

“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.”

Earlier, the meeting heard that INEOS believed further ecological surveys would not alter the company’s approach to mitigation.

One member of the planning board accused the company of “cutting corners”. He retracted his comment when Mr Pickering interrupted saying:

“You need to be very careful about the accusations you have made.”

Cllr Clive Jepson, who represents Woodsetts on the borough council, said the community had been “subject to bullying by INEOS” and the company had shown “how not to carry out a public consultation”.

INEOS statement

“INEOS Shale is disappointed by the news that Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council officers have refused the application for test core drilling at Woodsetts. We feel that that the plans presented offer the right amount of ecological mitigation as part of what is straightforward application. The fact that a majority of external statutory consultees agree that this is the case, exemplifies this point.

“The application allows for the drilling of a single vertical core bore well to gain scientific knowledge of what is below the surface, which has been agreed by many Councils many times in the past to support the coal industry. This is no different. It is important to note that a completely separate application must be made for the extraction of gas.

“Shale gas is a resource that is of strategic importance to the UK and issues of energy security always have to be factored in. As last week demonstrated, the UK’s energy supply is in a much weaker position than many believe, with sudden adverse weather events bringing the UK to the brink of running out of gas. Not only does this have a knock-on effect on industry, there is the real potential that domestic consumers will be unable to heat their homes in times of energy stress. Shale gas is offering us the potential to have our own native natural gas industry, strengthening our security of supply and making us less reliant on countries such as Russia or the middle East.

“Rotherham relies on manufacturing jobs at places such as at Liberty Steel, but these are not secured or created without investment and there is precious little investment in the North of England in manufacturing at the moment. Recent figures on jobs and investment estimate that the shale industry is expected to bring in £33 billion of investment into England alone over the next two decades. Furthermore, shale gas offers the potential to bring down energy prices. High energy costs are badly affecting businesses up and down the country and was one of the reasons cited in the recent near closure of Liberty.

“The resources beneath our feet can be used to create jobs, heat our homes, go a long way towards self-sufficiency and improve our balance of payments and the environment all at the same time.”

Reporting from Rotherham planning board meeting was made possible by individual donations by DrillOrDrop readers

39 replies »

  1. But John your “we” is the minority, our “we” is the majority, and our “we” has the authorisation, and the Government of the day, and probably four more years, support that authorisation.

    Our “we” only need a few that work, and are economic, so it does matter, and you are having it-slowly but surely.

    • ‘you are having it-slowly but surely’

      The first shale gas applications were approved unopposed in 2010. It is now 2018.

      World war two was started, fought, and finished in a lot less time than the UK shale industry has produced zero gas.

      In case it has passed you by un noticed, planning applications right across the country are being regularly rejected and community opposition is growing rapidly.

      You may want to check how many Conservative Councillors have said no.

      The industry is isolated with no where to go for support.

      The industry can keep on slowly but surely banging it’s head against a brick wall.

      No concern for the Directors on extortionately high wages but a serious concern for the investors who are paying them.

  2. Your ‘we’ is losing credibility day by day MC…. A government propped up by the DUP and a Prime Minister so stretched between competing interests that her feet are off the ground. I stand by my prediction (made about a year ago) that Brexit would wear the PM down and this fracking drive could finish her off. It won’t end well. And it certainly won’t end with a thousand wells.

  3. You need to get some more sleep PhilipP-insomnia and grumpiness are linked apparently (I suspect you could Giggle that, for a link.)

    Do you seriously think fracking is a big issue to Mrs. May? Have you thought though, if fracking tests showed success, how she might utilise her “strong and stable” decision relating to both SNP and Labour? She will be quite happy with INEOS challenging in Scotland. She can only win through that, with the SNPs inability to manage the day job open to being exposed. If it isn’t, no problem to her.

    She will see us through Brexit and we will end up with whatever version comes out of the negotiations. If you believe Corbyn could, please tell me how he would be able to sort the Irish border situation without dialogue with the DUP? That’s even less likely than him doing a trade deal with Saudi or USA.

    But you could be right about the thousand wells.

  4. theresa may is going to be prime minister for a very long time indeed if she is to see us through brexit and british governments do not have a good record at all in sorting out borders around the world

  5. Well, brexit will happen in a little over a year, including a border arrangement. After that it will still continue rippling through for a while but like a child who has left home, they might keep popping back to sort out the CDs, and have the mail redirected, but they will have left.

  6. suppose it depends on the definition of ‘through’ i very much doubt we will be anywhere near through brexit in april 2019, whether people are for or against brexit surely they must be fed up to the back teeth of it already and nobody has put forward an acceptable solution to the irish border situation although people like boris johnson seem to think it will be solved easily but as yet they haven’t said how

  7. Stuck in the past again John.

    Yes, the sappers have been very careful marking the route, but almost there now for the main forces to follow.

    Bit of time for preparation will yield benefits going forward. Those of us in support quite happy to see the meticulous approach-gold standards being met take a little time. I think it was around 15 years to get started on/in the N.Sea.

    Your plastic investment seemed to give you some joy there, John.

  8. Perhaps they have hrb but you have not been on their list to notify. The negotiations, like all negotiations, will be done behind closed doors and much that escapes is for political purposes.

    Speculation turns quickly into fabrication, so I would rather hope that what we see and hear is like an iceberg. 90% is below the surface.

  9. so you think that they’ve got a solution but they aren’t making it public, an open border with no way of monitoring who or what is coming or going, at least smugglers will approve of that wholeheartedly

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