This post has live updates from the third day of the inquiry into plans by INEOS to drill for shale gas at Harthill in south Yorkshire.
This afternoon’s hearing at Rotherham Council is expected to hear a statement from the local MP, Sir Kevin Barron.
INEOS appealed in November 2017 over what it said were unacceptable delays in deciding the application for a vertical coring well. Rotherham 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 today’s hearing
- Local MP Sir Kevin Barron says residents are concerned about the risk of INEOS proposals disturbing old mine workings and damage to local homes
- Sir Kevin tells the hearing: “INEOS are not best developers I have met”
- Sir Kevin says the OGA has commissioned no research on fracking in former coal mining areas
- INEOS says its Harthill proposals “have nothing to do with fracking”
3.30pm Inquiry adjourns
The inquiry resumes at 9.30am tomorrow (Friday 27 April) with statements from residents and a presentation on behalf of Harthill Against Fracking
3.22pm INEOS questions to Sir Kevin Barron MP
Gordon Steele, for INEOS, asks Sir Kevin whether a report by Professor Peter Styles, referred to in his statement (see below) relates to fracking. He puts it to Sir Kevin that the correspondence with the Coal and Oil & Gas Authorities, presented to the inquiry, relates to fracking. Sir Kevin asks who would be responsible if there were ground movements because of fracking.
Sir Kevin says he is concerned about what is being planned in the future at Harthill. He says
“INEOS are not the best developers I have met”.
He says some of the ways INEOS has approached the proposed development – particularly about the injunction – have caused concerns.
Sir Kevin says:
“People fell about laughing when INEOS said the injunction was about militant activists.”
This is not Preston New Road or North Yorkshire, he says.
Mr Steele says the application has nothing to do with fracking. Sir Kevin replies:
“This is the foothills of a mountain. We should not be rushing into this.”
3.08pm Statement from Sir Kevin Barron MP
Sir Kevin Barron (left) says he has represented the Harthill area for more than 30 years, after a career in mining.
When INEOS announced its plans for Harthill, he says, he tried to engage with residents and the company, as well as Rotherham Council.
He says he met and corresponded with the Coal Authority because of concerns about what might happen to the Harthill site after the coring well has been drilled. He says he is concerned that fracking would disturb abandoned coal mines.
Sir Kevin says he also corresponded with the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) about damage from subsidence. This is one of the major issues about which people have contacted him, he says.
Sir Kevin says he remains unconvinced about comments from the OGA about responsibility for any damage caused by ground movements. The OGA told him it had commissioned research into the depth of mines in the East Midlands. He was told this would be completed by April 2018. But Sir Kevin says he has established that the OGA has not commissioned research on fracking in coal mining areas.
He says the OGA told him it required a letter from company boards about liability for damage.
The Coal Authority sees fracking in mining as a potential threat, Sir Kevin says. Any damage at the surface is something that the tax payer has to pick up, he adds. If there is disturbance of ground, who would be responsible for putting right any damage, he asks.
Sir Kevin says a constituent had correspondence from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which confirmed that buildings insurance would cover any damage to property. Sir Kevin says this insurance would not cover coal mining subsidence. He questions how well BEIS has thought this through.
Sir Kevin says he is an officer on an All Party Parliamentary Group on fracking. He says there is a lack of guidance on fracking. He says:
“This application has a major implications for his constituents. They are concerned that if fracking goes ahead who will be responsible for damage for property.”
Sir Kevin refers to a presentation by Emeritus Professor Peter Styles to Yorkshire Geological Society, which drew attention to geological faults identified on coal mining maps. Sir Kevin says:
“Keeping away from faults is a key issue for fracking. There are miles of underground mine workings and faults in the areas.”
Professor Styles calls for the high resolution maps produced by mining engineers to be used in planning decisions (see DrillOrDrop report). Sir Kevin says:
“The government has not looked into this issue. It is a major issue for me. There is no guidance on this subject.”
3pm Hearing opens
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, opens the hearing.
Mr Roscoe says he took part in an accompanied site visit this morning. He asks for INEOS vehicle tracking diagrams and information on construction of passing places.