Regulation

Live news updates: Day 2 of inquiry into Ineos shale gas plans for Marsh Lane

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Eckington Against Fracking diagram about distances from the proposed site to local homes

This post has live updates from the second day of the public inquiry into plans by Ineos for shale gas exploration in the Derbyshire village of Marsh Lane. Today’s session is expected to hear from more witnesses for the county council.

Ineos is seeking to drill a 2.4km deep vertical coring well using a 60m rig on land off Bramleymoor Lane. The company appealed against what it said was an unacceptable delay to the decision on the application by Derbyshire County Council. The council voted by nine to one to oppose the application.

The hearing in Chesterfield, is expected to last for eight days. As well as the county council, it will hear from representatives of Ineos and the local campaign group, Eckington Against Fracking.

Background post on the inquiry and catch up on news from each day through links on the DrillOrDrop  Marsh Lane inquiry page

Reporting from this inquiry has been made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers.


Key points from today’s hearing

  • There is no evidence that Ineos considered sites outside the Green Belt, says council planning witness
  • The Marsh Lane shale gas plans would harm the openness of the Green Belt and there are no special circumstances to justify this, says the council expert
  • The council says the Ineos proposal breaches local and national planning policy
  • County councillors stand by their opposition to the Marsh Lane scheme on highways grounds
  • Ineos says buildings on a shale gas site are not inappropriate development in the Green Belt because the government supports shale gas exploration 
  • Eckington Against Fracking describes the Ineos assessment of the impact of HGV traffic as inaccurate.
  • The Ineos proposals would result in a “huge loss of local amenity” and should be refused on traffic grounds alone, says Eckington Against Fracking

5.03pm: Adjournment

The inspector adjourns the inquiry until 10am on Thursday 21 June 2018.


4.58pm: Statement by Steven Meek

Mr Meek says he has ridden horses for 35 years. He says he wants to comment on an accident a few metres from the entrance to the proposed shale gas site.

A car ran into the back of him and he was thrown. His horse was injured and needed treatment of £10,000, which failed. I count myself lucky I was not fatally injured, Mr Meek says. Another rider received fatal head injuries in an accident on that road.

Mr Meek adds that he converted part of his property into a holiday cottage. It became an instant success with visitors from across the world. He advertised the cottage as a facility for guided walks in the area. The ratings achieved are high and many people have returned, he says. Visitors have told him how lucky he is to live in the area.

He predicts the tourist industry in the area will be devastated.

He says both he and his wife have suffered cancer. The describes the industry as another form of industrial cancer.


4.56pm: More questions for Tracy Lund Butt

Ms Lund Butt says Ineos traffic ended up in a housing estate off Bramleymoor Lane. My concern is for horse riders, she says.


4.50pm: Cross-examination of Tracy Lund Butt

Mr Steele asks how far is the riding club from the site. Ms Lund Butt says it is 350m as the crow flies. The riders have to get there, some on horseback, some by horse box, she says.

Mr Steele says the events calendar shows every event is on a Sunday. There would be no conflict then, he says. There are events on weekdays, Ms Lund Butt says. We also hold training sessions.

Mr Steele asks whether Ms Lund Butt has solicited objections to the application. Ms Lund Butt says she wanted to get a picture of how many people had horses. Mr Steele said she had told people inaccurate information, including 7m wide loads and traffic going through Eckington.

Ms Lund Butt says Ineos have already started work and have brought vehicles through Eckington. This can’t be ruled out, she says.


4.32pm: Evidence from Tracy Lund Butt

David Kesteven, of Eckington Against Fracking, introduces Tracy Lund Butt.

She tells the inquiry she is a horse rider that has a nursery business on Bramleymoor Lane, 280m from the proposed site.

Ms Lund Butt says she invited Tom Pickering, Operations Director at Ineos, to see her business. He was unable to dismiss my concerns about HGV movements  and the impact it would have on exercising her horses, she said. He suggested she should restrict the exercising of her horses to a time when the HGVs were not using the roads.

This seems to me this is a constraint on my human rights, Ms Lund Butt says.

She adds that the area is a strong riding area, with retired and working horses, stables, equestrian activities. There is a local riding school and a riding club in its 43rd year that holds shows on the same road as the Ineos traffic route.

There are great concerns locally about the safety of riders with constant HGV movements on the same roads, she says.

It is legally acceptable to ride two horses abreast, Ms Lund Butt says, and is recommended with an inexperienced horses.

On Dykes Lane, there is nowhere to get out of the way, she says. On other parts of the lorry route, there are deep ditches.

Mr Pickering acknowledged the dangers of the lorry route to horse riders, Ms Lund Butt says.

“It is my firm believe that equestrian safety will be compromised if this proposal is allowed to go ahead. There are many others in the equestrian community who share my fears.

“I ask the inspector to refuse this development. The increase in HGV traffic will be a threat to riders.”

Ms Lund Butt says about 300 horses will use Snowdon Lane. She says she doesn’t think she has ever been passed by an HGV on this section of the route.

She says there are at least 10 equine businesses on this route, including livery yards. If people cannot ride out, if it becomes dangerous or unacceptable to ride, they will look elsewhere for places to stable their horses.

Ms Lund Butt says horses are very sensitive to noise. They hear things that we can’t. We don’t know how they will react until it happens. Several horses expressed discomfort when previous drilling was carried out near that site, she says.

Ms Lund Butt says the National Planning Policy Framework and the local plan has policies to protect horseriders.


4.29pm: More questions for Andy Jones, Eckington Against Fracking

David Kesteven, for Eckington Against Fracking, asks about the Wallingford Method. Mr Jones says the Wallingford data on annual average rainfall is supported by local data.

Mr Jones says the company could increase underground storage but this would not reduce the number of tankers needed to remove surface water.


4.12pm: Cross-examination of Andy Jones, Eckington Against Fracking

Gordon Steele says he needs more time to look at the figures provided by Andy Jones on rainfall. Mr Jones says there is nothing new in the figures.

Mr Steele puts it Mr Jones that he has two concerns: the method of storage and removal of surface water.

Mr Jones accepts that the “Wallingford method” of calculating water volumes collecting on an area is not strictly appropriate for the proposed shale gas site. He says he used the Wallingford method to calculate the amount of annual average rainfall, of around 800mm for the area.

Mr Steele suggests Mr Jones has overstated rainfall. Mr Jones says I don’t believe that to be true. It is a fairly simple arithmetical calculation.

Mr Steele says the storage issue has to be approved as part of the permitting procedure. Mr Jones replies: “I said that in my submission. I am not challenging the storage capacity.”

Mr Steele says Mr Jones has got the length of the pipe wrong. It is 340m, not 305m, Mr Steele says. Mr Jones says he is happy to accept the correction.

Mr Jones says he accepts the capacity of storage on the site. He says  he has not taken account of evaporation but he accepts there will be evaporation of above ground levels of water by a small amount. Mr Jones accepts there will also be a small holding tank but this won’t make a large amount of difference.

Mr Steele says the tankering off will be regulated by the relevant regulator. Mr Jones says this is relevant to planning and the inquiry because of the impact on traffic numbers. Rainfall is not equally spaced across the year, he says. This will mean tankers will be group in peaks of rainfall, Mr Jones says.


3.50pm: Evidence from Andy Jones, Eckington Against Fracking

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Mr Jones says he has worked in the structural engineering most of his life. He tells the inquiry he is concerned about the storage capacity for surface water on the proposed Ineos site at Marsh Lane. There is also concern about the number of vehicles needed to transport surface water.

Mr Jones a proposed pipe at the site would be filled by a rainwater event of 20-25mm. Recent rainwater events have been above 80mm. He says the precautionary principle should be applied to the site capacity to store rainwater.

He says the site is on a hill. There are no rivers or streams nearby. Rainwater that falls on the area quickly flows across the surface. Prolonged periods of rain during times that the site is not active may see contamination if wildlife digs into the site embankments.

He says all the surface rain water must be tankered off the site.

Mr Jones says the group has analysed rainwater figures, which are distributed to the inquiry. Gordon Steele complains about the new figures. Mr Jones says they are a compilation of rainfall figures that shows that water falling on the site from an actual event would exceed the storage capacity and require 30 tankers. The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, says Mr Steele can look at them overnight.

Mr Jones says the applicant has applied for two other sites in the area. This would then require more tankers than would be available in reserve. There would be a danger if the perimeter bund was damaged or wildlife was affected by the water he says.

The inquiry also hears Ineos is expecting 28 tanker journeys a year. But EAF estimates there could be 428 to more than 600 tanker journeys a year.

3.35pm: Break

The inquiry resumes at 3.50pm

3.32pm: More questions for Don King

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David Kesteven, chair of Eckington Against Fracking. Photo: Eddie Bisknell

David Kesteven, of Eckington Against Fracking (above), re-examines Mr King.

Mr Kesteven identifies the source of the 6m road width, raised during the Roseacre Wood inquiry. Mr Kesteven also confirms the road widths measured by Eckington Against Fracking and disputed by Ineos.

On speeds, Mr King says drivers use the roads at normal speeds. It is not a route that drivers crawl upon.

3.04pm: Cross-examination of Don King for EAF

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Gordon Steele (right), barrister for Ineos

Traffic flows

Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, suggests the evidence is beyond his proof. Mr King rejects this. He says he has read from the annexes to his proof. He says all the information on traffic flows is in the application. Mr Steele says the criticism of it is not.

Mr Steele asks Mr King if he has any qualifications in traffic impact assessment. Mr King says he does not. He says experts did not require an TIA because they had used misleading data.

Mr King says he has looked at the Ineos traffic assessment where it claims a 30% increase in HGV traffic. Mr Steele asks if Mr King has read the company’s consultant’s report. Mr King says he has based his evidence on the application. The Ineos consultant has said the initial figures were wrong.

Mr Steele suggests Mr King has made a mistake in his calculations. Mr King says he took the figures in he application. Mr Steele says Mr King has missed out two classes of articulated lorries in his calculation. Mr King says he needs to check the calculation.

Road widths

Mr Steele questions the basis of the road widths claimed by Eckington Against Fracking.

Mr Steele says EAF measured 5.3m for one section of the route. Ineos measured that at 6.1m. What do you say to that, Mr Steele asks. How have you measured it, Mr King says. With a tape measure, Mr Steele says.

Mr King says EAF used a tape measure and laser measurer at 20 different points. Have you measured them?, Mr King asks.

Mr Steele says at two other points, EAF measured the road width at 5m. Ineos measured the road at 6m. Mr King says “We made our measurements”. One of the measurements was made on a map. But the map was consistent with the 20 checks by tape measure, he says. We have not measured every point on the route by tape measure, he adds.

Mr Steele says the difference between Ineos and EAF are significant. Mr Steele says they are still under 6m. Mr Steele says two are 6.1m. Mr King says 6m is an important width for two HGVs to pass each other at speed. It will be interesting to see which is correct, Mr King adds.

Mr Steele asks again whether the difference is significant. Mr King asks Mr Steele how he is defining significance.

Mr King says the importance of 6m was endorsed as a critical width at the Roseacre Wood inquiry.

Mr Steele asks where this was said at the Roseacre Wood inquiry. “We have not been able to find that”, Mr Steele says.

This was information given to me, Mr King says. It is supported by the evidence from the roads on the route. They would not be passable.

Mr Steele asks whether he has checked the source. I am relying on the information I was given, Mr King replies.

Mr Steele says the relevant width for two HGVs to pass is 5.5m. Mr King says it is very difficult to do this if the width of the load is greater than 2.75m wide. The application says vehicles carrying the cabins would be 4.5m wide, he says. These are not part of the road closure programme, Mr King says.


2.20pm: Don King gives evidence on traffic issues for Eckington Against Fracking

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Don King for Eckington Against Fracking

Mr King tells the inquiry he is a member of Dronfield Against Fracking and is giving support to Eckington Against Fracking.

He says he is very familiar with the proposed traffic route. He says he used it for 24 years as a commuter in and our of Sheffield and since retirement on journeys to local garden centres and family visits.

Mr King describes the Ineos assessment of the impact of HGV traffic as inaccurate.

He says Government guidelines say an increase of more than 30% of heavy goods vehicles should trigger a higher level of impact assessment, he says. Anything over 90% would be a sustantial increase.

Eckington Against Fracking accepts the Ineos traffic data. Further traffic data on the route would be useful, he says. But he says he disputes the way the increase had been calculated. The company has wrongly included in the calculation for HGV increases a class of vehicles that includes transit vans in the calculation.

The increase is said to be 14% on Eckington Road. When that class if excluded and a like-for-like calculation then the % increase rises to more than 100%, Mr King says.

The HGV increase is then greater than all of the official thresholds. None of the calculations include HGV tankers to remove excess water.

Ineos has not stated how often the peak increases will occur, Mr King says. He says EAF has looked at peak increases. During the drilling stage there would be 1,254 extra articulated lorries. This would result in increases of more than 200% and one part of the traffic route nearly 300%.

This exceeds the 30% increase claimed by Ineos, which means the company should have carried out full traffic assessments. The Ineos figures suggest a full traffic impact assessment was not needed, Mr King says. Mr King says the increase would be 150%, rather than more 200%. It would still be higher than Ineos claims.

Proposed route

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The proposed route comprises rural roads, which are narrow and hilly in places. There are also places with limited visibility, Mr King says.

It is used throughout the day, with peaks in the morning and evening, as well as mid-day. The morning peak on Eckington Road is 340 per hour going east and 350 going west. The evening peaks are a vehicle every seven seconds going east and one every nine going west. At midday the peak is around one vehicle every 15 seconds.

Eckington Road is a very busy road. Dykes Lane is even busier, Mr King says. Any integration of any additional HGVs is unacceptable. Hauliers have decided not to use this route because it is unsuitable, he adds.

Ineos has said it will avoid peak times. But Mr King says this would leave 2.5 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours in the afternoon that are not subject to peaks.

Accident data

Ineos has said there is a low level of accident involving personal injury. This is based on an inappropriately short period of time and short section of the route, Mr King says.

The company considered two years of data and only on a quarter of the route, which is long straight with no side access or parked cars and with good visibility. It excluded Snowdon Road, Eckington Road and Dykes Lane, Mr King says, which have businesses, parked cars, bends, side roads and limited visibility. The statistics should have been gathered along the entire route and for a longer period, Mr King says, for at least five years.

Ineos quoted four in two years. There were 31 accidents over five years, Mr King says. There have been a further six accidents involving personal injury after the end of the Crash Map data, he adds.

Increased HGV use of the route would make an increase of accidents more likely, Mr King says.

The Crash Map data does not include pedestrian accidents. Ineos proposes to remove the warning about an accident refuge in Coal Aston, Mr King adds.

Transport Impact Assessment

Mr King says Ineos did not include a TIA. This would have considered issues such as community severance, intimidation of pedestrians, pollution from road, noise to residents.

It would also consider a loss of community amenity for people living near the road, such as cycling and horse riding.

Queues build up on both directions of traffic in Coal Aston. This congestion would worsen with more HGVs, Mr King says.

Community severance is already an issue in Coal Aston. Crossing the road would be made harder by extra HGVs.

Pedestrians crossing the road, using the route for recreation, would also be intimidated. Pedestrians on Dykes Lane have to cross the road just below the summit, where the road and footpath are cut into rocksides. If vehicles go on to the footpath, there is nowhere for people to go.

TIA’s recommend community engagement. But Mr King says there has been no engagement by Ineos with residents in Coal Aston at any stage of the application.

Road widths

Mr King Ineos claims on road widths paint an inaccurate picture. We have taken measurements on the whole route, Mr King says, for every 50m.

The average width for the whole route is 6.4m. On Dykes Lane it is 6.2m. On several sections, the road the width is just 5m-5.5m. We can only assume that to get to 8m, Ineos included the verge or the footpath.

A width of 6m was required for two HGVs to pass, but only if one HGV is stationary in a passing place, according to the Roseacre Wood inquiry. There is no scope for passing places on parts of the route because the road is cut into the rock or the verges are part of the drainage system, Mr King says.

The road is not safe for regular HGV traffic, Mr King says.

The Ineos planning states the maximum width of HGVs would be 4.1m. Mr King says a significant number of vehicles would exceed 3m.

It is disappointing, Mr King says, that Ineos has not done the analysis done by Eckington Against Fracking. He says HGV have damaged footpaths. They have transgressed beyond the highway in order to pass one another.

Effects on people and businesses

Vehicles have to avoid parked cars and face areas of poor visibility. Cars can only just path other vehicles in areas of parked cars. Commercial viability of small businesses will be damaged by extra HGVs on the route in places. Six months of construction and drilling is a long time for these businesses to survive.

It is already hazardous to cross the Eckington Road in Coal Aston and a refuge is already provided. Children have to walk to school in the village. People also have to cross the road to reach bus stops or go to activities in the Village Hall and Methodist Church.

The Dronfield area is much used for walking. Pedestrians using a popular right of way have to cross the road. It is already hazardous. It would be made unacceptably so by wide heavy vehicles, Mr King says.

The prospect of HGVs having to queue to pass cyclists on the hills and bends is truly frightening, Mr King adds.

Three garden centres are on a section of the route, Mr King says. Two have restaurants and the other has just been granted permission to serve food and drinks.

The garden centres have said they have 280, 240 and 344 cars a day, Mr King says. The cars are not spaced evenly throughout the day. 25-33% of traffic is between 11.30am-2pm. There are risks to cars entering and leaving the garden centres, which would be exacerbated by extra HGV traffic on the roads. The centres are used largely by pensioners at lunchtimes.

Conclusion

The proposed route is inappropriate. A traffic impact assessment should have been carried out and Ineos should have consulted residents. The quality of the other data in the application is misleading and inadequate. The assessment is based on highly selective sections of the route.

These are heavily used rural roads. They are too narrow for the number of HGVs proposed, particularly where homes and businesses are right on the road. The application would result in huge loss of amenity to local people.

Mr King recommends the application is dismissed on traffic impact grounds alone.


2.19pm: Eckington Against Fracking case

Eckington Against Fracking opens its case against the Ineos shale gas development at Marsh Lane.


2.15pm: Inquiry resumes

The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, reopens the inquiry.


1.20pm: Break

The inquiry resumes at 2.15pm


1.09pm: Questions from inspector

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Inspector Elizabeth Hill questions Paul Ellingham for Derbyshire County Council

The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, asks what weight Mr Ellingham, for Derbyshire County Council, gave to the impact on the local community.

Mr Ellingham says he considered this in the planning balance. Asked what level of weight he had given it. Mr Ellingham replies:

“I have given it good weight”.

12.58pm: Further questions for Paul Ellingham

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Richard Kimblin, the Derbyshire County Council barrister, cross-examines the council’s planning expert, Paul Ellingham.

Mr Kimblin asks about what the planning application says about using the site as a listening well. Mr Ellingham says it is not entirely clear that the listening well would be limited to one or several three-week periods. The application says these time periods are approximate, he adds.

Mr Kimblin says Ineos claims the Marsh Lane site is typical of hydrocarbon drilling. He refers to the Europa site at Bury Hill Wood in the Green Belt in Surrey. That planning permission was for operations over an 18-week period. Should all exploratory drilling in the Green Belt in the same way, Mr Kimblin asks.

Mr Ellingham says this is not a “one-size fits all” approach. Different operators will have different processes and the sites will be different. He says he has not sought to compare or contrast with other sites but considered the proposal on its merits.

Mr Kimblin asks about how this scheme compared with sand and gravel or coal. Mr Ellingham says the duration is generally shorter and has a less permanent feel for oil and gas developments. The access road, earth mounds and security fencing and a range of buildings would be on site for the duration of the development. The main change is the rig in place for three months. I have considered the whole development, he adds.

Mr Ellingham is asked whether there can never be exploration in the Green Belt. He replies that it depends on the extent of the works proposed.

11.36am: Cross-examination of Paul Ellingham

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Gordon Steele (far end of row) and Ineos planning team

Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, puts it to Mr Ellingham that he is giving evidence because Derbyshire County Council do not oppose the appeal.

Mr Ellingham, for the council, says he is at the inquiry as the expert witness to give evidence on Green Belt issues.

Mr Steele asks whether officials at the county council do not oppose the appeal.

Mr Ellingham says a number of officials have commented on the appeal. He says his remit is Green Belt harm.

Mr Steel asks about the recommendation to councillors in February 2018. Mr Ellingham says there was not sufficient harm on Green Belt grounds to justify opposition.

Mr Steele asks Mr Ellingham to answer questions as quickly as possible.

Mr Steele asks Mr Ellingham whether he relies on noise evidence from Kieran Gayler. Mr Ellingham agrees. He accepts, hypothetically, that if Mr Gayler were wrong in his conclusion that it would affect his planning balance. Mr Ellingham says this would not affect his conclusion on the impact of the Green Belt.

Mr Ellingham says he does not give weight to the issue of traffic and highways in his planning balance. He says he relies on the council’s independent traffic consultants.

Mr Steele asks whether site selection or sustainable development are mentioned as reasons for refusal. Mr Ellingham says they are not. Mr Steele says 51% of the PEDL licence area is Green Belt. 21% is urban area. Mr Ellingham agrees.

Openness of the Green Belt

Mr Steele says landscape impact is not a reason for opposing the Marsh Lane shale gas scheme. Mr Ellingham says the visual impact on the landscape is relevant to harm to the open nature of the Green Belt. I have to give consideration to harm to visual impacts and noise.

Mr Steele puts it to him that he has gone beyond the reasons for opposing the development on harm to the Green Belt. Mr Ellingham rejects this.

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Ellingham that exploratory drilling has already taken place nearby. Mr Ellingham agrees. Mr Steele says this was not in breach of Green Belt purposes. Mr Ellingham says he can’t reach this conclusion.

Mr Steele asks where the previous drilling took place. Mr Ellingham says it is within the red line boundary of the current proposed site.

Mr Ellingham says there is limited evidence of the previous drilling but this is based on conversations with the council’s planning officer.

Mr Steele says this was adjacent to the red line boundary and there is no evidence on the ground. You are not very sure about this at all, Mr Steele tells Mr Ellingham. Without a plan, we are no further forward, Mr Ellingham replies.

Mr Steele says the Green Belt purposes are unharmed by the previous purposes. The same thing would happen with this development. Mr Ellingham says he is content the site would return to its purposes. He agrees that his concern is over the duration of the scheme.

Mr Ellingham says his assessment on harm to the Green Belt is based on consent being for five years and the presence of buildings, bunds and security fencing.

Mr Steele asks Mr Ellingham about his understanding of the use of the well as a “listening well”. Mobile equipment would be on site at the time, Mr Steele said, for just three weeks.

Mr Ellingham says the earth mounding, access road, security fencing and security cabins are removed only on restoration. That is how I have considered the appeal proposal.

Benefits of shale gas and Written Ministerial Statements

Mr Ellingham says he has limited himself to the benefits of exploration only. Mr Steele, for Ineos, asks whether the Written Ministerial Statements apply to the Marsh Lane scheme.

Mr Ellingham says the two ministerial statements relate to both exploration and extraction. Mr Steele puts it to him that the scheme should have great support. Mr Ellingham says consideration should be given to the benefit of exploration but it should be considered differently to a scheme for extraction.

Asked what weight he would give the scheme. Mr Ellingham says he gives it the weight for exploration but not to extraction. Mr Steele puts it to him that great weight should be given to the Written Ministerial Statement and the support it gives to shale gas exploration. Mr Ellingham agrees.

Mr Ellingham says any “very special circumstances” to justify the development are limited to some small economic benefit from exploration.  He says the WMS is not seeking to be a “very special circumstances”. It is a policy consideration, he adds. It applies to all these types of development, not this particular scheme.

Mr Steele says the WMS is a “very special circumstance”. Mr Ellingham it is a circumstance that applies to all shale gas exploration schemes. It is not “very special”, he adds.

Mr Steele says the inspector at the Harthill inquiry attached great weight to the Written Ministerial Statement. Mr Ellingham agrees but says he did not conclude there were “very special circumstances”.

Purpose of buildings

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Ellingham that openness is not just about size but their purpose. Mr Ellingham says there are plenty of cases where planning permission is refused for development considered “not inappropriate” because of harm to openness.

Mr Steele says all the buildings are all for shale gas exploration, which has government support. One has to look at the purpose of the buildings, Mr Steele says.

Where have you considered the purpose of those buildings, Mr Steele asks. “I have not considered this specifically”, Mr Ellingham says. This is an error of approach, Mr Steele considers.

Mr Ellingham disagrees. My case is very clear. The principle of this exploration process is that it is not inappropriate. But what I am required to do is to assess the buildings on their harm on the Green Belt.

Mr Steele says exploratory drilling uses the kit that Ineos proposes. How can you say the kit is inappropriate when exploratory drilling is not inappropriate.

Mr Ellingham asks for a direct comparison. Mr Steele mentions the Ineos scheme at Common Road, in Harthill, also in the Green Belt, which was approved by a planning inspector earlier this month.

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Ellingham:

“You object on Green Belt grounds because of the equipment on site”.

Mr Ellingham replies:

“I don’t limit myself to the equipment and the buildings.”

Mr Steele says exploratory drilling is acceptable in the Green Belt. It requires the equipment that we are proposing. Yet you say this equipment is inappropriate.”

Mr Ellingham says for the duration of the development there are earthworks, buildings and screening, that goes beyond the three months of drilling.

Mr Steele asks whether no drilling can take place in the Green Belt. Mr Ellingham replies there will be a range of effects on the openness of the Green Belt from differrent proposals. It is not a “one size fits all”, he says.

Mr Steele asks again. Mr Ellingham replies that this type of development is not excluded from the Green Belt.

Harthill appeal

Mr Steele says a very similar Ineos proposal for Common Road, Harthill, was judged by an appeal inspector was not inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

Mr Ellingham says he is not familiar with this site. He accepts that the inspector stated that the Harthill proposal was not inappropriate.

Mr Steele says there were no buildings at Common Road. Mr Ellingham repeats that he is not familiar with the site. Mr Steele suggests Mr Ellingham’s approach is at odds with the Harthll inspector. Mr Ellingham repeats that he is not familiar with the Harthill site. There is no evidence that effects on openness were considered at the inquiry, Mr Ellingham.  This is a different case and a different time, Mr Ellingham adds.

Mr Steele says the scheme is virtually identical. Mr Ellingham agrees but says the site is not identical.

View of planning officers

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Ellingham that Derbyshire County Council officers had fully assessed the Green Belt issue.

Mr Ellingham agrees that the only issue is whether the Marsh Lane scheme complies with policy which prevents encroachment of development. My professional judgement is different from the officer at Derbyshire County Council.

Mr Steele asks how many officers there are at Derbyshire County Council. Mr Ellingham suggests 5-10. Mr Steele says 5-10 officers have put their weight behind the recommendation. Mr Ellingham says he doesn’t know how many of them supported the officers’ recommendation.

Other rulings on Green Belt

Mr Steele suggests the decisions on the Ineos Harthill scheme and the Europa proposal for Bury Hill Wood support the company ‘s position. Mr Ellingham says decision-makers are required to look at each site on a “site-by-site basis”.

Planning policy

Mr Steele suggests the local plan accepts some damage to the Green Belt, providing it is not irreparable and unacceptable. Mr Ellingham says the policy is silent on the matter of Green Belt.

Mr Steele says Mr Ellingham has place some weight on a review of the Green Belt. He asks why this is relevant. Mr Ellingham says the review informs the total value, quality and baseline conditions in this section of Green Belt. It is an area of land that is an integral part of the Green Belt, he says. Mr Steele says this is not relevant. Mr Ellingham says the review is relevant to his assessment.

Mr Ellingham agrees that the site will be restored to its former purposes. He does not agree with Ineos’s claim that it will be to the highest environmental standards.

Drilling and non-drilling phases

Mr Ellingham says there would be substantial harm during the three months of the drilling phase. After that, he accepts that harm to the Green Belt would be reduced to moderate-significant.

Government support

Mr Steele says “mere disruption” is not sufficient to overturn the Government’s support for shale gas exploration. Mr Ellingham says he does not rely on traffic evidence in his assessment of the impact on this scheme.


11.20am: Break

The inquiry resumes at 11.35am


10.22am: Evidence from Paul Ellingham

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Derbyshire County Council barrister, Richard Kimblin, introduces Paul Ellingham to the inquiry. Mr Ellingham, a planning consultant, is giving evidence on the Green Belt.

Mr Ellingham tells the inquiry the development includes creating 2m high earth mounds around the perimeter. The access road requires removal of an 8m hedgerow. The compound area includes car parking, 300m of security fencing, series of site cabins which vary depending on the phase of the work.

In the drilling phase, there will be 19 cabins, Mr Ellingham says. During the listening well phase, the number falls to five.

Mr Ellingham says the drilling phase is an intensive period of the development.

Planning policy

He says the appeal development does not meet some of the criteria in a section of the local development plan. These include the impact on local communities from noise, disturbance or vibration.

“In my opinion there are concerns about the adverse effect of nighttime noise. I believe the appeal development does not comply with those criteria in the plan.”

Mr Ellingham says the visual effects of the development do not meet criteria in the plan on the Green Belt.

He says,  as a planner, he has to give great weight to the local development plan. The environmental effects of the scheme are very relevant, he says.

Mr Ellingham says there are a range of effects from the shale gas site on the landscape, which range from moderate to very substantial.

On the Green Belt, Mr Ellingham says:

“The decision-maker has to decide whether the environmental effects are acceptable. The Green Belt designation of the area is given very substantial weight in planning terms and very careful consideration needs to be given to developments in the Green Belt.”

Mr Ellingham reviews policies in the district plan. This is very relevant, he says. It fully reinforces the principles of avoidance of harm to the open character of the Green Belt and the need for very special circumstances for development. There would be a material change of use for the land, he adds. Mr Ellingham says the cabins are on the site for the life-time of the development.

Green Belt

Mr Kimblin, for the council, refers to a decision to allow permission to Europa Oil and Gas to drill for oil in the Green Belt. Mr Ellingham says the Europa case establishes that drilling is not inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

Mr Ellingham the National Planning Policy Framework sets five purposes of the Gren Belt. The appeal proposal does not conflict with four of these five purposes. But he says on purpose 3 it conflicts with need to protect openness of the countryside.

It is important to understand openness, Mr Ellingham says. “What I observe from the site at the moment, is that the site has an open field. There are views over open pasture land.”

He concludes:

“We are in an open landscape that is sensitive to change.”

Mr Ellingham adds:

“We are introducing bunds, cabins, access road and, for part of the time, a very substantial rig structure.

“The introduction of those works within a highly open part of the Green Belt conflicts with the openness purpose.”

For four years and four months the bunds, cabins and access road will be in place, Mr Ellingham says.

“I considered the duration and the scale of the works. My conclusion is that they harm the openness of the Green Belt.”

Reaction to Ineos arguments

The Ineos planning consultant stresses the Government’s support for shale gas exploration and the great weight it should be given in decisions, Mr Ellingham says. The consultant also stresses the quality of life and economic growth benefits of shale gas, along with an argument that minerals must be worked where they are found. He further stresses the need to collect technical and geological data.

Mr Ellingham says these are policy considerations but adds:

“I am not sure they are very special circumstances”.

Mr Ellingham adds that the development seeks to collect data on the presence of shale gas.

Ineos says the economic disbenefits of not exploring for shale gas should be considered. Mr Ellingham rejects this.

Mr Ellingham also rejects the arguments that the harm to the Greeen Belt is not material because it is only temporary.

Site selection and avoiding harm to the Green Belt

Mr Ellingham says the decision-maker has to be confident that there is not a better alternative site that would cause less harm to the Green Belt.

He says he has looked at the Ineos site-selection process and at sites where Green Belt would not be a consideration.

He says in the Ineos planning statement, the company analysed the Petroleum Exploration Licence and Development areas and where shale gas might be found. This narrows the site selection choice, he says. Ineos then carried out a desk survey, identifying designated sites and land uses.

Mr Kimblin put it to Mr Ellingham that most of the PEDL is in the Green Belt. Mr Ellingham says he analysed how Green Belt informed the site selection process.

Asked what evidence he has found of sites considered where there would be no Green Belt impact, Mr Ellingham says:

“I see no evidence”

Mr Ellingham adds that Ineos has not demonstrated the need for this site and so the proposal does not meet planning policy on Green Belt land.

Local amenity

Mr Ellingham says national planning policy requires decision-makers to consider environmental, community and economic benefits of developments. He says of the Ineos scheme:

“There are adverse effects on the environment.

“There are no community benefits that arise from this development

“There are some economic benefits but they are limited.”

Written ministerial statement

The most recent WMS, issued last month, requires decision-makers to give great weight to the value of shale gas exploration, Mr Ellingham says. But it also requires the development to minimise environmental harm.

Mr Ellingham says:

“There is nothing in the WMS that requires decision makers to disregard harm to the Green Belt and local amenity.”

He adds:

“The proposal does not accord very special circumstances to overcome any harm to the Green Belt.”


10.17am: Cross-examination of Robert Parkinson

The Ineos barrister, Gordon Steele, questions County Councillor, Robert Parkinson.

Mr Steele puts it to him that the extent of his concern is the length of Snowdon Lane and disturbance to horse riders and pedestrians. Mr Parkinson agrees.


10.11am: County Councillor Robert Parkinson

180620 Marsh Lane5

Cllr Parkinson, a Derbyshire County Councillor since 1967, was part of the planning committee which opposed the Ineos scheme for Bramleymoor Lane in the village of Marsh Lane.

He says he is giving evidence on highway grounds after independent consultants were unable to sustain this case against the proposal.

He says he has many years of experience as a highway user, including as a horse rider, and as a decision-maker on highway issues.

Many expressions of concern were made to the council about highway safety impacts of the development, Cllr Parkinson says.

He says the driving of lorries along Snowdon Lane would cause disruption to any walkers, cyclists or horse rider.

“I continue to believe the Snowdon Lane section is unsuitable and this should be counted against the proposal.”


9.59am: More questions for highway witness

180620-marsh-lane4-e1529485525154.jpg

County Councillor Paul Smith (left) and Derbyshire County Council barrister, Richard Kimblin (right)

The Derbyshire County Council barrister, Richard Kimblin, reexamines County Councillor, Paul Smith.

Mr Kimblin asks Mr Smith whether he had had an opportunity to read what local people had said about highway safety before he made the resolution to oppose the proposal. Yes, says Mr Smith.

Mr Kimblin asks about the appropriateness of the highway for the purposes. Mr Smith replies

“I stand by our decision. I fully support what we have said previously. This route is inappropriate.”

Mr Kimblin asks about the footpaths on the section of the road about which Mr Smith has concerns. Mr Smith says there were no footpaths or verges.

“It was quite clear to myself and otheer members that it would be dangerous for people to use the route for amenity value and leisure walking. I found it extremely dangerous in parts.”

The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, says this is an issue for the site visit. She asks for a map.


9.38am: Cross-examination of highways witness

Ineos barrister, Gordon Steele, questions county councillor Paul Smith.

Mr Steele refers to a second county council meeting at which the Ineos development was discussed. At this meeting, in May 2018, council officers recommended that the authority drop its opposition to the Marsh Lane scheme on traffic grounds. Mr Steele says independent consultants and council officers could not support the reason for opposition.

Mr Smith agrees.

Mr Steele says council officers had also advised against arguing amenity grounds.

Mr Smith agrees. He says the councillors disagreed with the advice from officials and organised a second site visit.

Mr Steele asks about the site visits. Mr Smith says the visits were in February and May.

Mr Steele asks how often has Mr Smith travelled the route. Mr Smith says two. He agrees that one was before taking the decision at the second meeting.

Mr Smith explains the councillors were concerned about the use of the route for local amenity by horse riders and pedestrians.

“I believe the proposal would have an adverse impact on the use of that section of road.”

Mr Steele asks how long the section of route is that Mr Smith has concerns about. The Derbyshire County Council’s barrister, Richard Kimblin, objects to the question:

“This is not a memory test”

Mr Kimblin advises Mr Steele to look at a plan.

Mr Smith agrees he has not driven the route himself. Mr Steele asks how long is the section of this route that has no footpath. Mr Smith advises the inquiry to look at the route.

Mr Steele says heavy goods vehicles can use the route on an unrestricted basis. Mr Smith says he has two visits and on each there were no HGV movements.

“I believe it was quite clear there were no HGV movements.”

Mr Steele says:

“You have taken a decision on the basis of a belief that there were no HGV movements.”

Mr Smith rejects this. He says the basis of his objection on highway grounds is in his statement.

Mr Steele asks about the work that is underway on Snowdon Lane. Mr Smith says he believes it is basic routine maintenance but there may be an issue that needs to be addressed.

Mr Smith says he is concerned about the size, frequency and number vehicle movements. Mr Steele asks how many movements there will be. Mr Smith replies he believes there will be about 80 per day. He says the size of the vehicles are incompatible with the road network.

Mr Steele asks about the size of the vehicles. Mr Smith says they will need to be big enough to bring in the equipment. They will have a material impact on the road network.

Mr Steele asks about how many vehicles will be associated with the rig movement. Mr Smith says he cannot remember. Mr Steele asks how long the movements will last for. Mr Smith says he has heard there will be 32 weeks of vehicle movements. He is asked about the length of the development. 13 weeks, Mr Smith replies.

Your decision to oppose despite the advice of officials and consultants arose from one site visit and you have never driven that route.

Mr Smith replies:

“Two site visits as part of the planning process. We believed that following the two site visits we were correct in our decision”

Mr Steele says the decision in May was taken after one site visit. Mr Smith agrees.


9.33am: County Council evidence on highways

180620-marsh-lane3.jpg

County Councillor Paul Smith begins his evidence. He says he has been a member of the planning committee for about 20 years and was at the committee which voted by nine-one to oppose the Ineos application.

He explains why he thinks the increase in traffic from the development will have an adverse effect on local amenity.

He says he has travelled the proposed lorry route twice. He is concerned about one section of the route, about 2-3 miles, including Snowdon Lane and Eckington Lane. There are no footways or verges on this section. This means there is nowhere for horse riders or pedestrians to go.

He says there is a lack of heavy goods vehicles on the route and any increase in would have a significant impact.

The traffic from the development would have an unacceptable impact on local amenity.


9.30am: Inquiry resumes

The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, begins today’s session.

12 replies »

  1. The whole issue with this is the pretence these wells are nothing more than exploratory. After detailed seismic surveys and costing millions to construct a pad and drill a well the idea they may not be fracked is nonsense. This is simply a way of using the planning process to get access to a greenfield site. Once in situ the consent to frack will be easier to obtain and all then that separates an exploratory well from production is the flow test. One cannot blame applicants for this it is a failure of our planning system that it operates in such a way as to ignore the inevitable and not be able to take into account the intention. I wish the good people of Eckington good luck in their fight against INEOS.

  2. This is the Unearthed report on the growing debacle of nuclear power station development in UK.

    It illustrates that, far from a rational attempt to fill the gap, nuclear power generation is a massive radioactive white elephant of insane proportions that will simply drain the tax payer to pay for French, Korean and Japanese pockets

    Now i can hear the anti antis screaming this justifies fracking gas! No, it does not, because fracking is an even worse temporary finger in the dyke vastly delayed over expensive tax payer rip off.

    All this could have been prevented and halted by long term for the foreseeable future, renewable energy source investment, and the stifling inertia processes from this government is simply suicidally insane.

    ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh1qMtchVak )

    We dont need another short term expediency fracking debacle that will destroy our environment just in order to stop gap into the nuclear debacle total failure, all this is simply a scam, a rip off of the tax payer to prop up government self interest and corporate hegemonies.

  3. It’s so annoying that Mr Steele has compared the site to Harthill, and said the inspector gave this the go ahead, like it’s a foregone conclusion.
    Mr Steele you are here to consider the Marsh Lane site at this inquiry, and only that. You should not compare sites, this site (as all sites are) is unique.
    The anti frackers are continually being told ‘that we are looking at this application only’. Mr Steele, you need to practice what you preach, and stop comparing this inquiry with Harthill’s.

  4. I think you should understand the Inspector will make the decision. Mr. Steele is there to ask questions of the witnesses, to identify whether they are able to justify their stand point against that already given by the professionals within the Council. Doesn’t look as if they are doing too well currently-but that will be up to the Inspector to decide. Mr. Steele is doing his job-questioning witnesses. That’s what happens at Inquiries.

    • I’m well aware of the procedure an inquiry follows, and who is responsible for making the decision. Putting your condescending comment to one side for a moment, I still find Mr Steele’s line of questioning ie. comparing the results of one inquiry with another to be wholly inappropriate.

  5. So cringeworthy reading what Mr Ellingham said.
    I liken the antis to flat earth believers nowadays. Very similar in their approach.

    • I “liken” (but not very much “like” in “liken” however, none at all in fact?) the anti antis to frack earthers who have an insane selfish religion that there are no rules for them, only for other people that dare to oppose their dogmatic destructive poisonous belief system.

      Their only “justification” for any of that, is their crass ignorance of all the consequences of their insane selfish actions and then are reduced to gutter sniping epithetical insults such as this, to be thrown around wooly bully whenever they feel threatened by the truth.

      The earth is not flat, nor frack, its a natural living sphere, it’s our earth, our home.
      The earth is only made flat by the frackers under their rubber stamping frack boot heel, forever rubber stamping on the face of the people of this country.

      Fortunately for us, the truth, is their Achilles heel. The truth stamps on their insane belief system.

      Truth is the one thing that brings them down to size every time.

      Flat to earth. On their face.

  6. Sorry you feel that way Sarah, but Inquiries I have attended very much reference similar previous Inquiries. It does help to prevent re-inventing the wheel, but then I am someone who seeks progress rather than stifle it with process. At the end of the day, the tax payer picks up the bill. I wonder which they would prefer?

    • 85% prefer renewables; let’s get on with that and stop wasting everyone’s precious time.

      [ Typo corrected at poster’s request]

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