Ineos plans for Derbyshire’s first shale gas well come under scrutiny at a public inquiry in Chesterfield this week.
The company proposes to use a drilling rig up to 60m tall to drill at a site 400m from homes in the village of Marsh Lane. The 2.4km deep well aims to show whether the rock is suitable for fracking for shale gas.
The inquiry, expected to last eight days, opens on Tuesday 19 June 2018 at 10am. It will hear evidence from representatives of Ineos, Derbyshire County Council and the local campaign group, Eckington Against Fracking. Local people are also expected to make statements.
The key issues that are likely to be discussed include the impacts of the scheme on:
- Rural roads from heavy vehicles visiting the site
- Open nature of the green belt
- Nighttime noise levels
The planning inspector, Elizabeth Hill, will decide on behalf of the Government whether or not to grant planning permission.
Ineos submitted its application for the site off Bramleymoor Lane in May 2017.
Before Derbyshire County Council was ready to decide the application, the company announced in November 2017 it was appealing to the Planning Inspectorate, saying it could not wait any longer.
In January 2018, county council planning officers recommended that the authority did not oppose the application at an appeal.
But at a meeting of the council’s planning committee on 5 February 2018, members voted by nine votes to one against the proposals.
In May 2018, a small group of councillors, meeting in emergency session, maintained the opposition to the scheme on highway grounds.
This was despite a recommendation from officials that the council drop this reason for objection. A report by independent experts had not found sufficient evidence to support this case, the council said.
But the planning sub-committee voted by two votes to three to stand by the highway concerns.
Eckington Against Fracking has been granted what is known as “Rule 6” status at the inquiry.
This allows the group to call its own witnesses, which are expected to include the local Conservative MP, Lee Rowley. The group also has the right to cross-examine Ineos witnesses.
At the time of writing, a crowd-funding appeal by Eckington Against Fracking had raised £4,470 for legal and professional help at the inquiry.
A protest outside the public inquiry is planned for 9am on the opening day.
The inquiry is at the Market Hall, Assembly Rooms, Soresby Street, Chesterfield.
It is expected to sit daily Tuesday 19 June-Friday 22 June and Tuesday 26-Friday 29 June. After the opening day, the start time is expected to be 9am or 9.30am. We’ll update when this is confirmed.
Members of the public can attend the inquiry. There is space for about 180 and seating is allocated on a first come-first served basis, Derbyshire County Council said. There will be a bag search. Banners cannot be taken into the inquiry but there is a place where they can be stored.
A decision is expected after the end of the inquiry.
DrilOrDrop will be reporting from the hearings.