“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. So it’s not acceptable for a chemical firm that creates 80k jobs in the UK to make money? Are these people just bitter and miserable 24/7?

      • ‘ 80k jobs in the UK to make money’ – just who will these fictitious jobs make money for GBK?
        By the way your flight’s about to leave…..

        • Sher sorry you don’t realise INEOS support a huge chemicals operation that employs tens of thousands in hundreds of different companies? Get your old naive head out of the sand my dear fellow.

      • I wonder how many frackers breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat clean food, live in friendly communities that stand up and fight for the right to say “NO”!

        I wonder how many frackers support and respect democracy and planning authorities, not bad tempered dictators, and depend upon freedoms fought and won by countless people before they were born, have their children go to safe schools and live in a free country?

        Don’t be so ready to throw away such things for others even if you dont want them for yourselves, especially not just for a few illusory ones and zeroes on a computer.

        Wake up, your real treasure is right here and it needs protecting.

  2. Time to invest in industries that contribute positively to our environment. We have a massive number of houses that must be made more energy efficient. We have an active wind turbine industry which is now increasingly becoming more financially viable, along with an increase in solar farms and solar panels on homes. Investment in these I suggest would more than cover all the jobs lost in the fossil fuel industries. And it would reduce our need to build yet more power stations. INEOS wants the gas to make plastics, and yet these have received massive adverse publicity in recent months, due to their adverse impact on not just our climate but on our ecology. The climate and our ecology belong to us all; all life depends on them. They are not the preserve of governments or of businesses. It’s good to see that not all councils have been deceived by the energy security and lower prices claims.
    Latest news in Balcombe.
    We have a company, RePower Balcombe, that is now actively pursuing solar farms alongside railway lines, which will feed directly into the railway system. They are also looking at solar panels with the water companies. They’ve recently completed their seventh solar project at a school in Cuckfield. They are liaising with Balcombe Parish Council to convert our street lighting to LEDs. And this is despite various moves by this government to make it more difficult for Co-operatives to operate in the solar panel field, whilst making it easier for the fossil fuel industrialisation of our countryside.
    Imagine if this were repeated across the whole of the UK.
    We, and many other communities are doing something to address climate change. It’s time for this government to do likewise and kill off the onshore Oil & Gas industry.

  3. Well said Malcolm Kenward.

    As for GBK, Gasman & all the other industry mouthpieces, it’s revealing that week after week and year after year, they can’t come up with any more serious arguments to support their cause than the same old specious myths about fictitious “jobs in the UK to make money” etc; and silly playground insults. I don’t use gas by the way, nor do most people in this area.

    • What are you babbling on about? It’s your group that can come up with any facts. Once we start fracking your dingy depressing towns of course we’ll create jobs. Then you’ll not have any excuse at the job centre that you can’t find any local employ!

      • Tut, tut GBK, just because you are stuck in the airport doesn’t mean you should be too tetchy; untwist yeh knickers and read a good book.

  4. solar & wind is ok but has major reliability problems. ie wind is unpredictable & is often too strong for the turbines to handle. so we end up paying the wind farms to turn them off . then there’s your green surcharge which is put on everyone’s bill. so in effect, you have the poorest people in the land subsidizing millionaire windfarm companies. solar doesn’t work in the dark when demand is greatest & both these items rely on oil to manufacture in the first place.

    • Now we all know that currently we cannot rely solely on renewable energy sources for all our energy. I’m not aware of anyone claiming this. But every renewable energy project alongside energy reduction initiatives reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, which reduces the impact on the planet and everything that depends on it to exist. In the news today, another project in progress to develop fusion energy using more modern materials that reduce the size of the magnets, and it has private business support and is attracting significant funding.
      And better battery technology is on its way. The initiatives to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels are gathering pace and attracting massive investment.

  5. For the NHS, Sherwulfe. Perhaps you have never paid tax yourself, or contributed to a business that pays tax. The majority of us have.

    • ‘Perhaps you have never paid tax yourself, or contributed to a business that pays tax’ – I think you will find everyone has done this oh wise one, from the cradle to the grave……VAT, Council Tax, Import Tax, Income Tax, National Insurance, Tax on fuel, MOT, Vehicle import tax, Congestion Charge, Stamp Duty, etc, etc, etc.

  6. Malcolm-I have converted my security lights to LED. I have invested in a Hybrid, and an Inverter to supplement/decrease gas use. Latest news from Martin.

    Meanwhile, others wish to remove the wind turbines imposed upon their communities, householders tell me how much they regret investing in solar panels, and our local solar farm was obscured by heavy snow recently. LED lights installed on the schools tennis courts to allow night playing for the yummy mummies, then had to be repositioned at expense as they were keeping locals awake.

    Individual choices are there for individuals to make. However, imposing them upon others is a whole different matter. Especially if you represent a minority.

    • “Individual choices are there for individuals to make. However, imposing them upon others is a whole different matter. Especially if you represent a minority.”
      What choices are the government leaving to individuals when they impose fracking on them against their will? Move? At the last count the fracking supporters represent a minority.

      • This government represents a minority. Less than 25% of the electorate gave them a majority in 2015. Around 29% in 2017, an increase, yet they had to buy support from the DUP. Funny that the opposition parties collectively represent around twice as many of the electorate as the governing party and yet we somehow think we live in a democracy.

  7. lol This fracking lark ain’t proving to be that popular is it

    Yet another beating lol

    Its joyous watching the slow death of an industry that only idiots ever thought was going to happen in these precious isles.

  8. No, Pauline, the antis represented about a third, those in favour or not concerned either way represented around two thirds-the majority. Fracking is authorised in England. To remove an authorised activity one third against is pitiful.

  9. The shale industry must win the National ‘Fighting a Losing Battle’ award.

    They have everything and everyone against them.

    They pinned their hopes on deception and bullying.

    Their PR teams and lobbyists also win the ‘Failed Miserably’ award.

    It doesn’t matter if they get the odd one or two sites. They need hundreds or it doesn’t work. That will never ever happen.

    It’s not viable, it’s not needed, and we are not having it.

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