Regulation

Live news updates: Day 2 INEOS Harthill shale gas inquiry – ecology and councillors’ statements

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Proposed shale gas site at Harthill. Photo: Paul Rowland

The inquiry into plans by INEOS to drill for shale gas at Harthill in south Yorkshire reaches its second day.

DrillOrDrop will be reporting live from the hearing at Rotherham Council on evidence from the authority’s planning board members and its ecologist.

The company appealed in November 2017 over what it said were unacceptable delays in deciding the application for a vertical coring well. The council’s planning board has voted twice to oppose the plans on traffic grounds, once against the advice of officers. The council also says the application provided insufficient information to decide its ecological impact.


Reporting at this inquiry has been made possible by individual donations to DrillOrDrop


Key points from Day 2

  • Rotherham Planning Board councillors stand by their comments that the proposed lorry route is on unsuitable roads
  • The council’s ecologist says INEOS’s survey work is inadequate or carried out at inappropriate times of year
  • He says the impact of the scheme on wildlife was unlikely to be significant but he wants survey evidence to support a conclusion
  • INEOS says it will show that there will be no damage to hedgerows from the traffic scheme
  • INEOS says it has assumed a “worst case” scenario so further survey work is not needed

 

 4.35pm Hearing closes

The inquiry resumes at 3pm tomorrow.


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The inqury inspector, Stephen Roscoe, 25 April 2018. Photo> DrillOrDrop

3.55pm Continued discussion of conditions

30 conditions are proposed, should be the shale gas plans be approved.

Works period: The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, asks what this means. Matthew Sheppard, the planning consultant for INEOS, says this could be clarified.

Road survey: This covers a survey and remedy of damage on Packman Road. As drafted, the inspector says this does not appear to have much power behind it. The council suggests this could be included in a legal agreement.

Sight lines: This deals with the creation of a visibility splay at a junction on the route. The INEOS barrister, Gordon Steele, says the hedge will need to be reduced to 900cm.

Off-road parking: Harthill Against Fracking ask for a condition to prevent site vehicles parking off the site. Gordon Steele, the barrister for INEOS, says there is no prospect of offsite parking. He suggests the inquiry return to the issue later. The company’s planning consultant says at the very initial stage of the development there would be a limited number  of vehicles parked off site before access is made to the site. He also says convoy escorts would need to park off the site while monitoring convoys.

Hours of working: The inspector asks why rig assembly and demobilisation are dealt with separately. INEOS says this will be referred to in evidence next week. Harthill Against Fracking asks whether there will be 24-hour security and whether this should be included in the conditions. The inspector says security is not normally considered to be an operation. The group says this could have an impact on noise and light.

HGV movements:  The inspector asks about the geographical area in which HGV movements are controlled in the conditions. INEOS says this could refer to deliveries to the site.

Ecological mitigation: The inspector says if the breeding bird survey found evidence of particular species in neighbouring woodland this would not be covered by mitigation because the condition refers only to the site boundary. Gordon Steele, for INEOS, says there will be evidence on this next week.

Financial guarantee: Harthill Against Fracking suggest the council should ask for a financial guarantee in case INEOS went into liquidation and did not restore the site. The council says it is not looking for a financial bond.


3.41pm Break

The inquiry resumes at 3.55pm.


3pm Discussion of conditions

The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, says discussion of conditions does not imply he has reached a particular conclusion on the appeal.

He says the two sides have reached agreement on some of the conditions. The inspector refers to conditions on:

Duration: The duration of the  development is for three years

Traffic Management Plan: This is required before development can begin

Lighting: A lighting plan is required before work can begin. Lighting proposals will vary for each phase,  the inquiry is told.

Noise during drilling: The inspector asks whether the requirement for a technical noise specification should also include noise mitigation measures.

Noise levels: The council says it wants to confirm noise conditions with the environmental health department. The inspector asks whether noise limits should be the same during the week or at weekends.

Traffic route up to the Rotherham-Derbyshire boundary: The inspector asks whether the condition on routes used by vehicles outside the authority’s boundary can be enforced.


2.29pm Discussion of site visit

Gordon Steele, for INEOS, says the company will be able to give precise detail on the exact location of passing places at the site visit, to take place tomorrow morning (Thursday 26 April). He suggests the inspector will want to see all the passing places on Packman Lane.

The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, says he plans to do this on an unaccompanied visit. But he says he is happy for this to be included in the accompanied site visit.


2.12pm Council reviews ecological evidence.

Jon Darby, for Rotherham Council, re-examines Andrew Godfrey, the council’s ecology witness. His re-examination completes the council’s case.

2.27pm Natural England comment

During cross-examination, Gordon Steele, for INEOS, pointed out that Natural England did not object to the company’s application.

Mr Godfrey says Natural England said only that the application would not have an unacceptable impact on the two nearest sites of special scientific interest.

2.22pm Turbine blades

During cross-examination, Mr Steele, for INEOS, suggested that the turbine blades for a windfarm had been brought by road and this would have caused damage to the hedgerows if the roads were too narrow.

Mr Darby raises this with Mr Godfrey. INEOS complains about the line of questioning. Mr Darby says third party witnesses will explain how the blades were transported to the windfarm site.

2.19pm “Serious oversight”

Mr Darby asks Mr Godfrey about his comment in written evidence that therre was a “serious oversight” in the INEOS ecology submission. During cross-examination, Mr Godfrey said he couldn’t remember what he meant by this.

Mr Darby asks how this comment arose. Mr Godfrey says this was because trees were scanned for bat roosts from the wrong directions. The bats would have roosted on the south side of trees, which could not be seen from the apparent survey location.

2.16pm Significance

Mr Darby asks whether is a difference between significance in planning and environmental impact assessment terms. Mr Godfrey says this type of development does not need an EIA but it does need an ecological statement which should cover protected species. Initially, he says:

“All we had was an 11-page document phase one habitat survey. It falls far short of many of the other ecological assessments I receive.”

Mr Darby asks again if there is a difference in significance on planning and EIA. Yes, Mr Godfrey replies.

Mr Darby asks whether there could be a situation where there were no significant impacts in EIA terms but there would be in planning terms. Yes, Mr Godfrey replies. It is a different concept, he says.

2.13pm Level of harm

Mr Darby asks Mr Godfrey why he thinks the development would have a low impact. Mr Godfrey says he would be able to answer when the ecological survey data was available.

Mr Godfrey says there are likely to be bat roosts in nearby woodland. Hopefully there could be things done [by INEOS] about noise and disturbance, he says. We don’t know whether there are badger sets in the plantation. It looks as if there are, he adds.

Mr Godfrey says the proposed INEOS location is in a local wildlife site. There will be an impact because there is no development there are the moment.

Mr Darby asks whether he is able to reach a conclusion on ecological impact. Mr Godfrey says no badgers are affected, as far as we know. On breeding birds, we don’t know,  he says.


2pm More questions for council ecologist

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Gordon Steele QC, INEOS barrister, (left) at the Harthill inquiry, 25 April 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Gordon Steele, barrister for INEOS, continues his cross-examination of Andrew Godfrey, the Rotherham Council ecologist.

2.02pm Information requests

Mr Steele asks whether Mr Godfrey requested more information during the screening request on the Environmental Impact Assessment. Mr Godfrey says he asked for more information at the application stage, but not at the EIA screening stage.

2.04pm “Significant harm”

Mr Steele asks Mr Godfrey whether there will be significant harm from the INEOS proposal. Mr Godrey says:

“If all the documents had been provided at the time, I suspect this situation would not have arisen. I only have a problem because there were inadequate documents.”

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Godfrey: “On the basis of the evidence there will not be significant harm”. Mr Godfrey says he doesn’t want to answer.

Mr Steele says Mr Godfrey has a professional obligation to answer the question. Mr Godrey replies: “This is not a nuclear power station or HS2”.

He says the impact should be quite small but unfortunately because of the way the surveys were conducted, at the wrong time of year, or grudgingly done in August and September, he cannot say. When the results are in he could give a categorical answer, he says.

Mr Steele asks him to give his professional opinion now. Mr Godfrey says the impact should be potentially low to moderate impact. He adds that the doesn’t want to create a problem for the counmcil. Mr Steele says he should ignore the consequences and give his professional opinion. Mr Godfrey says this type of development should have a low to moderate impact. If the survey work had been done, he would have documents to hand and he could have assessed the impact properly, he says..

Mr Steele asks: “Is low-moderate impact less than significant?” Mr Godfrey says he doesn’t want to put the council in a difficult position. The inspector, Stephen Rosecoe, says Mr Godfrey should answer yes, no or don’t know. Mr Godfrey says: “I wouldn’t think it would be significant”.


12.56pm Break

The inquiry resumes at 2pm.



11.23am Questions to council ecologist

Gordon Steele, barrister for INEOS, cross-examines Andrew Godfrey, Rotherham Council’s ecologist,

11.24am Key issues

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Godfrey that there are two issues on ecology before the inquiry:

  • Will significant harm result from the development?
  • Can this be mitigated?

Mr Godfrey agrees.

11.25am The INEOS site

Mr Steele says the site is a ploughed arable field. Mr Godfrey agrees. There is no control over the arable operation, Mr Steele says. Mr Godfrey says it would be worth mentioning the hedgerows.

Mr Steele asks what is the typical crop grown in the field. Mr Godfrey says it has been wheat and rye. Mr Steele asks whether Mr Godfrey knows when ploughing and harvesting would take place. Mr Godfrey says no.

Mr Steele says INEOS has agreed to avoid doing work at certain times of the year and this would be an improvement on the current regime. This is an advantage of control over the current system, he says.

11.27am Qualifications and experience

Mr Steele asks about Mr Godfrey’s ecological qualifications.

“You do not have an ecology degree”, Mr Steele says. “You are not qualified in ecology. You have no professional qualifications in ecology”.

Mr Godfrey says he studied ecology as part of his first degree.

Mr Steele asks Mr Godfrey how many phase one habitat surveys he has done. Mr Godfrey says he has done about 10. Mr Godfrey says he specialised on improving river habitats. Mr Steele asks whether those phase one habitat surveys are relevant to the proposed INEOS site. Mr Godfrey says they were general baseline surveys.

11.31am Screening request

Gordon Steele, for INEOS, refers to a letter about an environmental impact assessment screening request from the Secretary of State for the Harthill site.

Mr Steele says the Communities and Local Government Department concluded that the Harthill site would result in no significant environmental effects. Mr Godrey, the council’s ecologist, accepts the conclusion.

Mr Steele refers to a document from Rotherham Council on the Harthill site. This states there are no designated wildlife sites near the proposed development. It also concludes that the arable field was thought to have “negligible innate ecological interest”. The proposed development would not need an environmental impact assessment, he states.

Mr Godfrey says the screening documents concluded that an EIA was not required or appropriate for the application. In most circumstances, arable land is of very low wildlife value, he says. Mr Steele asks if Mr Godrey agrees with the council’s view that the site has “negligible innate ecological interest”. Mr Godfrey says he can’t give a simple yes or no answer.

11.41am Natural England’s view

Mr Steele asks whether Natural England objected to the application. Mr Godfrey says Natural England’s interest was mainly in Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

11.42am Hedgerows and passing places

Mr Steele asks Mr Godfrey about the impact on hedgerows. Mr Godfrey says he has not been asked to comment on the enhanced transport scheme. He says he has not walked the route or has detailed knowledge of INEOS’s proposed passing places.

Mr Steele says:

“You cannot say if there will be any impact on the passing places.”

Mr Godfrey says:

“Until I have seen more detail I cannot comment. I would only be guessing. I know there are important hedgerows on Packman Lane.”

Mr Steele suggests:

“You are not in a position to comment.”

Mr Godfrey says he knows two facts: the hedgerows on Packman Lane are ancient hedgerows (as confirmed at an inquiry on a windfarm development) and that the route runs along Loscar Common Local Wildlife Site.

Mr Steele says a recent windfarm site must have been involved a lot of heavy traffic. Mr Godfrey refers questions to a colleague. Mr Steele says consent for the windfarm was granted regardless of the hedgerows.

Mr Steele asks if Mr Godfrey is aware that the hedge-to-hedge distances on Packman Lane have been agreed between INEOS and Rotherham Council. Mr Godfrey asks what is meant by that – it is not an ecological term, he says. Mr Godfrey says he has not seen the document agreed between the two parties.

Mr Steele asks how many passing places have adjacent hedges. Mr Godfrey says the photographs he has been supplied with by Mr Steele are not as good as checking individually.  Mr Godfrey confirms he does not know how many or how far the passing places are from the hedge where there is a hedge.

Mr Steele asks:

“If the evidence confirms there will be significant damage to hedges would that remove your concern?”

Mr Godfrey replies:

“If the passing places are not next to hedges there is a potential scenario there would be no ecological impact”.

11.52am Survey timing

Mr Godrey, Rotherham’s council ecologist, says INEOS proposed to do surveys in January because it would be a good time to identify bat roosts and badger setts. He says it appears that badger and bat surveys were not reported. There is no evidence that the surveys were carried out, Mr Godfrey says.

Gordon Steele, for INEOS, says he is confused by the council’s criticism of the surveys. He says the INEOS environmental report says there was a field survey. It also says the report refers to methodology about bat and badger surveys.

Mr Godfrey says the reference to methodology is not evidence that surveys were done. There is nothing in this report to say you have done bat and badger surveys, Mr Godfrey says.

12.02pm Plant list

Mr Godfrey said in his evidence there was no plant list.

Mr Steele says the work was carried out by properly qualified ecologists. He asks Mr Steele:

“Do you believe them or not believe them?”

Mr Godfrey says if surveys were done they were not reported on.

Mr Steele says the environmental report has a list of plant species. How does this square with the council’s criticism that there was no list of plant species?, he asks. Mr Godfrey says the list that Mr Steele was referring to was not a complete plant list, which is often provided with a phase one survey. It was a table of key species, Mr Godrey says, not the complete list.

Mr Steele asks what is wrong with the list in the environmental report. Mr Godfrey repeats:

“It is not a list, it just mentions some key species”.

“What is missing?”, asks Mr Steele.

Mr Godfrey says it is pretty standard to provide a complete list of plants.

12.07pm Badgers and bats

Mr Steele, for INEOS, says the environmental report refers to the potential for badgers. Mr Godrey replies this is not a report on a survey. This comment could have been made based on aerial photographs or maps, he says.

Mr Steele asks: “How can you say there is no evidence of a survey for badgers in January”. Mr Godrey replies there is no detail in the environmental report. Even if no evidence was found this should have been included, he says.

Mr Steele says the environmental report refers to a possible bat roost. Mr Godfrey says this is not evidence of a survey.

Mr Steele says

“INEOS has faced an expensive and lengthy public inquiry because you said there was no survey, despite several references in the environmental report.”

Mr Godfrey replies:

“There is no indication that a survey has been carried out”.

Mr Steele asks:

“Are you suggesting there was no survey for bats or badgers?”

Mr Godfrey says there was no adequate reporting. The report should have referred to locations and timings of the survey. He says:

“That isn’t present. It is a poor report.”

Mr Steele asks whether it is now the council’s case that it is a poor report. He asks if Mr Godfrey has any direct evidence of badgers on or near the proposed site. Mr Godfrey says he has anecdotal evidence from a resident dating back to the time INEOS carried out seismic surveys. He says he met residents who were concerned about disturbance to wildlife. Mr Steele asks again about direct evidence. I have not done surveys myself, Mr Godfrey says.

Mr Steele asks:

“If there was more recent evidence from the woods that there were never badgers would that answer your concern?”

Mr Godfrey replies:

“It would”.

12.17pm Lighting

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Godfrey that there is agreement over lighting between INEOS and the council.

Mr Godfrey says despite this he may have personal doubts.

“This is a dark space. There is no lighting in the area. I have concerns that lighting would have an impact on some bats and owls. We have no information on bats and birds nesting in the woods.”

Mr Steele says the lighting is to be consistent with guidance for bats. Mr Godfrey says he has to accept that but he would still have reservations.

12.2pm More on bat surveys

Gordon Steele, for INEOS, says the council ecologist, Andrew Godfrey, criticised the timing of bat surveys. These were carried out after prompting by the council, the inquiry has heard.

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Godfrey that the guidance on bat surveys is that the best time includes August and September.

Mr Godrey says the survey was carried out on 25 August. The survey period for maternity roosts ends on 31 August. It was right at the end of the survey window, he says..

Mr Steele says:

“It is within the window. What possible criticism can there be for following the guidance?”

Mr Godfrey says a lot of bats would have left the roosts by then.

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Godfrey that his comments are inconsistent with  the best guidance. Mr Godfrey says the source of his comments is from a bat professional. He adds:

“There is a discrepancy between what I say and the guidance you have showed me.”

Mr Steele invites him to strike out his comments. Mr Godfrey says many bats would have left the roosts by the time the surveys were carried out. He says he will agree for convenience.

Mr Steele says:

“Your professional judgement is holding up a multi-million pound development and many jobs”.

Mr Godfrey says INEOS was recording bats in the last few days of the season. He says:

“You are picking up the tail end. If you want to do a really good job you do it in June and July.”

Mr Godfrey agrees that he should have included the word “potential” in the reference in his evidence to bat roosts.

12.30pm “Serious oversight”

Gordon Steele, for INEOS, asks Andrew Godfrey, for the council, to explain what he means in his evidence by a “serious oversight.” Mr Godfrey says he is not sure. Mr Steele asks:

“Did you write this?”

The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, says:

“Mr Steele, comments like this are not helpful.”

Mr Godfrey says bats have south-facing roosts so if you survey from Common Road the roosts will be on the other side of the trees and you may miss them.

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Godfrey there is no deficiency of information about bats. Mr Godfrey says there is no data for June, July and October. There is only data for the last weeks of  August and September, he says.

12.35pm Wildlife sites

Mr Steele asks Mr Godfrey why he said he was disappointed that INEOS failed to identify all the local wildlife sites within 2km. Mr Godfrey says there are other sites that are within 2km of the site that INEOS did not identify.

Mr Steele says INEOS identified two local wildlife sites within 2km, based on information from the council. Mr Godfrey says he identified others. Mr Steele invites him to remove his comment about “disappointment”. Mr Godfrey says he will concede the point.

12.43pm Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Mr Godfrey says he identified two SSSIs within 2km. He accepts that one is just outside the 2km distance. This is based on mapping software, he says. He agrees to amend his evidence.

12.47pm Mitigation payments

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Godfrey that mitigation may not be required for ecology. Mr Godfrey says he recommended provision of payment for use in nature conservation sites. Mr Godfrey says it is an idea to think about.

Mr Steele asks whether this is consistent with the statement of common ground. Mr Godfrey says he can’t say.

Mr Steele asks about Mr Godfrey’s current view. Mr Godfrey says he is keen to agree with the statement of common ground.

Mr Steele asks what mitigation would Mr Godfrey like to seek. Mr Godfrey says this depends on the results of the breeding bird surveys. He says:

“This goes back to the need for proper survey data, done at the right time of year.”

We have already assumed breeding birds are there, a worst case scenario, Mr Steele says, and mitigated for that. He asks:

“What more is needed?”

Mr Godfrey says he wants to see the results of the ecological walkover and the breeding bird survey. There may be corn bunting on the site, Mr Godfrey says.

Mr Steele asks:

“What difference would that make?”

He says INEOS has assumed they are there. Mr Godfrey replies:

“I like to have the data and from that to formulate the mitigation.”

Mr Steele asks Mr Godfrey what mitigation he would recommend. Mr Godfrey replies this is difficult to answer because INEOS rents, rather than owns land.


11.07am Break

The hearing resumes at 11.20am


9.59am Council ecologist gives evidence

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Andrew Godfrey, right, giving evidence, 25 April 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Jon Darby, the barrister for Rotherham Council, introduces Andrew Godfrey, the authority’s ecologist.

Mr Godfrey says he has more than 30 years experience in ecology and environmental management, mostly in the private sector. He previously worked in the oil industry, he says. He has been the case office on the INEOS application since it was submitted.

Mr Godfrey says the site is within Loscar Common local wildlife site. The nearest area of ancient woodland is Loscar Wood.

The site is in an arable field with blocks of wood from Loscar Common Plantation on either side.

10.15am Habitat surveys

Mr Godfrey says INEOS carried out an ecological phase one habitat survey in January. He says surveys in this month should be avoided because it is outside the optimum period because several protected species, including bats, are hibernating. Badgers can have limited activity at this time of year and bird surveys will not be complete, he says. It is also unsuitable for insects.

“Personally, I wouldn’t do a survey at that time of year in 4 degrees”

“It should be done between April and September or October”

He says the survey could lead to species being missed or under-recorded. INEOS has plenty of time to do the surveys, he says. There is no advantage to doing the surveys in January, Mr Godfrey says.

INEOS admitted the limitations of the timing of the survey, Mr Godfrey says.

He adds that INEOS carried out a bat survey but the data was incomplete because a bat detector was faulty. There was also a hedgerow survey, he says.

INEOS proposes a 30m gap between the site and neighbouring habitats. Mr Godfrey says this could be adequate but it doesn’t negate the need to do adequate surveys. Natural England guidance is that where there are woodlands adjoining application sites, there should be surveys for protected species.

INEOS consultants could not enter the woodland because they did not have permission, Mr Godfrey says. He adds that he suggested there were alternative techniques to survey even if there was no access.

“The lack of protected species surveys shows lack of judgement because it is within a local wildlife site and next to blocks of woodland that almost certainly supports bats and probably badgers”.

10.35am Bats

Mr Godfrey says Natural England guidance requires bat surveys. Monthly surveys should have been conducted. The original application had no bat surveys. INEOS consultants later did surveys in August and September but one of the bat detectors was faulty. The company says its surveys covered the main maternity season. This is incorrect, Mr Godfrey says. No consideration has been given to bat breeding, he adds.

10.41am Badgers

INEOS did not carry out a badger survey because it did not have permission to enter Loscar Common woods. Mr Godfrey says ecologists can identify badger activity without having access.

10.43am Need for detailed surveys

Mr Godfrey says he suggested two or three visits would be adequate for breeding bird surveys. There is plenty of justification for a survey, he says.

He tells the inquiry that the area supports corn buntings, the last place in Rotherham where they are present. Mr Godfrey says the request for a breeding bird survey was sound. There are also red and amber listed bird species – high profile birds – associated with arable and woodland and hedgerows. Farmland birds are one of the most impacted bird species in recent years, he says, adding:

“The survey would not have been expensive or onerous”.

Mr Godfrey says INEOS started detailed ecology surveys in March. This is a bit too early, he suggests. April onwards is ideal for breeding birds, he says.

10.49am Revised Traffic management Plan

Mr Godfrey says he has looked at INEOS’s revised traffic management plans but he has not walked the site to look at the proposed passing places.

He says he has not produced a written comment on the ecological impact of the passing places. The hedgerows on Packman Lane are ancient hedgerows, he says. The route runs alongside Loscar Common local wildlife site, he adds.

Mr Godrey says it looks as if hedgerows will be impacted. It looks as if hedgerows may have to be removed, he says. He says he would need more detail. It would depend on the design of the passing places.  Mr Godfrey says the verges would also be affected.

He says he has not seen any impact assessments for verges and hedgerows.

10.54am Worst case scenario and conditions

INEOS has said it has taken a worst case scenario on ecological impacts and argues that planning conditions could deal with any ecological concerns.

Mr Godfrey says:

“You can’t mitigate for every impact.

“You don’t know where the nests or badger setts or bat roosts are.

“Without that data you can’t adopt a worst case scenario.”

On conditions, he says you need to know where the sensitive species are before you can deal with them in conditions.

10.58am Reason for objection

Paragraph 118 of the National Planning Policy Framework says planning permission should be refused if significant harm cannot been avoid, adequately mitigated or compensated for.

The council used paragraph 118 to justify opposing the development. It said the company had not demonstrated the adequacy of mitigation.

Mr Godfrey says the council’s reason for refusal on ecological grounds is reasonable and valid because of the inadequacy of the survey material.

He says:

“We don’t know that significant harm would result because of the inadequate survey work and the adhoc manner in which it has been produced.

“We can’t properly assess the impact of the site on wildlife.”

INEOS did not convince him that impacts on wildlife could be mitigated, Mr Godfrey says.

“I don’t agree that INEOS can come to the conclusion of no significant harm based on a survey in January in 4C, with no badger data, limited bat data and no breeding bird survey”.

Mr Darby, for the council, asks if INEOS can say no significant harm would arise. No, Mr Godfrey says.

Mr Darby asks if INEOS can say there will be adequate mitigation. No, Mr Godrey says.

“There is no information on corn buntings. We don’t know whether it is present or absent or using the hedgerows.”

11.06am Ecological conclusion

Mr Godfrey says he has found out in the last week that INEOS is carrying out a breeding bird survey. It would have been nice to have known about that much earlier, he says.


9.44am Statement from Cllr Jennifer Whysall

cllr_whysallCllr Whysall, a member of the planning board who voted against the scheme, says her initial response to the traffic management place was disbelief that it could be a solution. She says she remains concerned that the increase in traffic places would lead to damage to verges and hedgerows.

She tells the inquiry:

I saw the scheme as very dangerous. So many passing places on a narrow road with no pavement, with hedges and trees intruding, it would be extremely difficult for pedestrians and cyclists. It would lead to people not knowing where to stand and where to go to get out of the way.”

She says commonsense can go out of the window when people get behind the wheel of a car. The INEOS traffic proposals are a paper exercise, she says.

“People get impatient. This makes the proposals untenable”.

Cllr Whysall says the site is in her ward and she adds she has lived in the area all her life. Harthill expanded because of coal mining and colliery made the community. But life outside the colliery was extra important, particularly life outdoors.

“I believe these proposals put the people that concern me into unacceptable danger because lots of people use those roads locally.”

Gordon Steele, the QC for INEOS, puts it Cllr Whysall that more passing places are better. Cllr Whysall says she likened the traffic scheme at the planning board to doing the “hokey cokey, in, out”. She says it would exacerbate the problem, with people becoming impatient. It would add to confusion and danger, she says.

Mr Steele asks whether more bays is better. Cllr Whysall says more bays may be worse.

Mr Steele asks her what she meant by “doing the hokey cokey”. Cllr Whysall  says this was how she saw it would be. Mr Steele asks:

“If you are wrong about that, would it remove your concern?”

Yes, Cllr Whysall says.

Mr Steele asks if her concern about the hedges was wrong factually would this remove her objection. Yes, Cllr Whysall replies.


9.32am Statement by Cllr John Vjestica

john_vjestica (1)Cllr Vjestica  says he was at the planning meeting last week which voted against the revised traffic plans.

He says he welcomed the change to the route to avoid a one-way system which had been proposed by INEOS. But he says some aspects were still unsuitable because the proposed route was along county lanes for vehicles measuring 17.9m long.

He says his continuing concerns are about the limited width of the road, restricted visibility and risk of conflict with other road users. My local knowledge tells me the roads are unsuitable for these vehicles, he says.

He says he is concerned that the increased number of parking places would have an adverse impact on ecology and hedgerows. They would help but would not solve the problems, he says.

The line of sight between the bays depends on how alert the users are, Cllr Vjestica says. He adds that control of horse riders and cyclists would be difficult. Th hedges are high and the roads are often very quiet, he says.

Cllr Vjestica suggests the proposed use of stop-go boards shows how unsuitable the lanes are. This could cause uncertainty for users of the road and affect their behaviour, he says.

Cllr Vjestica says he is also concerned that the use of banksmen will not be effective at the 90-degree bend at the junction of Common Road and Packman Lane.

The traffic survey suggests a low average use of the roads. But he says there are peaks and troughs. He says the manoeuvres  are very difficult. There are major concerns about highway safety, Cllr Vjestica  says.

Gordon Steele, the INEOS barrister, asks if it could be shown that there would be no damage to hedgerows would this remove his concerns about the passing places. Cllr Vjestica agrees.

On the junction, Mr Steele says tracking has shown that vehicles can manoeuvre the junction. Cllr Vjestica says he does not accept the tracking.

“I’ve driven along that particular road and I find it difficult to negotiate this.”

Mr Steele asks whether this is based on professional advice. Cllr Vjestica says it is his personal opinion.

Mr Steele says the councillor raised concerns at the planning board meeting about delays to the golf course. Cllr Vjestica says he was giving this as an example.

Mr Steele says the councillor described the traffic management plan as “heath robinson”. Cllr Vjestica accepts that those were his words. Mr Steele puts it to Cllr that the council’s highways officer has accepted the proposals. Mr Steele asks:

“Would you like to retract them?”

No, says Cllr Vjestica

Mr Steele puts it to the councillor

“Your responsible official has approved a heath robinson traffic scheme”

Cllr Vjestica says he thought the different elements were a heath robinson approach.

Mr Steele says:

“Have you considered that the experienced officers and IINEOS consultants are right and you are wrong?”

Cllr Vjestica says his experience of using the road is that the network is unsuitable.


9.30am Inquiry session opens

The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, opens the second day of the inquiry.


Harthill Shale Gas Enquiry Day 1

Reporting at this inquiry has been made possible by individual donations to DrillOrDrop

2 replies »

  1. Thanks for your continued reporting Ruth.
    I am interested in this “tracking” reference, by which I assume that means the junction and road analysis based upon a vehicular swept path study? Was a digital survey carried out does anyone know? Or was it a desktop study on ordnance survey maps and were the precise vehicles modelled and were the vehicle mirrors modelled and tracked?

  2. Can the Inquiry not save the antis from more punishment? Someone, throw in the towel.

    I indicated some while ago a cobbled together set of reasons would need to be produced at this inquiry. They need a new cobbler!

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