The community group, Harthill Against Fracking, is making a presentation this morning to the inquiry about its opposition to plans by INEOS Upstream to drill a shale gas well at Common Road in their South Yorkshire village.
This session of the inquiry, at Rotherham Council, is also expecting to hear from a noise consultant and other local people.
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
- Rotherham Council removes its objection on ecological grounds
- INEOS accused of “inherent bias” and “convenience sampling” in its data collection
- The drilling site will have “a major impact” on people who use the local roads for cycling
- Local voices who have opposed the development need to be listened, a resident says
- A noise expert says INEOS noise report is “ill-defined”
- Local people are concerned the site will develop into a fracking pad
- Harthill Against Fracking says
- The proposed traffic route is unsuitable for large site vehicles
- Verges would be damaged
- Emergency vehicles could be delayed
- Proposed passing places will change the nature of the road
- Traffic could be diverted into the village
- The stop-go board system will isolate properties and cause disruption and delays
- Vulnerable road users will be at risk
- The proposal cannot be classed as sustainable development and breaches local and national planning policy
- The scheme does not meet national policy on noise reduction
- Dust and NOx emissions could rise
- The rig would be seen from five miles away
- INEOS has not sufficiently considered local wildlife
- Local mine workings are a major concern
11.16am Inquiry adjourns
The inquiry resumes at 1pm on Tuesday 1 May when there will more statements from residents and organisations.
A member of the audience asks for the inquiry to take a quiet minute to reflect on what the development would mean if it came to their village.
11.11am Arrangements for next week
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, says the hearing will hear statements on Tuesday from 1pm-4pm and during an evening session.
11.06am Questions to Robert Lonsdale
Gordon Steele, for INEOS, cross-examines Mr Lonsdale. Mr Steele asks where the national cycle route runs. Mr Lonsdale says it runs along Thorpe Road and Harthill Road.
Mr Steele puts it to Mr Lonsdale that it does not go along Packman Lane and Common Road. Mr Lonsdale says INEOS should have the evidence. Mr Lonsdale says Mr Steele already knows the answer to the question. The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, asks for an answer.
Mr Lonsdale says he does not want to be led into an area that he doesn’t want to go to. The inspector says people will not be led into saying things or be put into a situation they don’t want to go to. The inspector says he will step in before that happens.
Mr Lonsdale confirms the national cycle route does not go along Common Road or Packman Lane.
10.50am Robert Lonsdale
Mr Lonsdale is a resident of Harthill for 20 years. He says he wants to talk about the impact on his family and its use of the countryside and on his house and garden.
10.51am INEOS data
Mr Lonsdale says he has experience of data analysis as a vascular surgeon. He is a member of a peer-review panel for scientific journals and he teaches data analysis.
Mr Lonsdale says INEOS has not approached problems of traffic in a neutral way. The company has decided it needs to get lorries down the road and has set out to prove that it could be done. It includes an inherent bias in the company’s data collection.
There is also no sampling strategy to get a representative figure of traffic. It can be described as convenience sampling. They have sampled in December 2016 and January 2017 and again in October 2017 when there was criticism of the first samples. Convenience sampling will not do, Dr Lonsdale says. They have had plenty of time to randomly sample throughout the year, he adds.
INEOS can tell you about the vehicles on the road but not the purpose of the journeys, Mr Lonsdale says. He talks about his father driving quickly to medical emergencies. Some years ago, a young man was killed at a junction 400 yards from the INEOS lorry route. GPs need to access that road and access it fast, he says.
When INEOS has produced data, they have shown a large number of cyclists but they have not addressed this issue.
10.57am Use of the roads
Mr Lonsdale says Harthill is hemmed in by the north and west by conurbations and the motorway. If you want to walk quietly, you go to the east. The only footpath is alongside the proposed site. You will now have to talk along a chain link fence, rather than through the countryside.
Cycling is now popular along the local lorry route. It is a training route for cyclists to get fit for sports races and events. They are not normal road users, Mr Lonsdale says. The routes are chosen to avoid meeting heavy goods vehicles.
The effect of this development will block this route as a route for cyclists. These are key aspects of this proposal. By diverting cyclists and other road users off this route, you have to consider where they will go. The alternatives are not suitable, Mr Lonsdale says. This will have a major impact on young men and women you use these roads for cycling.
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, asks when are the popular times. Mr Lonsdale says the key season is spring to autumn. It happens during the week and can be early in the day and late at night.
11.30am Impact on home
Mr Lonsdale says there is a direct line of vision from his garden to the rig. The distance is 1,000m and when the wind is in a direction, the noise will impact on his family and animals.
When I open the window I will see that rig in the morning and at night. The shadow of the rig will fall on his house. This is an unacceptable development for the residents of Harthill.
“We have used every legal means we have to oppose, – the parish and borough council and the MP has opposed. There are 1,300 comments against. We need to make sure that our voice is heard and is listened to. Democracy is about the will of the people.”
10.31am Questions to Dr Dupere
Gordon Steele, for INEOS, cross-examines Dr Iain Dupere, a noise witness for Harthill.
Mr Steele puts it to Dr Dupere that is experience is academic not practical. Dr Dupere says it is a false assumption that the two are separated.
Mr Steele says Dr Dupere will therefore know that sound can be mitigated.
Dr Dupere says in engines there are techniques to reduce the sound but it is harder in the open air.
Mr Steele asks what experience does Dr Dupere have of drilling rigs. Dr Dupere says he does not have any.
Mr Steele asks whether Dr Dupere had done sound modelling. None, he says. Dr Dupere also says he has not done a full survey.
Mr Steele puts it to Dr Dupere that mineral planning guidance is the correct guidance on this site. Dr Dupere agrees.
Mr Steele says if there is a noise condition to control noise at the nearest property. Dr Dupere says this depends on what you mean. He says the INEOS noise report is ill-defined.
Mr Steele says INEOS and the council have agreed on noise issues and proposed conditions. Mr Steele acknowledges that a condition should include a control point at the nearest noise-sensitive property.
Dr Dupere says there may be time when noise breaches the condition and there is no information about what happens if it does.
Mr Steele says proposed condition 11 requires a noise management plan before work can start. He puts it to Dr Dupere that this meets his concerns. Dr Dupere says this doesn’t. We’re not at this stage yet, Mr Steele says. Dr Dupere says there is no action on what would happen if tonal noise is found to exist.
Mr Steele says the issue of tonal noise is considered in another condition. Dr Dupere says you cannot put a condition of LA if there is a tonal component of the noise. In suggested a LA measure it presupposes there is no tonal component. But if there is a tonal component there is no reference to mitigation, Dr Dupere says.
Mr Steele says the planning authority will have to be satisfied that there is no tonal component before the development can commence. Dr Dupere says the conditions are badly written and contradictory. It proposes a limit that assumes no tonal component.
If there is tonal noise, Dr Dupere says an appropriate limit could be set. My problem is that this is the wrong order, he says. It is badly worded.
Mr Steele says this cannot start work until the noise plan is approved in writing.
Dr Dupere says the condition doesn’t say what happens if there is tonal noise and whether the limit would be revisited.
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, asks how the appropriate limit would be put into a condition. Dr Dupere says there would be a ‘c’ weighting, a different weighting to the ‘a’ weighting in the limit. The two limits could operate alongside each other.
Mr Steele says it would be appropriate to include a condition on tonal noise. Dr Dupere agrees.
Mr Steele asks if the 55db is consistent with the mineral planning guidance. Dr Dupere agrees that it is.
10.24am Iain Dupere statement
Dr Dupere has a phd in acoustics. He is a reader in acoustics at Manchester University, he says.
He says he was asked by Harthill to look at the data from INEOS. He says the company was trying to do contradictory things. He says the company’s report had been vague and ill-defined.
Being an open area, Dr Dupere says he would have expected to see information about weather. On some days you will not hear things beyond a certain difference. On days of low-lying fog, noise propogates along the ground. This makes sound is heard over longer areas.
He says the La rating, for local noise, is the most often quoted but is not always the most appropriate. INEOS is already stating a condition using this measure and will then see if there is any tonal component. If there is, there is no reference to mitigation.
I have no doubt the 3DB increase would be a fiction. The restrictions that are being proposed needed to be defined better and reduced.
9.36am Harthill Against Fracking presentation
Lee Marston, a resident of Harthill for 18 years, makes a statement to the inquiry on behalf of Harthill Against Fracking.
Mr Marstonsays he will present details about the impact of the road scheme on the village and the development on landscape amenity, ecology and noise. The group also has concerns about subsidence and contamination.
Mr Marston says the site is in the green belt that supports local recreation. Whitwell Woods, a site of special scientific interest, is on the village’s dooorstep.
The village has a strong community. People are very proud of the village, he says. The well is not considered sustainable development when the impacts are taken into account.
Not one letter of support was received by the council for the initial application.
The community is concerned that the site could develop into fracking.
We are not activists, he says. We are concerned local people. The application does not meet criteria for sustainable development, he says. INEOS has also not gained social licence or approval from the community.
The inspector should not give weight to the INEOS comment that exploration well application is sustainable development.
Major changes are proposed to the local road network to allow INEOS access a remote and unsuitable site. INEOS is proposing that hedges should cut to the midpoint or removed to allow widening or passing places, he says. There are already no proper footpaths. The verge safe areas will be removed.
The traffic control system will not work properly, Mr Marston says. The control measures will isolate the farms. Nine farms use the road, as does a school bus service. There is a risks of conflict with site traffic.
There are already conflicts on the road. There are already problems with larger vehicles, including farm vehicles. Vehicles up to 4.1m could be using the roads to the site.
Harthill Against Fracking (HAF) is concerned in damage to verges because of the weight of some of the biggest vehicles.
Emergency vehicles could experience delays when facing site traffic.
HAF has concerns about the use of the stop-go system. It is also concerned about the passing places will change the nature of the road. The first is currently used by local homes to park their cars.
The estimates of traffic numbers could change. On Common Road, the increase could by 7000%, Mr Marston says.
Mr Marston says the HGV traffic being given priority over other vehicles is not justifiable. The proposed control measures would divert traffic into the village and on to Harthill Field Road. This could have unintended consequences outside the village school .
Mr Marston says the turbine blades at a local windfarm were carried across the field to avoid conflict with other users. But hedges were removed and have never recovered, he says.
The proposed heavy traffic of the INEOS scheme will put other vulnerable road users at risk and intimidate them.
The construction of more than 20 additional passing places will extend the construction phase beyond three months, he says.
The narrow verges will deteriorate quickly and change their appearance because they will be used more. Flooding from the fields is also a possibility, he says.
The stop-go boards at two sections will isolate properties. The inconvenience when they are used for convoys will be greater, he says. There is the potential for vehicles reversing and turning around. This will cause problems for pedestrians and cyclists.
Disruption will be much more significant, Mr Marston. Roads were closed without notice during the seismic surveys in 2017. He says pedestrians were intimidated.
Mr Marston says the paper study does not allow for real life issues. HAF measured 5.20mins when INEOS estimated 4.30 minutes. The delay for other road users could be 32 minutes in each hour. This is 5.6 hours of lost time in a day, he says.
Mr Marston says the proposed instruction to cars to use passing places when convoys were passing could be intimidating.
Traffic survey information was done in October 2017 and December 2016. These times were not representative of the busier times of the year. The work could have been in the seismic survey period.
The surveys were done at the wrong time of year and led to incorrect assumptions.
Mr Marston presented evidence of accidents at different times of the year on the proposed route. We could have a significant road closure because of an accident, diverting traffic through the village, causing grid lock for hours.
Mr Marston says walkers, horse riders and cyclists will need more time to get to the next passing places.
A footpath links to the traffic route could people in a dangerous position. People may stop using the roads because it will not be a pleasant experience.
10.03am Sustainable development
Mr Marston says the possible development as a fracking site concerns local people. There are three exploratory well applications within a small distance and two approved applications at Tinker Lane and Springs Road. The cumulative impact should be taken into account, he says.
We are looking at the UK version of Pennsylvania, he says, at the expense of local people.
10.05 Other concerns
These include noise, spillages, air emissions, agricultural land classification. Mr Marston says the site currently is part of an environmental stewardship scheme. The application should consider what impact the scheme will have on any future quality of land.
10.06am Air quality
The site is close to the local school, Mr Marston says. Dust and NOx emissions would be increased by the scheme.
Mr Marston says the current level of noise at the site at night is 20DB. This is little more than a whisper, he says. There is no evidence that INEOS has sought to reduce the noise limit to 37db so it does not meet national policy.
The daytime noise could increase by 20db and have an observed adverse impact on local people. Mr Marston says the drilling operation will emit noise of a certain characteristic. The day and nighttime noise levels are still likely to have adverse effects, even though below the guidelines. The application should be refused, he says, for this reason.
INEOS says it is not possible to monitor noise from local gardens. This is not true, Mr Marston says. This happened for the windfarm scheme.
Mr Marston says there could be an effect on sleep and stress near the site could be considerable. The light pollution couldbe signficiant for vulnerable and elderly people.
10.12am Visual impact
Mr Marston says it is possible to see Lincoln Cathedral, 40 miles away. INEOS has not produced drawings. Its visual impact assessment is not produced according to guidelines. It will be visible for 5 miles, not 1.5 miles as the company says.
The drilling rig will reduce the heritage value of the agricultural setting of a listed farm house, Mr Marston . This issue that should have weight in the decision.
The scheme is contrary to local and national planning policy for this reason.
The five month drilling will have a significant impact on the landscape, INEOS has conceded, Mr Marston says.
Mr Marston says there is a large variety of wildlife in the area. There is a corridor that the wild deer use to Loscar Common Plantation Wood, to Loscar Common. Any industrial site on Common Road would disrupt the movement of wildlife.
We don’t believe INEOS has considered the wildlife aspect sufficiently and the surveys were flawed. The timing was inappropriate. They should have been carried out in spring and summer. Bats can be seen in the local woods, Mr Marston says. INEOS has not considered wildlife in neighbouring wildlife sites or in local hedges. Water contamination is a real concern, he says.
A rare species of butterfly, some birds, rare plants, and insects were missed because of the timing of the survey.
10.20am Safety issues
Mr Marston says well sites can explode. The process will result in drilling close to mine workings. INEOS has no practical experience in drilling and will use a US partner. This could result in mistake, he says. Drilling so close to Harthill village is a mistake, he adds. Sections of the INEOS group has breached health and safety regulations across the world.
We believe drilling near mineworkings is a real safety concern, he says, given the INEOS experience.
The area suffers from subsidence and some parts are vulnerable to sink holes. Mr Marston says there are concerns that some people locally may not be able to get house insurance.
He says there are also concerns about cross-contamination from old mineworkings and the disturbance of methane and hydrogen sulphide. The INEOS case does not mention naturally-occurring radioactive. We are concerned about the waste movements in our areas, he says.
We ask the inspector to take account of our concerns for drilling in the greenbelt. Sustainability should also be taken into account.
Mr Marston chose not to be cross-examined by the INEOS barrister, Gordon Steele.
9.35am INEOS on noise
Gordon Steele, for INEOS, says he will put questions to Iain Dupere, for Harthill Against Fracking on noise issues.
9.33am Council drops ecology opposition
Jon Darby, for the council, says in the light of developments, ecology is no longer a reason to oppose the INEOS application. Gordon Steele, for INEOS, says this will save time. Mr Darby says the council will now focus on highway safety issues.
9.32am INEOS offer
Gordon Steele, the INEOS barrister, says the company may be able to bring along a piece of casing for the proposed well. The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, says this is not a matter that he wishes to question INEOS
9.30am Inquiry resumes
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, opens the fourth day of the inquiry.