Ineos has received planning permission to explore for shale gas at a site in the village of Harthill in South Yorkshire.
In a decision published today by the planning inspectorate, the company’s appeal has been allowed.
This follows at seven-day public inquiry in April and May.
Rotherham Borough Council had voted unanimously in January to oppose the application after Ineos announced it was appealing over non-determination.
The site at Common Road, Harthill, had been opposed by the local MP, Sir Kevin Barron, residents and the community group, Harthill Against Fracking.
Sir Kevin said today:
“Very disappointed that Ineos have been granted planning permission for fracking in Harthill. I will continue to fight this decision as I still believe there are too many unanswered questions around fracking.”
DrillOrDrop is compiling further reaction to the announcement here.
The application is for a vertical shale gas exploration well, new access track, listening well operations and retention of the site for five years.
The inspector, Stephen Roscoe, concluded:
“I have found that the development could have a negative, but not significant, impact on features of biodiversity value for the period of the development.
“I have also found that the development would detract from, and be harmful to, the landscape and visual character of the surrounding area.
“These matters would not however outweigh the benefits from the investigation proposed in terms of future energy supplies, to which I give great weight.”
He also defended the council’s technical officers against accusations that they had not acted to protect the local environment. He said they had:
“acted appropriately and responsibly in first rejecting and then accepting revised draft proposals in relation to traffic management for the appeal site access. I therefore have no doubt that this approach would continue. “
Mr Roscoe rejected concerns raised at the inquiry about the impact of site deliveries on narrow rural roads, pedestrians and vulnnerable road users.
“I do not consider that the proposal would be likely to have an unacceptable adverse effect on the use of these lanes by other vehicles.”
“I consider that there would be some inconveniences to pedestrian users together with some loss of amenity. This would not however be unacceptable in terms of highway safety and amenity.
“I am satisfied that there would be no residual, cumulative and severe impacts from the proposal that would make it unacceptable on transport grounds.
“I therefore conclude that the proposal would not necessarily have an
unacceptable impact on the existing uses of the highways in the surrounding area. I further conclude that it thus would not conflict with the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework].”
The inspector added that convoys of eight vehicles proposed by Ineos would have an escort vehicle to look out for, and advise, pedestrians and others of oncoming vehicles.
The inquiry also considered the impact of the shale gas site on local wildlife and the Green Belt. Residents had raised concerns about the effect of noise and lighting on a range of species including bats, badgers and corn buntings.
Mr Roscoe said:
“I accept that the development could have a negative, but not significant, impact on features of biodiversity value for the period of the development.
“I am however satisfied that impact has been, and would be, minimised through the design, layout, construction and operation of the development and by the incorporation of suitable mitigation measures.
“These would avoid a residual adverse impact on biodiversity and maintain ‘no net loss’.
“I am also satisfied that the development would not be likely to, directly or indirectly, result in the loss or deterioration of sites, habitat or features that are considered to be irreplaceable due to their age, status, connectivity, rarity or continued presence.
On noise concerns, the inspector said:
“I am satisfied that the limited duration of construction and decommissioning noise, together with the more constant nature of noise associated with drilling would not have a significant effect on protected species.”
Mr Roscoe said:
“I consider that the development would detract from, and be harmful to, the landscape and visual character of the surrounding area.”
He said this would conflict with a local planning policy. But he added:
“This harm or conflict would not however be sufficient reason to dismiss the appeal when balanced against the benefits of the development in terms of potential future energy supplies.”
The inspector dismissed concerns about other neighbouring shale gas sites at Woodsetts and Marsh Lane, if they were approved. He also said fears about structural damage to homes were not a planning consideration.
On conditions, Mr Roscoe amended some wording to ensure they were precise and enforceable. He siad:
“It would be necessary that the development should be undertaken in accordance with the approved plans and duration for the avoidance of doubt and in the interests of proper planning.”
Updated to correct typo in quote by Sir Kevin Barron. “answered questions” should have read “unanswered questions”