Regulation

Live news updates: Day 7 of Harthill inquiry into Ineos shale gas plans

10 tonne lorry on Common Road Harthill Paul Rowland

Section of the lorry route to Harthill. Photo: Paul Rowland

The public inquiry into plans by Ineos Upstream for shale exploration plans in South Yorkshire is expected to end today.

The  inquiry has been examining proposals for a vertical coring well at Common Road in the village of Harthill. It has heard from Ineos consultants, officers of Rotherham Borough Council and about 20 members of the public.

The cross-examination of  the company’s traffic consultant continues today, to be followed by ecological evidence and testimony by Tom Pickering, Ineos Shale’s operations director.


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


Key points

Ineos

  • No material considerations outweigh the benefits of the development
  • The Harthill proposal is supported by national policy
  • Regulators can remove concerns about environmental impacts
  • The Traffic Management Plan meets highway safety concerns
  • Passing places will improve road safety
  • Daytime noise limit dropped to 50db
  • Convoys would pass Packman Lane for only 18 minutes a day
  • Ineos protest injunction not aimed at anyone “in the [inquiry] room”
  • Residents’ concerns were overstated
  • Fracking would not be allowed under the application

Rotherham Council

  • Highway concerns have not been resolved
  • Both sides agree “it is a challenging route”
  • HGV deliveries rely on vehicles overrunning the carriageway and for inch-perfect manoeuvres
  • Limitations in Ineos the accident data
  • Increases in traffic will creates clashes between road users
  • The 4.3km lorry route is not suitable because it needs 23 passing places and 705m subject to traffic controls
  • Proposed passing places would exacerbate flooding, have an impact on homes and farms and on hedges and verges
  • Traffic plans have an unrealistic reliance on the control of third parties and their co-operation and experience
  • Convoys of site traffic could result in fear and intimidation
  • The impact of protests is a real risk and has not been addressed
  • Displacement of traffic has not been addressed

Residents

  • Harthill Against Fracking felt bullied by the reference to the protest injunction by Ineos Operations Director, Tom Pickering
  • Residents felt democratically disadvantaged by the inquiry
  • Residents felt let down by Rotherham Council’s preparation for the inquiry
  • The inquiry may not have been needed if there had been better liaison between the council, Ineos and residents

3.35pm Inspector closes the inquiry

Stephen Roscoe, the planning inspector, says he will make his decision and it will be published on the planning inspectorate website.


3.07pm Closing statement – Ineos

Gordon Steele, for Ineos, says the company is not applying for fracking.  It is also not seeking approval of the traffic management plan which can be resolved later.

Mr Steele says no material considerations outweigh the benefits of the development. He says the development is supported by national policy iin the NPPF and Planning Practice Guidance, as well as the Written Ministerial Statement. This is a clear positive consideration which weighs in favour of the development.

Mr Steele says other regulators can remove concerns about any environmental impacts. The development is temporary and all impacts will be reversible.

Ineos has a contractual requirement to carry out the work to comply with the PEDL licence.

One of the key issues is traffic and highway safety, Mr Steele says. The council’s original case was based on a mistaken understanding of the width of Packman Lane. This allowed for the incorporation of more passing places than thought. Council officials now agree that the traffic management plan meets concerns. There is no reason to refuse on highway grounds, Mr Steele says.

The other issue is ecology, Mr Steele says. The council has since dropped its opposition to the development. All professional witness say there is no reason to reject the application on these grounds.

Ineos gave evidence by 12 witnesses. This was designed to address objections and concerns of local residents.

Mr Steele says Ineos has obtained all records from the 1980s and has confirmed there is an absence of major faulting near the site. Mr Steele refers specifically to Andrew Sloan, a well engineer, as a very experienced and credible witness.

On noise issues, Mr Steele refers to evidence that Ineos’ witness was happy to reduce the daytime limit to 50db.

On traffic issues, the Ineos witness, Kevin Martin confirmed that vehicles could negotiate the road. The passing places proposed would be agreed at an appropriate stage, Mr Steele says. The convoys would pass along Packman Lane for only 18 minutes a day, Mr Steele says.

On protest, Mr Steele says the injunction is not directed at anyone in the room. But others approach the company “in a different manner”, he says.

The passing places will improve safety on what is there now. There is no positive evidence, Mr Steele says, that the effects on highway safety will be severe.

In my submission you do not have evidence to justify such a finding. Evidence that there is points to the finding that the evidence will not be severe.

On fracking, Mr Steele says this will not be allowed at Harthill.  The proposed pressure transient test is completely different and distinct from fracking.

On Rotherham Council evidence, Mr Steele welcomed the evidence of the highways officer, Ian Ferguson who said there was no reason to refuse the application. There was a misunderstanding by councillors on the impacts of the traffic management plan. There is nothing to be worried about given the opinion of qualified highway engineers or reasons to refuse.

On ecology, Mr Steele says there is little or no foundation in the council’s evidence. The council itself has concluded that the site is likely to be of negligible innate ecology value and “no significant harm” from the proposal.

On the views of local residents, Mr Steele it was “a good thing” that so many residents attended the inquiry. He says some concerns were overstated and the development did not include fracking. The real issue on traffic is a possible slight delay, Mr Steele says. He hopes that fears have been allayed and if permission is granted they will prove unfounded.

Mr Steele concludes that consent should be granted subject to conditions, particularly the TMP which must be approved before any development can commence.


2.43pm Closing statement – Rotherham Council

Jon Darby, for Rotherham Council, says highway safety remains the only issue between the council and Ineos. The council has removed its objection on ecology.

The council submits highway concerns have not been resolved by any proposal, evidence or submission.

There are acknowledged constraints and limitations of modelling. It is common ground that it is a challenging route. It has taken two experienced transport consultancies the best part of a year to arrive at the proposal in the TMP.

Proposed deliveries rely on over-run onto the opposite side of carriageway and for inch-perfect manoeuvres. Drivers may approach these difficult areas in ways that are different from the computer models. It may be physically possible but this does not account for human error, make it suitable or make it safe.

Ineos’ conclusion that its plans would not have a material impact on the road network is not credible. There are limitations with the accident data in the company’s case, Mr Darby says.

He urges the inspector to adopt a cautious approach. There is likely to e a 6,000% increase in traffic on Common Road and 2,000% increase in HGVs.

The maximum spikes in numbers will create clashes or pinch points and these should be taken into account, more than averages.

The company, despite creating 23 passing places, cannot achieve inter-visblity. One section of route measure 2.275km  has a 475m section of traffic controls and 1,950m of 9 passing places.

There are 4.3km of route with 705m subject to traffic controls and 23 passing places suggests the route is not suitable.

The inspector cannot assume outstanding issues will be resolved, Mr Darby says.

The Ineos representative could not point to another example with so many passing places or traffic controls.

The passing places are unsuitable, Mr Darby says, because of dimensions, forward visibility, exacerbating flooding, impact on homes and farm properties and the impact on hedges and verges.

The TMP does not consider the consequences of HGVs and other vehicles overshooting passing places and encountering other vehicles. This could lead to head-on collissions, reversing or using the verge.

On traffic controls,Mr Darby says one section is 475m in length. We are at the ceiling of the recommended length. They do not take into account of vulnerable road users and third party vehicles.

There is an unrealistic reliance on control of third parties.

The operation and function of all of the traffic proposals relies on two unrealistic assumptions – that third parties will cooperate and are experienced enough to deal with the unusual circumstances.

Mr Darby says Ineos is guilty of making the same assumptions about potential conflicts with farm vehicles. The management techniques are entirely absent. The TMP is entirely reliant on third party cooperation which Ineos cannot secure and the inspector should be wary of assuming.

On convoys, this is a stark  contrast to the typical use of roads. Mr Darby says. Given the state of relations between Ineos and the local community, there may be fear and intimidation on rural roads and through residential communities. But this has not been addressed.

Mr Darby says the impact of protests, which has not been addressed, is a very real and significant risk.

All the proposals rely on adherence to the plan and proper implementation. There remains the potential for human error and incorrect use of the route. This would represent a breach of the plan and would undermine the safety benefits of the TMP in the first place.

On displacement traffic, Mr Darby says Ineos has not addressed displacement to and from other roads in the network.

Mr Darby says there is a risk displacement would also happen when the 23 passing places would be constructed.

Mr Darby concludes that the proposals are unsuitable and unsafe for all road users. The challenges remain despite the mitigation. The proposals give rise to a material increase in the risk of difficult interactions in difficult and confusing circumstances.

The residual cumulative impacts should consider the impacts of mitigations and applies when the development is underway. A low likelihood of significant impact is as unacceptable as high likelihood of low harm.

An accident is likely to be between an HGV with a vulnerable user given the need for vehicles to cross into opposite carriageways and the need to use verges. Such an accident may well be severe. If the proposals inrease the risk of diffcult interactions accidents and personal injuries then the proposal causes a drop in highway safety.

A low likelihood of severe harm gives to an unaccepttable risk, which is a severe residual cumulative impact that justifies the refusal of permission. The appeal should be refused.


2.35pm Closing statements – public

2.35pm Les Barlow, Harthill resident

Mr Barlow thanks the inspector for allowing Harthill Against Fracking the chance to give its evidence to the inquiry and explain its concerns. He says the group is disappointed that Tom Pickering, the operations director of Ineos for referring to the injunction in force against protests. We feel bullied by this behaviour, he says.

2.39pm Deborah Gibson, Harthill resident

Ms Gibson says residents feel democratically disadvantaged at the inquiry. The inadequacies of early baseline studies by Ineos and the council makes the villagers feel left alone, she says.

We have observed that Ineos is incredibly well-organised. It is a machine I can only be in awe of, in terms of communication and backup and support. This is not something I have seen from the council.

We expected the council to provide the same level of detail that we saw from Helen Wilks and Magnus Gallie and we feel very let down by that.

The connection between this scheme and future fracking has been made clear at the inquiry. The impacts are not temporary, she says.

The idea that this inquiry may never have had to happen if there had been better communication by the council and Ineos beggars believe. It is so drawn-out and expensive. I know what it has cost us. It has cost me two weeks that I will never get back. I have students at work who are sitting exams next week and I should have been there for them but I am here.

We could have done so much of the leg work. We have been left on our own to find out way through the planning and inquiry process. It’s been hell, basically, she says.


1.40pm Conditions

The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, reopens discussions on conditions should the proposal be approved. Mr Roscoe says he would look in details at the wording of the conditions.

There are a total of 29 conditions. They cover issues such as noise, hours of work, traffic plans and a requirement for a community liaison group. The inspector suggested a condition for “white noise” and silencing reversing alarms for site vehicles.


1.05pm Break

The inquiry resumes at 1.40pm.


1pm Inspector’s questions to Ineos planning witness

The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, asks about the impact of three wells being drilled in the area at the same time. There is possible cross-voer impact, Matthew Shepherd says, but there are no plans about when these wells will be drilled. Mr Shepherd says there would not be interactions between traffic from the different sites on local roads.


12.44pm Evidence from Ineos planning witness

Matthew Shepherd, the Ineos planning witness, gives evidence. Gordon Steele, the barrister for Ineos, proposes to take the evidence as read with no questions.


12.46am Questions to Ineos planning witness

Jon Darby, barrister for Rotherham Borough Council, cross-examines Mr Shepherd.

Mr Darby asks planning policy requirement for a safe and suitable access. He says this includes the roads outside the site, as well as the access. Mr Shepherd agrees.

Mr Darby puts it to Mr Shepherd that the route is challenging. Mr Shepherd says the mitigation ensures the route is safe and suitable. Mr Darby says the challenges include bends and vulnerable road users. He says they remain after the mitigation.

Mr Shepherd says the mitigation has taken away the number of challenges. Mr Darby says the roads don’t get narrower or become straighter. Mr Shepherd agrees there are some limitations on the route.

Mr Darby asks whether Mr Shepherd has come across so many passing places. Mr Shepherd says he has not. Nor has he come across two traffic controls in such a short space.

Mr Shepherd says the mitigation helps to address the potential for conflict. Adding multiple HGVs, abnormal loads and the concentration of features, stop-go sections and banksmen increases the risk of difficulty interactions. Mr Shepherd says there are already large vehicles on the roads. The mitigation has reduced the risk.

Mr Darby says there is a material increase in difficult interactions. Mr Shepherd says this is not material. Mr Darby suggests that the mitigation is part of the problem, increasing the risk of difficult interactions. Mr Shepherd disagrees.

Mr Darby suggests that the residual cumulative impact takes account of the mitigation and the period of the development. Mr Shepherd says the mitigation should be considered. He says it is not clear whether this covers the period of the development.

Mr Darby says the challenges of road widths, bends, and vulnerable road users remain after the mitigations are in place. Mr Shepherd says these challenges remain.

On the definition of “severe”, Mr Shepherd says there is no clear definition in case law. “Severe” means very grave harm or very extreme. It is quite a high bar in policy terms, he says. Mr Darby says it does not refer to likelihood. Mr Shepherd agrees.

Mr Shepherd says the mitigations improve the problems. The development will increase difficulty issues but that is why the mitigations have been put in place.

Mr Darby asks whether Ineos drivers will be experienced agricultural drivers. Mr Shepherd says the drivers will have training. In the worst case, the convoys can stop. Mr Darby puts it to him that Ineos drivers will be as experienced as farm workers of meeting animals on country lanes. There is no reason why they should not be, Mr Shepherd says.

Mr Darby suggests what is proposed will make the highway less safe. Mr Shepherd disagrees. A severe outcome of an accident would result in a severe residual cumulative impact, Mr Darby suggests. Mr Shepherd says not necessarily.


12.35pm Inspector’s questions to Ineos ecologist

Stephen Roscoe, the inspector, asks aSally Olds, the Ineos ecologist, bout corn buntings. She says there were no records of corn buntings on the site.

Mr Roscoe asks about the breeding bird survey being undertaken now. He asks how the breeding bird survey results would be use. Ms Olds says the survey was felt not to be needed. The council felt there should be one and so Ineos carried out a survey. We don’t expect it to change the assessment or mitigation, she says.

Mr Roscoe says Ineos doesn’t expect the survey to find anything not already accounted for. Ms Olds says the results confirm is exactly what the ecologists expected to find.

Ms Olds says her evidence does not cover the traffic management plan. She says there is no need to remove any hedgerows to create the passing places. Mr Roscoe asks about impacts on the hedgerows and verges.

Ms Olds says we are not expecting the hedgerows to be affected by the passing places. There will be some loss of grass habitat to create the passing place, she adds.

Mr Roscoe asks about impacts during construction and decommissioning. Ms Olds says people walking around could disturb birds but not significantly.


12.31pm Public questions to Ineos ecologist

Deborah Gibson asks why detailed surveys were not carried out. Sally Olds, the Ineos ecologist, says a desk study was carried out, followed by a scoping survey. That was carried out in January. This was an adequate time for an arable field. It was a good time to look for bat roosts. Badgers can be seen all year round, she says.

At that time, we saw no value in doing further surveys knowing the impacts of the development. As a precautionary approach, we assumed key species were there and provided mitigation.

Asked why the ecologists did not ask local people. Ms Olds says they could have done this but it was not standard practice.

Helen Wilks asks how far badgers travel. Ms Olds says their terrritories can be quite big. Mrs Wilks says there are badger sets on her land and in Loscar Wood. Ms Olds says it is possible these badgers could visit the site.


12.27pm Evidence from Ineos ecology witness

Sally Olds, Ineos’ ecology witness, gives evidence to the inquiry.

12.27pm Environmental impacts

Ms Olds says the site is not covered by any designations. It was likely not to be of any innate ecological interest.

The ecological survey effort was appropriate for the scale of the development nor the likely impact. The company’s conclusions and mitigation measures would not change with further survey information. She confirms that Rotherham Borough Council has withdrawn its ecological objections.

12.30pm Loscar Wood

Ms Olds says she has recently been given access to Loscar Common Plantation. I have seen no sign of badgers in the woodland.

12.31pm Breeding bird survey

Ms Olds says a breeding bird survey is being carried out between March and June. There would be four visits. It has confirmed the assumption of the presence of farmland and woodland birds.


12.10pm Questions for Tom Pickering

Members of the public at the inquiry are invited to put questions to Tom Pickering, the Ineos Shale operation’s director.

12.10pm Liaison with Harthill

Deborah Gibson says several people have made attempts to contact Ineos through Gordon Grant and have had no response. We have concerns about incidents involving Ineos contractors and we have had no response, she says.

Mr Pickering says he has sat down with Ms Gibson. He says calls are logged and are responded to them.

Ms Gibson asks why calls from Amanda Dickingson, the community police officer, were not responded to. Mr Pickering says the company liaises with police and at bronze command level the police regard liaison as important. Ms Gibson asks the question again.

12.13pm Tax

Ms Gibson asks how Ineos has contributed to tax compared with individuals. Stephen Roscoe, the inspector, Tom Pickering says Ineos companies have complex tax relationships. The money spent is taxed in the UK and is recovered to the UK treasury through the UK tax system.

12.15pm Vertical wells

Ms Gibson asks Mr Pickering to convince the inquiry that the operation is safe. Mr Pickering says Ineos runs complex industrial operations. If you are running good or transparent operations and when the HSE visit the site close the operations to their satisfaction. He says there risk assessments and pre–planning. It is built into the elements of the business.

There have been many cored wells in the UK, Mr Pickering says. This supports evidence that this can be done safely, he adds.

12.18pm Equality issues

Ms Gibson asks how Ineos would address equality in local employment. She says she wants to consider the safety of women when this is a largely male business. Mr Pickering says Ineos looks for skill first and to meet the ability to do the job.

On the shale team, Mr Pickering has women drilling engineers. Lynn Calder is on the board of Ineos Shale. They are capable and competent in these jobs.

12.21pm Opposition in Harthill

Resident Les Barlow asks for an example Ineos has made for a two-way dialogue with Harthill Against Fracking Mr Pickering says the company has had an exhibition, town hall meetings. Two-way dialogue has not emerged from that, Mr Pickering says.

12.23pm Liaison with farmers

Mr Brookes asks about Mr Pickering’s comment that “every attempt” had been made to liaison. How does that square with the lack of liaison with farmers, he asks. Mr Pickering says assuming the company is given permission the next phase involves dialogue.

Mr Brookes asks if there has been any liaison with Loscar Farm. Mr Pickering says he has not but will check whether others have.

Mr Pickering says there has been written correspondence with Harthill. He is asked if there has been individual letters to properties. Mr Pickering says there 50,00 leaflets in local papers. A resident who overlooks the site says he and his neighbours have not received anything. Mr Pickering says he can say only what the company has done.


11.56am Evidence from Tom Pickering

Gordon Steele, Ineos’ barrister, calls Tom Pickering, the company’s operations director, to give evidence.

11.58am Need for site

Mr Pickering says it is necessary for the UK to make the most of its shale gas resources to reduce reliance on coal and imports. Ineos will use the gas to make plastics, he says, and to reduce its carbon footprint.

Mr Pickering says exploration is an integral part of the gas production process. The Harthill site is the most appropriate for geology and environmental reasons, he says. The process can done safely, he adds. Impact on greenhouse gas emissions would be negligible.

The application is not for horizontal drilling or fracking, Mr Pickering says.

Ineos is required to maximise production from the exploration licences, Mr Pickering says. This would require another application. But data from the core well will inform future developments. The site could be used for further appraisal or production.

Ineos is privately funded and profitable and is unlikely to fail. The company is able to fund any remediation, Mr Pickering says. After five years the site would be restored and returned to the landowner unless a further application is made.

Works would not start until the conditions had been complied with. The drilling techniques are established. Ineos runs complex operations and is best in class when compared with its peers. It has a transparent relationship with the HSE. It works closely with neigbbourhood groups, Mr Pickering adds.

Contractors would be expected to “participate fully” in meeting the objectives.

A further application would be needed for production and greater consents. Ineos accepts this does not give local people certainty. The company intends to continue communicating with local communities.

Coring wells are regularly drilled onshore, he says. The appropriate regulatory bodies have and will provide oversight. This site may or may not be suitable for fracking, he adds.

The UK’s energy infrastructure depends on gas and will do for some time. Ineos understands the concerns of the local people. If the application is approved we are committed to liaising through a community liaison group.

12.07pm Injunction

Mr Pickering confirms that anyone who conducted unlawful activities or broke the order of the injunction they would be in breach.

He confirms that Ineos has considered the impact of protests on convoys. Peaceful protest would be addressed through community liaison.

12.08pm Liaison

Mr Pickering says there have been attempts at liaison with the community. The company has written to parish councils, there is a member of staff in the area, and there have been two town hall meetings.

We have taken local press to the US, met with local MPs and put out 50,000 leaflets through local newspapers. The website is comprehensive, he adds.

Mr Pickering says he has turned up to all the meetings. We do have dialogue. It is sad to end up at this inquiry. There has been no attempt to hide from engagement. The long-term aim is to secure acceptance.


11.37am Review of traffic evidence

Gordon Steele, the Ineos barrister, re-examines the company’s traffic witness, Kevin Martin

11.38am Control

Mr Steele asks would anyone be in control. Mr Martin says there be scope to stop, suspend or reverse a convoy in an emergency. If the convoy had entered the traffic route then lorries could be held in Bondhay Lane.

11.39am Traffic management plan

Mr Martin says there could be a requirement in the traffic management plan for a convoy or a minimum number in a convoy

11.40am Swept path analysis

Mr Martin says he has no doubts about whether vehicles could navigate the junctions. The drivers would be “experienced professional individuals”, he says.

Mr Martin says there will be a small number of abnormal loads. Over the construction phases there would be 56 abnormal loads in and out. The largest, referred to in drawings, were very few, he says.

An abnormal load delivery would be very 4-16 days, he says, depending on the stages of the project. He agrees there is not much to fear when this is looked at numerically.

11.46am Passing places

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Martin that passing places are common and work well on rural roads. Mr Martin says he has created them on rural roads for wind farm developments.

Have you ever known such a fuss to be made about passing places Mr Steele asks. It is rare, Mr Martin says. Mr Martin says he’s not heard of any accidents happening when passing places are created.

Mr Martin says the ownership of hedges on Packman Lane is not relevant to the creation of passing places.

He says he is familiar with construction and can be done off the highway. There will not be significant disruption to traffic.

11.48am Risk of accidents

Mr Martin says the risk of accidents is reduced because of the creation of passing places.

11.49am Narrowest point

Mr Martin confirms that the narrowest section of the lorry route is 4.1m. He says there is adequate width and experienced drivers will be able navigate this section. An overhang mentioned earlier in the inquiry is not a concern, he says.

11.51am National Planning Policy Framework

Mr Martin says the proposals meet the requirement for “safe and suitable” access. He says Ineos has proposed improvements and has agreed to pay for them.

Mr Steele, the company’s barrister, asks will the development limit impacts. Mr Martin says it will.

The NPPF allows for refusal only if residual cumulative impacts are severe. Mr Martin says the impacts are not severe. Residual cumulative impacts relate to what has happened after the traffic proposals have been implemented, he says.


11.13am Inspector’s questions to Ineos traffic witness

The inquiry inspector, Stephen Roscoe, puts questions to Kevin Martin, the Ineos traffic witness.

11.14am Junction operation

The inspector asks about a junction on the traffic route just inside Derbyshire.

Mr Martin says there will signage at the junction and there could be a banksman if necessary. A site visit involving Derbyshire County Council led to no concerns from Derbyshire officers. The junction does require the largest vehicles to overhang the carriageway, Mr Martin says.

11.17am Traffic effects

The inspector asks about impacts on the A-road network and the motorway. Mr Martin says this is a principal road and can cater for these volumes.

11.18am Convoy arrangements

Mr Roscoe says arrangements include convoys of 2-8 vehicles or single vehicles with an escort. How would this decision be made, Mr Roscoe says. This is a matter for logistics, Mr Martin says. Convoy are a good idea because they reduce the movements along a route, he adds.

Mr Roscoe says there is nothing to prevent all HGVs travelling singly. Mr Martin says this is true. Convoys enhance road safety, Mr Martin adds.

Mr Roscoe says HGVs travelling singly with an escort to and from the site would accord with the traffic management plan. Mr Martin agrees.

Mr Roscoe asks how HGVs are defined. Mr Martin says this is vehicles in excess of 3.5 tonnes. Mr Roscoe asks for a definition of abnormal loads. Mr Martin says it could be in excess of 44 tonnes, longer than 18.5m and width of more than 2.9m.

11.25am Enforcement

Mr Roscoe asks how the routing would be enforced. Mr Martin says Ineos contractors would be required to comply. He asks about enforcing appropriate speed limits. Mr Martin says this would be the same.

11.27am Inconsistency

Mr Roscoe says there appears to be an inconsistency in the traffic management plan on the stages of the operation. Mr Roscoe asks about proposed maintenance which has different numbers in different documents. Mr Martin says there will be low levels of vehicles during maintenance.

11.29am Suspension of traffic management plan

Mr Roscoe asks how the TMP would be suspended. Mr Martin had previously said the TMP could be suspended in exceptional circumstance. Answering the question, he says this needs to be added to the TMP. It could be associated with a motorway closure or farming activities.

Mr Roscoe asks who would decide to suspend the TMP. Mr Martin says it would be the onsite controller in dialogue with the local authority. It needs further thought, Mr Martin says.

11.33am Site access

Mr Roscoe asks for a drawing on sitelines. Mr Martin says it is in the original traffic management plan.

11.36am Maximum width

Mr Martin says the maximum width of 3.5m for lorries using the route could be used to the traffic management plan.


10.55am Break

The hearing resumes at 11.10am


10.0am Public questions to Ineos traffic witness

10.03am Staging points

Farmer Helen Wilks asks about the staging point on Bondhay Lane. Kevin Martin, for Ineos, says this a potential staging point. The convoy could stop there, he says. If the route is clear, it would continue. Mrs Wilks asks if the banksmen will carry anything. No says Mr Martin. He says the banksmen will be advising, not controlling traffic.

Mrs Wilks asks how far ahead the advance vehicle will be travelling. Mr Martin says he can’t say but it would be a matter of passing places.

Mrs Wilks asks if banksmen will stop at Bondhay Cottages to tell the residents about a convoy. Mr Martin says they will not stop at this point. He says there will be liaison with residents.

Mrs Wilks says the convoy will not be able to enter a traffic control area if there other vehicles. Mr Martin says the lead escort will advise the convoy when to continue. The convoy would have to stop if there vulnerable road users, Mrs Wilks suggests. It would be advised when to go forward.

Mrs Wilks puts it to Mr Martin that the escort vehicle will have to drop-off four banksmen. Mr Martin agrees.

10.19am Right of way

Resident Les  Barlow asks whether the passing places are designed for site HGVs. Kevin Martin says other road users would be expected to use the passing places while a convoy was on the road. Mr Barlow puts it to Mr Martin that this requires 100% compliance. Mr Martin agrees.

If a convoy had to stop, it would block the road for all other road users, Mr Barlow says. It would, Mr Martin agrees. He says the passing places are there to help other road users.

10.21am Liaison

Resident Les Barlow asks how liaison would work with farmers and residents. Mr Martin says this will be sorted out in the finalisation of the traffic management plan. If parties are not happy, Mr Barlow asks, what happens then. Mr Martin says there would be dialogue. The logistics manager would take account of local circumstances. This relies on voluntary co-operation from people who have objected to the application. Mr Martin agrees.

10.23am Load widths

Les  Barlow asks how Ineos has reduced the maximum widths of loads from 4.1m to 3.5m. Mr Martin says the equipment can be rotated to reduce the width. He adds that he has considered height. Asked by the inspector where this evidence is, Mr Martin says he has considered it but it is not in his evidence. A survey was undertaken of the telegraph wires but it is not before the inquiry, the hearing is told.

10.28am Pinch point

Harthill resident, Chris Brookes, refers to a pinch-point between two bulidings on the lorry route. He asks Kevin Martin there is potential for a “catastrophic accident” there.

Mr Martin says the computer modelling shows the vehicles can pass at this point. The widest load and the longest vehicle can pass the width available. The majority of construction vehicles are smaller, he adds.

Mr Brookes says there are 600mm available. What controls are in place to ensure the drivers can achieve that inch-perfect manoeuvre. Mr Martin says they will be able to do the manoeuvre satisfactorily.

10.31am Vibrations

Mr Brookes asked about what consideration had been given to vibration impact to the buildings. Mr Martin says the vibration would be no different from HGVs using the road at the moment.

10.32am Road surfaces

Mr Brookes asks about what analysis has been done on the suitability of Packman Road and Common Road to carry the loads. Mr Martin says there will be a dilapidation survey and any damage caused would be paid by Ineos.

10.34am Holding area on approach road

Mr Brookes asks where the staging area will be before lorries go through traffic route. The inspector says this location will not be given in evidence to the inquiry for confidentiality reasons.

10.35am Protests

It is put to Mr Martin that it would be good practice to consider the impact of protest. Mr Martin says he has not considered protests.

10.38am Speeds

Mr Martin is asked how Ineos would slow down vehicles driving up to 60mph. Mr Martin says the characteristics of the road would mean most people will slow down. He adds that the lead escort vehicle will assist people that a convoy is coming.

10.38am Construction of passing places

Mr Martin says the passing places will be created using a mini-digger or dug out. It would be managed carefully. He is asked how traffic will be controlled while the passing places are built. Mr Martin says there will be stop-go boards. The company would talk to the farmers about when the work should be carried out. The inspector says this would be covered by a legal agreement.

10.42am Rights to control traffic

Deborah Gibson, of Harthill Against Fracking, asks what rights there are to control traffic on the lorry route. Mr Martin says there are no statutory powers.

Ms Gibson says Ineos assumes to have right over the roads, by referring to the rest of users as background traffic. Mr Martin says this may suggest secondary priority. It is a technical term, he says, to refer to other traffic. The traffic management plan considers the best operation for site and other traffic. The safest way is to allow site traffic to travel in convoys and reduce the number of convoys.

It suggests there is priority for convoys, Mr Martin says, but this is the safest approach.

10.43am More on protests

Ms Gibson says she can’t believe that protests have not been considered. Mr Martin says he does not envisage changing the traffic management plan (TMP) to take account of protests. They would have to be dealt with when they happened, Mr Martin says. I can’t accommodate such eventualities within the TMP.

Your carefully-considered TMP would have to go out of the window, Ms Gibson suggests. Mr Martin says the TMP would go ahead as normal for most of the time.

An abnormal incident would lead to a suspension of movement on that day.

10.46am Farm traffic

Ms Gibson says farm journeys may need to be made when the sun comes out. Mr Martin says this is a matter of dialogue. Ms Gibson says she doesn’t have a great deal of faith in dialogue with Ineos.

10.50am Permissions

Ms Gibson asks whether Ineos has permission to dig out the passing places. Mr Martin says this would be part of a legal agreement with the council.

10.51am Spills

Ms Gibson asks how Ineos has mitigated for spills from vehicles. This is part of a construction management plan, not the traffic management plan.

10.52am Traffic survey of Harthill village

Mr Martin says he has not carried out a survey in Harthill village. He says the traffic levels are low and the potential for rerouting through the village would also be low. It would be typically be in the 10% daily variation in traffic flow.


9.04am Questions continue to Ineos traffic witness

Jon Darby, for Rotherham Borough Council, continues to cross-examine Ineos’ traffic consultant, Kevin Martin.

Mr Darby raises what he says a problems with a timeline of discussions about highway safety between Ineos and Rotherham Borough Council.

9.10am Passing places and traffic signals

The latest traffic plans, put forward tin March 2018, included more than 20 passing places, two sets of traffic signals and the use of banksmen.

Mr Darby said Bondhay Lane has a 400+m section of temporary traffic signals there are 11 passing places. On Packman Lane there are seven passing places. On Common Road, there are 190m between any two passing places.

Mr Darby says that on the route totalling 4.3m, there are 705m of temporary traffic controls and 23 passing places. It’s not every day you would propose that, Mr Darby puts it to Mr Martin. Mr Martin says passing places are not unusual on rural roads. It is run-of-the mill on windfarm developments, he has said.

If there had been another option you would have taken it, Mr Darby suggests. Mr Martin says the council’s previous objections had been removed by the proposals. The company had previously proposed a one-way system controlled by its operators. Mr Kevin says the passing places are a solution and a standard feature.

Mr Darby repeats his question that it is very unusual to have this many passing places with two traffic controls for this distance of road. Mr Martin says he has used this system in other places. Mr Darby asks for an example. Mr Martin can’t provide an example.

Mr Darby asks if the dimensions of the passing places would change. Mr Martin says they could change slightly. Mr Darby asks if the company had asked farmers about their needs and vehicle sizes. No, says Mr Martin.

9.29am Use of field edges

Field edges would be used for a few of the passing places, Mr Darby suggests. He asks if Mr Martin consulted with farmers. No says, Mr Martin. The passing places are on highway land and would be temporary. There would be inconvenience for local farmers when they were constructed. Mr Martin agrees. There would be a method statement, he says.

9.31am Forward visibility

Mr Darby asks about the decision-making time needed for users on the road who need to decide when to pull in. Mr Martin says there will be escort vehicles for convoys. Mr Darby says he is asking about other road users. He asks if there is any allowance for decision-making time for other motorists approaching a passing place. No Mr Martin says. He says the council’s traffic officer had seen the proposals on site.

Mr Martin says vehicles would pass along the road and decide whether to use a passing place. The passing places would be a benefit for road users.

9.35am Hedges and verges

Mr Martin says no hedges will need to be cut back. Mr Darby says the passing places will remove refuges for walkers and cyclists. They will formalise refuges, Mr Martin says. Not if they are full of agricultural vehicles, Mr Darby says. They are not for long-term use, Mr Martin says.

Mr Martin says the site convoys would avoid times when there movements of farm vehicles.

9.37am Liaison with farmers

Mr Darby puts it to Mr Martin that farmer liaison has been entirely absent to date. Mr Martin says “that is correct”.

9.40am Proposals assume compliance and experience

All the proposals require control over third party vehicles, Mr Darby says. Mr Martin says it requires people to use the passing places appropriately. Mr Darby repeats his question. Mr Martin says control is one word to use. The lead escort vehicle will advise motorists of the passing places.

Mr Darby says the proposals assume third parties will cooperate. Mr Martin agrees. It also assumes third parties will be experienced to cope, Mr Darby asks. Mr Martin says this is why there will be escort vehicles for convoys.

Mr Darby suggests vulnerable road users may not experienced. They could include school children and horse riders, he said. Mr Martin says we will take account of this. The speed of the convoy would take this into account. The convoy may need to be held up, he adds. We would have to deal with circumstances as they arise.

Mr Darby puts it to him that the proposals rely on the operators being able to deal with circumstances. Mr Martin says he thinks they will be able to.

9.43am Abnormal loads

The company has assumed a three minute period for a convoy to pass through the lorry route. Mr Darby says this does not take account of abnormal loads. Mr Martin says this would take 12 minutes. Another highway consultant suggested 15 minutes. This is considerably longer than a 3-minute convoy. Mr Martin says abnormal loads take 1.5% of the site traffic.

That would be a risk for emergency vehicles, Mr Darby suggests. The emergency services would be informed and the convoy could be held. Mr Darby repeats the question. Mr Martin agrees for that 15 minutes.

9.46am Protests

Mr Martin says the traffic management plan does not take account of protests. Mr Darby says history and other sites tell that protests are a considerable risk. Mr Martin says he doesn’t know about Kirby Misperton or Preston New Road.

Mr Darby says the traffic management plan relies on proper implementation. Training is in the proposals.

There is scope for the potential for breaches of the plan. Mr Martin says there is potential. Mr Darby says plans are breached. Mr Martin says he does know about breaches. He says he has never heard of a breach of a traffic management plans. He doesn’t get involved after the plans are implemented, he says.

Mr Darby says this is another example to what is possible not practicable.

9.50am Displaced traffic

Mr Darby asks for evidence on where displaced traffic is considered. Mr Martin says the risk of displacement through Harthill is considered to be minimal. This would increase the risk of conflict with school children. Mr Martin says any redistribution of traffic would be part of normal traffic flows.

Mr Darby asks whether he has considered extra traffic on the route because of a motorway closure. Mr Martin says this might have to lead to a suspension of operations.

Mr Darby says construction of the passing places would displace traffic. Mr Martin says he doesn’t know why this would happen. Mr Darby puts it to him that when 23 passing places would be built people could not avoid the roads. Mr Martin says they would not be built at the same time. Asked how long the passing places would take, he says 3-4 weeks.

9.52am Hedgerow ownership

Mr Martin is asked who owns the hedgerows. Mr Martin says they are owned by the landowners.

9.53am Policy

The National Planning Policy Framework requires safe and suitable access to the site for all road users. Mr Martin agrees. The council officer and the company agree there is safe access to the site, Mr Martin says.

Mr Darby says the residual cumulative impact has to be severe for an application to be refused. Mr Martin says there will be no residual cumulative impacts.

Mr Darby puts it to him that he provision of 23 passing places and 2 temporary traffic controls over 4km of road result in residual cumulative impacts.

I do not consider the passing places produce a residual impact, Mr Martin says.

Mr Darby asks whether the impact does not apply to the period of the development Mr Martin says he reads it as post the development.

If the inspector it included the 8-9 month period of convoys, traffic controls and 23 passing places, would you consider there be an impact, Mr Darby asks. Mr Martin agrees there would be an impact but it would not be severe.

10am Severe impact

Mr Darby says the word severe is not defined and there is no case law. Mr Martin says no council officers have used the word severe. Mr Darby says the inspector can make his own assessment of its meaning. Mr Martin agrees.

Even if the likelihood of harm arising is low, it potentially unacceptable if the harm would be great, Mr Darby suggests. Mr Martin says he and the council highways officer do not consider the impact would be severe.

The composition off the traffic would change, so any accident that may happen could have severe impact, Mr Darby suggest. Mr Martin says this conclusion can be reached. HGV and horse rider, Mr Darby suggest. HGV and pedestrian, he suggests. Mr Martin says this cannot be concluded.

If a horse bolted there would be a severe accident, Mr Darby asks. I don’t think you could use the word severe, Mr Martin says. You would consider this acceptable, Mr Darby asks. Mr Martin says the passing places would  significantly reduce the conflict with other road users.

Mr Darby says during the nine-month operational phases there would be a material increased risk of conflict between road users. Mr Martin says he does not think it will be a material increase of risk. With the traffic management plan implemented this would significantly reduce the risk of conflict.

Mr Darby suggests that if the inspector concluded there was a material increase of risk of personal injury accidents the impact on highway safety would be severe. Mr Martin says this is up to the inspector. Mr Darby repeats the question twice – would the impact on highway safety be severe. No, in these circumstances, Mr Martin says.


9am Inquiry opens

Inspector Stephen Roscoe opens the hearing

13 replies »

  1. Anyone ever driven in an area with roads with passing places when the road is being repaired/resurfaced?

    This TMP sounds very similar. It can be done, it happens. Perhaps that is why the Council’s Traffic Officer stated what he did?

  2. ‘Mr Martin says the site convoys would avoid times when there movements of farm vehicles’ – well, unless they have a hotline to all farmers in the area, we are talking night time……

    • ‘The passing places would be a benefit for road users.’ – if they are not needed now, then no benefit gained…

      • Re protests Mr Martin says ‘says he doesn’t know about Kirby Misperton or Preston New Road’ – err hello have you been in a coma?

        • ‘That would be a risk for emergency vehicles, Mr Darby suggests. The emergency services would be informed and the convoy could be held’
          is this held back or happen?

          • More contradictions:

            “Mr Darby says the word severe is not defined and there is no case law. Mr Martin says no council officers have used the word severe. Mr Darby says the inspector can make his own assessment of its meaning. Mr Martin agrees.

            Even if the likelihood of harm arising is low, it potentially unacceptable if the harm would be great, Mr Darby suggests. Mr Martin says he and the council highways officer do not consider the impact would be severe.”

            So there is no legal case law definition of the term “severe” and yet that word is used throughout, just like the words “significant” and “insignificant” and “impact”

            These words are all wooly wishy washy say what you like insignificant evasions.

            The questions are these:

            What is severe or not severe? To whom is it severe ir not severe and relative to what definition, and why?

            What is significant? Significant in what terms, to whom and relative to what?

            What is impact? Impact to whom and relative to what or why is it impactful or not impactful?

            All these terms are weak washy meaningless prevarications and unless they are defined and agreed upon, nothing in these inquiries is of any severe significant impact on anything else but evasion, obfuscation, avoidance and inconsequence.

            In short, the entire inquiry process, without these terms being very tightly defined and agreed by all and used in the correct context, are meaningless, irrelevant and a waste of time effort and money.

  3. Dosen,t this remind you of all the protests & objections. when the Motorways were built if we stopped every time this happened. there would be no progress made at all we, probably still be using Horse & carts.

  4. Newbury Bypass is a great success!

    Swampy remembered, but what a waste of time, resource and common sense.

    Horse and carts? No, both would be rejected by the Precautionary Principle.

    • These testimonies say it all:

      “2.35pm Les Barlow, Harthill resident

      Mr Barlow thanks the inspector for allowing Harthill Against Fracking the chance to give its evidence to the inquiry and explain its concerns. He says the group is disappointed that Tom Pickering, the operations director of Ineos for referring to the injunction in force against protests. We feel bullied by this behaviour, he says.

      2.39pm Deborah Gibson, Harthill resident

      Ms Gibson says residents feel democratically disadvantaged at the inquiry. The inadequacies of early baseline studies by Ineos and the council makes the villagers feel left alone, she says.

      We have observed that Ineos is incredibly well-organised. It is a machine I can only be in awe of, in terms of communication and backup and support. This is not something I have seen from the council.

      We expected the council to provide the same level of detail that we saw from Helen Wilks and Magnus Gallie and we feel very let down by that.

      The connection between this scheme and future fracking has been made clear at the inquiry. The impacts are not temporary, she says.

      The idea that this inquiry may never have had to happen if there had been better communication by the council and Ineos beggars believe. It is so drawn-out and expensive. I know what it has cost us. It has cost me two weeks that I will never get back. I have students at work who are sitting exams next week and I should have been there for them but I am here.

      We could have done so much of the leg work. We have been left on our own to find out way through the planning and inquiry process. It’s been hell, basically, she says.”

      And this from Tom Pickering:

      “Mr Pickering says he has turned up to all the meetings. We do have dialogue. It is sad to end up at this inquiry. There has been no attempt to hide from engagement. The long-term aim is to secure acceptance.”

      Sad indeed perhaps, but not i suspect in the way that Tom Pickering meant it, but we may ask ourselves who has been most threatened by this process and the time, the energy and the effort and the cost of it,and who it is that has learned the most valuable lesson?

      And that, is that no matter how dark it gets, the light of common sense and reason will overcome it.

  5. Congratulations to Rotherham Borough Council and all the members members of the public and pressure groups for their common sense and reason.

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