This post has live updates from the third day of the public inquiry into plans by Ineos for shale gas exploration in the Derbyshire village of Marsh Lane. Today’s session will hear from more witnesses for the campaign group, Eckington Against Fracking.
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.
Reporting from this inquiry has been made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers.
Key points from Day 3
- The future for Marsh Lane is not defined by the area’s industrial past, says Eckington Against Fracking witness
- The tourist strategy and landscape regeneration is attracting visitors from across the world, EAF says
- Tourism in north east Derbyshire provides £100m/year to the economy, EAF says
- The Marsh Lane shale gas plan would disrupt badger foraging, EAF say
- “This is about the worst position you could put any form of surface works”, pilot tells inquiry
- Small local airfield could have to close for 3-6 months during drilling phase, inquiry hears
- Questions over validity of noise monitoring from Eckington Against Fracking and errors in the application
- Ineos should treat villagers as people not “noise-sensitive receptors”, inquiry told
- Former MP warns of risk of subsidence
2.30pm: Site visit
The inquiry is to visit the Marsh Lane site this afternoon.
The inquiry resumes at 9.30am on Friday 21 June 2018.
2.24pm: Waste treatment at Ecclesfield
Marsh Lane resident, Paul Glossop, stands from the floor and says Ineos told him the waste will go to Ecclesfield.
The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, invites Mr Glossop to give more evidence
Mr Glossop says at a presentation in Harthill, an Ineos expert told him the waste would go to Ecclesfield and then Blackburn Meadows.
“‘A company executive then said “He should never have said that'”
“We do know where it is going. They told us. We don’t know where the lies are coming from”.
2.13pm: Evidence from Jim Percival
Mr Percival says he speaking on behalf of people of Ecclesfield and the villager’s conservation and local history society.
He says there is concern in the village that waste water from Marsh Lane would be taken to the water treatment works at Ecclesfield.
The environmental permit for Marsh Lane does not limit the volume of water that can be used on the site, Mr Percival says. Ineos estimates 254 cubic meter of water to be used, he says. It does not tell us how much waste will be generated. That missing information prevents me from assuaging local concerns.
Mr Percival says:
“We have an application that generates waste but we don’t have a maximum.”
He says there is clearly a limit to the amount of traffic that can get down the road to the treatment site. He says villagers are concerned about how the tankers will navigate Ecclesfield’s roads.
Gordon Steele, QC for Ineos, says the company has not specified where the waste would go. It may go nowhere near Ecclesfield.
1.59pm: Cross-examination of Harry Barnes
Gordon Steele, for Ineos, asks Mr Barnes whether is main concern is about fracking. Mr Barnes says he is also concerned that the site is near two mine entrances.
Mr Steele says the Coal Authority has said there are no known mine entrances within 20m of the site. Mr Barnes describes this a “dereliction of duty”.
Mr Steele says Ineos has carried out shallow geophysical studies at the site and ground penetrative radar work. Mr Barnes asks whether these were carried out in the field just beyond the site. Mr Steele asks whether these are the correct methods to use. Mr Barnes says he doesn’t have the technical expertise Mr Steele is using.
Mr Barnes says he accepts there are no coal entrances on the site. But he is concerned they could be 21m away.
Mr Steele says previous exploratory drilling hit no previous mine operations. He asks if this confirms that there are no mine entrances on the site. Mr Barnes repeats that he accepts there may be no mine entrances on the site but they may be nearby. He says the exploratory drilling could cause damage.
Mr Steele says the site is not in a development high risk area. Mr Barnes agrees.
Mr Steele suggests that the former MP’s concern is about fracking. Mr Barnes reply that there are concerns about exploratory drilling as well as a “greater danger round the corner”.
Mr Barnes repeats that he is desperately disappointed with the response of the Coal Authority. He says:
“It looks as if they might have been nobbled”.
1.31pm: Harry Barnes gives evidence
Former local Labour MP, Harry Barnes, tells the inquiry he has lived in Dronfield for 49 years. He represented the North East Derbyshire constituency from 1987-2005.
He says the traffic problems in the area will be revealed during the site visit. The site visit influenced the Derbyshire County Council planning committee to oppose the application.
Mr Barnes says there was subsidence in the garden behind a house in the area. He says he is concerned, given former coal mining in the area, that subsidence could result.
He says the size of the rig will intrude on the community of Marsh Lane is “massive and horrendous”, even if there is a time limit on its use. It is not something that any of us would want to see in our area, he says.
My main concern is that it is a solid coal mining area, he says.
This history of the industry goes back centuries in Derbyshire. He says Eckington was a very significant place for mining. It was an important source of coal for London.
The more modern pits, were deeper and nearer to Nottinghamshire. The older pits were nearer the surface. Drilling will need to big problems, he fears. Subsidence is in danger of occurring, he says.
It is hard to see where the fracking would take place, apart from near the current operations. And that could result in massive problems, he says.
Mr Barnes says his interest in mining has lasted his entire life. His father and father in law were miners in County Durham. Mr Barnes says he taught miners in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.
He tells the inquiry the final deep mines in Derbyshire were closed while he was an MP, in 1993-4. There was a drift mine at Eckington.
The area around Bramleymoor Lane is “pock-marked” with old mine workings, Mr Barnes says. This is based on Coal Authority maps. The planning inspector should carefully examine the Coal Authority maps, checking where mine exits were.
“I am very disappointed that the Coal Authority submission to the inquiry has not seriously dealt with the issue of old mining in the area.”
The Coal Authority said there were no workings within 20m, Mr Barnes says. This is only the length of a cricket pitch, Mr Barnes says.
He suggests that the position of the site appears to have been moved south since the original application. An Ineos map shows the site originally contained two former mine entrances, described as “development risk areas”. They may still be a danger, Mr Barnes says.
If the location has been shifted, is that legitimate, he asks.
Mr Barnes suggests there may be further mine entrances that are not known by the Coal Authority. Historically it was not easy to get records, he says.
The underground characteristics could become more dangerous, particularly if it goes beyond exploratory.
Mr Barnes says methane gas could be released by Ineos’s operations.
He says that in 1988 there was a major methane gas problem six miles from the proposed Marsh Lane site after a pit closed. 56 homes had to be demolished, he says.
A lot of former coal mines are nearer the surface. The seismic action that might be used in fracking could cause problems on the surface.
People in Marsh Lane and Dronfield are living on top of former mines. It is a very serious matter and needs the strongest examination, Mr Barnes says.
1.30pm: Inquiry resumes
The inquiry resumes at 1.30pm
1pm: Public statement – Paul Glossop
Mr Glossop, from Marsh Lane, says he has attended nine Ineos public events in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire.
He says the evidence submitted to the inquiry by Ineos Operations Director, Tom Pickering, is “totally different” from what he said at public meetings.
“Mr Pickering told us: “We know what is down there and we will go and get it.”
Mr Glossop says Mr Pickering’s Proof of Evidence says “We don’t know what is there”.
“Lynne Calder, of Ineos, told us the company had already ordered the rig. They haven’t he added, so which is right?”
There is a lot of mistrust in the local community, Mr Glossop sats. This is personal, he says. It is about people.
Mr Glossop adds:
“We have tried to understand what Ineos want. There has been 2,000 leaflets dropped off in Marsh Lane. We haven’t had one. Don’t we count? Aren’t we a sensitive receptor?
“An Ineos employee was told: ‘Don’t go any further than the War Memorial’.We are not a sensitive receptor. There are 700 people in Marsh Lane. They are people you are dealing with, not noise sensitive receptors. We are people who care.”
12.55pm: Public statement – Dale Glossop
Mrs Glossop, from Marsh Lane, says the only option remaining to her is to speak out against the proposal.
“Ineos are trying to invade her village. The company will ride roughshod over people to get its own way.
“The possible closure of the local airfield [mentioned at the inquiry this morning] is a case in point.”
Mrs Glossop says nothing Ineos has said has convinced her that the proposal is necessary or safe.
She says she does not want to drive past a 60m rig on journeys to see her daughter or encounter traffic disruption from site deliveries. A five year project is not temporary., she says. The licence for PEDL300 requires the company to frack at least one well in the five year term.
Mrs Glossop says:
“By the time the Marsh Lane site is restored I may not be alive to see it and this makes me very sad.
“The people do not want this. I ask the inspector to make the right decision and say no to Marsh Lane and Ineos.”
12.50pm: More questions for Richard Pointer
David Kesteven, chair of Eckington Against Fracking, re-examines Mr Pointer.
Mr Pointer says the planning application should have included the qualifications and detailed methodology of the noise assessment because noise is such a big issue in the inquiry.
He says a large circular saw or log splitter near the site would have been running at the time of the noise monitoring but it has not been mentioned.
12.43pm: Cross-examination of Richard Pointer
Ineos barrister, Gordon Steele, says Derbyshire County Council and the Ineos noise expert were content to agree on background noise levels. Mr Pointer says because of errors and inadequate information he does not accept the levels.
The agreed level is low, Mr Steele says. He asks whether this works in the company’s favour or against it. Mr Pointer says without knowing the methodology he can’t comment. The explanation is inadequate and can’t be challenged, Mr Pointer adds.
Mr Steele asks whether he is challenging the experts who did the work. Mr Pointer says it can’t be established who carried out the noise monitoring.
Mr Steele asks where Mr Pointer has referred to Mineral Planning Guidance. Mr Pointer says this is in the appendix to his proof of evidence.
12 noon: Richard Pointer evidence for Eckington against Fracking
Mr Pointer, a resident who lives in the one of the nearest homes to the Marsh Lane proposed site, 370m away. He tells the inquiry he is familiar with sound equipment.
He questions the quality of information submitted by Ineos in its shale gas planning applications.
He says noise monitoring equipment used at Marsh Lane had the same unique number as that used at the company’s proposed site at Harthill apparently at the same time. This equipment could not be used at two places at the same time, he says. The Ineos rebuttal does not resolve this situation , Mr Pointer says.
He adds that there is a discrepancy on noise monitoring information. Dates sent to Derbyshire County Council conflict with those in the noise survey data. You would expect data to be consistent, he says. There are also mistakes in the location of noise monitoring stations.
Mr Pointer says a second Ineos application submitted to Derbyshire County Council for Marsh Lane was described as identical as the first but it had different noise data from the original application.
Cut and paste errors
He said there were what he described as “cut and paste errors” in the applications. There was a reference to Rotherham Borough Council, when it should have read Derbyshire County Council. But other errors could not be explained by this. Two spreadsheets which should have comparable dates don’t align, Mr Pointer says.
Mr Pointer says there are also miscalculations in the traffic data.
Despite referring to a British Standard on assessing noise, Ineos may not have used it or complied with it, Mr Pointer says.
He adds there is no evidence of the experience and qualifications of Ineos noise experts who contributed to the planning application. There is also no evidence that noise monitoring equipment was calibrated at two mobile monitoring stations. There seems to be a general lack of data for these stations, he adds.
A property 460m from the site has not been included in the noise assessment, Mr Pointer says. People at four properties have not been approached by Ineos about the location of noise monitors, despite what the company has claimed, Mr Pointer adds.
There has also been no assessment by Ineos of the impact of site noise on animals.
“What concerns me is that Ineos says specifically it contact noise-sensitive receptors. I’ve been approached by these residents to say they have never been contacted.”
We have done our own survey of who was approached, Mr Pointer says. We conclude that two properties were approached but 68 have not been approached. The two that were approached declined the placement of a noise monitor on their property.
Standards of noise monitoring
Mr Pointer says there are guidelines to avoid interference with noise monitoring equipment. He says he saw one noise monitoring station was located across the field from a transformer emitting sound at 50 herz and near electric power lines.
Mr Pointer says he regards the quality of Ineos noise data as unreliable and the conclusions made by the company questionable.
He says the software used by the company is not the most up-to-date. There is no information on the qualifications of the people inputting the data in the software. The modelling software is not endorsed by the British Standard, he adds. There are also uncertainties about the data and methodologies, he says.
David Kesteven, chair of Eckington Against Fracking, says the proposed decibel level at noise-sensitive properties is at the maximum level allowed in planning guidance
The inquiry resumes at midday.
11.33am: Cross-examination of Bob Hitchcock, for Eckington Against Fracking
Gordon Steele, for Ineos, says the company could close the airfield to fixed-wing aircraft but it has no desire to do so. There is no intention to close the airfield unless this is necessary, Mr Steele says.
Mr Hitchcock says the pilots have suggested an offset approach. He asks what is the displacement of the gas would be. He says there is a risk to planes at 1,000-3,000ft, Mr Hitchcock says. The prudent course of action if there gas was covering a wider area would be to close the airfield, he adds.
Mr Hitchcock confirms that visiting aircraft need to get prior consent to use the airfield. He says in his opinion this consent should be refused unless they have suitable experience.
Mr Hitchcock confirms that the rig, in itself, is not a hazard to navigation. Gas venting would be covered by a condition, Mr Steele says. Mr Hitchcock says a discussion with the Ineos expert would be appropriate.
Mr Steele puts it to Mr Hitchcock there is no reason to close the airfield, subject to a discussion of flaring or venting (release of gas).
On noise, Mr Steele asks about the decibel rating of Mr Hitchcock’s aircraft. Mr Hitchcock says that is the rating of his aircraft. “For my aircraft, you hear the sound of air over the wings before you hear the engine”, he says.
Inspector, Elizabeth Hill, asks for information about venting and communication protocols.
11.06am: Evidence from Bob Hitchcock, for Eckington Against Fracking
Mr Hitchcock, a private pilot, based at Coal Aston near the proposed shale gas site, says he was asked to write a report for the inquiry on his home area.
Mr Hitchcock described how planning permission was secured for an airfield at Coal Aston. Pilots using the airfield developed methods to avoid noise intrusion and selected aircraft with low noise signatures.
His aircraft has a decibel rating of 65. This is about as quiet as it gets, he says. Most are 70-75. The helicopter that uses the airfield is 90DB, he adds. This is quieter than the top drive of the proposed rig, of 99db, David Kesteven, chair of Eckiington Against Fracking suggests.
We like to operate a good neighbour policy, Mr Hitchcock says. The planning permission for the airfield does not allow flying at night and lighting at the site has been removed.
Mr Hitchcock turns to aviation safety. The pilots fly visually, he says. There is no control tower. The planes coming in to land fly at above 1,000ft, avoiding local homes. During the landing phase, the final approach is at 500ft for most of the aircraft.
Mr Hitchcock says when he saw the location of the proposed Ineos shale gas site:
“I was quite shocked. It was as if people didn’t know the airfield was there.
“This is about the worst position you could put any form of surface works”.
“I know of no other gas sites in such close proximity to an airfield.”
He says the planes coming into land would be too close to the top of the rig.
We suggested a series of mitigation of how it could work. This is a way of dealing with an obstacle in a safe manner, Mr Hitchcock says.
We could continue what we do and fly over the top, conditional of there being no escape of air or gas, he says. Ineos has said there won’t be a release of gas except for in an emergency. But sites where gas is released only once a year are regarded as a hazard, Mr Hitchcock says.
He says the alternative would be an offset approach for landing planes. his is not routinely taught to pilots, he adds. Pilots would turn at the end of what they call the down wind leg. It would require a second turn at a lower level.
The risk is that aircraft could stall on this turn, he says, and fall out of the sky. He tells the inquiry about the death of a friend who died in a similar incident.
Mr Hitchcock says pilots need to avoid the rig while preparing to land and be aware of any turbulence from displacement of gas in an emergency scenario. He says he has not received any data from Ineos on what the displacement of gas would be.
David Kesteven, of Eckington Against Fracking, says the group has received notice that the owners of the airfield have decided that the airfield may need to close for 3-6 months.
Mr Hitchcock says:
“This is devastating news for us. It is particularly disappointing when we made an approach to Ineos. It means we can’t use our airfield for a considerable amount of time. The nearest airfield I could use is in another county.”
10.59am: Cross-examination of David Swift
Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, puts it to Mr Swift that it is an offence to identify locations of more than one badger sett.
Mr Swift says he did surveys which confirm the location of setts in the area. He says he was asked to do a report for Eckington Against Fracking.
Mr Steele says Ineos has not revealed the location of badger setts. He advises Mr Swift not to reveal the location of setts.
Mr Steele asks whether there has been any objection from Natural England, Derbyshire County Council or Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on this issue. Mr Swift says not that he is aware.
Three setts identified by Mr Swift are more than 30m away from the site, Mr Steele suggests. Mr Swift agrees. Another sett nearer the site identified by Mr Swift is too small to be a badger sett, Mr Steele suggests. Mr Swift says it is a badger sett.
Mr Steele says “these things chop and change” as badgers change the setts that they use. The important thing to discover is whether there is a live sett. Mr Swift agrees.
Mr Steele says there will be a condition that requires a badger survey before work starts. This would include appropriate mitigation, Mr Steele says. There is also provision for a badger set to be closed, Mr Steele says.
[On badgers] “There is no reason the work cannot take place”, Mr Steele suggests.
10.47am: Evidence from David Swift, for Eckington Against Fracking
Mr Swift says he is speaking on behalf of South Yorkshire badger group. He previously founded north east Derbyshire badger group.
He tells the inquiry he has evidence of several badger setts in the area of the proposed shale gas development. Badgers are protected in law, he says.
Mr Swift says Ineos has submitted evidence in its application that there are no active badger setts within 30m of the site. Mr Swift says this information is out of date and inaccurate.
No specific badger survey has been carried out in accordance with government guidelines, he adds. There is no effort to establish the importance of the site to foraging badgers, Mr Swift says.
He says he visited the site area in June 2017 and April 2018. He says he has presented photographic evidence of badger setts. There were occupied setts on the site and adjacent property, Mr Swift says.
Badgers are “highly mobile” he says and they establish new sets. Badger surveys should be updated regularly, Mr Swift says.
The inquiry hears that Ineos did a badger survey in January 2017. The then proposed access would have “seriously disrupted” one set, Mr Swift agrees. He also agrees that Ineos was wrong to say there were no active setts.
Mr Swift says security fencing would not keep badgers out of the site. If it is in the way of one of their regular foraging areas, they would go under it, he says. Badger foraging would be affected by the proposal, he agrees.
10.43am: Evidence from Michael Gordon, for Eckington Against Fracking
Cllr Gordon, the local member of North East District Council, confirms that the comments made by Jenny Booth comply with the council’s emerging local plan.
He says there is no material consideration that should override the council’s local plan. The council has consistently refused planning permission for the Bramleymoor area. The landscape attracts tourists. Assets that attract tourists should be protected under the local plan and any proposals that detract from this should be refused, Mr Gorden says
10.38am: Cross-examination of Jenny Booth, for Eckington Against Fracking
Gordon Steele QC, barrister for Ineos, asks Ms Booth if she is aware that there was drilling near the site. Ms Booth referred to this in her evidence. She says residents of the nearby Ten Acre Farm said the visual impact of the previous drilling was not comparable with what was planned now.
Mr Steele asks whether there were complaints about noise or the visual impact of the previous work. Ms Booth says the information she has is that there were complaints about water issues.
Mr Steele asks whether Ms Booth is concerned that the development will go on beyond five years. Ms Booth says the community hopes it will not happen at all. She says she thinks it will go on beyond five years but the inquiry can look only at what Ineos is proposing, which is limited to five years.
10.11am: Jenny Booth gives evidence for Eckington Against Fracking
Jenny Booth, a Marsh Lane, tells the inquiry the Ineos scheme fails to comply with local and national planning policy on the use of Green Belt land. It also breaches the district local plan, she says.
North east Derbyshire has a history of contaminated land and industrial scars from mineral exploration. The district council has committed to supporting renewable sustainable energy, Ms Booth says. Local policy also identifies the district as an important tourist destination, she says. A major accommodation development is expected to offer 1,000 jobs. The consequences of the shale gas industry to undermine the reputation of the local area as a tourist destination, Ms Booth adds.
She says there is precedent for refusal of temporary planning applications on land near the proposed site off Bramleymoor Lane at Marsh Lane. The shale gas would create an industrial landscape, she adds.
Ms Booth says she has been involved in the regeneration of the area, becoming a local walk leader and contributing to a community woodland. I got involved because I care about the area, she says.
The regeneration project has delivered a peaceful, attractive landscape that is appealing to tourists and local people. The transformation of the past industrial landscape gives the area the potential to develop a new industry.
Ms Booth says to realise the potential requires a recognition of the journey so far and respect for the ambition of the district council. She says:
“What is not needed is a harbinger of our industrial past, seeking to reverse our work so far.
“Our future is not defined by the past.”
Ms Booth says there are holiday lets within 400m of the site. There are at least 30 within four miles. People from around the world come to Marsh Lane. It is not just a stopping off place for the Peak District. We are developing a tourist strategy in our own right.
Ms Booth says the tourism strategy seeks to deliver sustainable, long-term jobs. The emerging plan for the area states the economic value of tourism to north east Derbyshire is £100m annually.
Ms Booth challenges the Ineos suggestion that its shale gas development constitutes sustainable development. It conflicts with the basis of the National Planning Policy Framework and the local north east Derbyshire plan.
Ms Booth says previous drilling on the site used a 30m rig and had no associated infrastructure. Ineos plans to use a 60m rig and to install an access road, security fencing cabins and additional equipment.
10am: Inquiry opens
The inspector, Elizabeth Hall, opens the third day of the inquiry.
The parties discuss arrangements for the site visit and future witness sessions
Reporting from this inquiry is possible because of individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers