This post has live updates from the fourth 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, including the local Conservative MP, Lee Rowley, and emeritus professor Peter Styles.
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. The first section of the inquiry heard evidence from Derbyshire County Council. Next week will hear from representatives of Ineos.
Reporting from this inquiry has been made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers.
Key points from today’s hearing
- MP Lee Rowley tells the inquiry he stands by his objection on 13 grounds:
- It conflicts with policies to protect the openness of the Green Belt and local and national policy
- The Ineos plan is inappropriate for Bramleymoor Lane, Marsh Lane and his constituents, he says
- Mr Rowley says three weeks of exploratory drilling on the site in 1987 are “not comparable” with what Ineos is planning.
- Ineos has not demonstrated that there were no other suitable sites outside the Green Belt sites.
- Mr Rowley says an oil and gas industry executive told MPs that shale gas operations could happen in urban areas. Ineos says this is “extremely prejudicial” and should not have been raised.
- Ineos barrister, Gordon Steele, says great weight should be given to Government support in a Written Ministerial Statement for shale gas. Mr Rowley says the statement requires decisions to be made on a case-by-case basis.
- Emeritus professor, Peter Styles, gives evidence on risk of operations in coal field areas with pre-existing faults.
- Ineos says his evidence goes beyond his submitted report. Professor Styles Ineos has received his presentation
- Ineos to object over “leading” a county council witness
The inquiry resumes at 9.30am on Tuesday 26 June 2018 when it hears from members of the public and the start of the Ineos case.
12.30pm: New document
Richard Kimblin, for Derbyshire County Council, tells the inquiry that Ineos intends to object to him leading a previous witness, county councillor Paul Smith, on site selection. He submits a document on a decision on another proposal in the Green Belt.
12.20pm: Ineos reaction
Gordon Steele, the Ineos barrister, says little of the presentation was included in a report submitted in advance to the inquiry. The report does not include the local site information, he says. This should be provided to Ineos and the company should have time to consider the details and cross-examine Professor Styles on it next week. Professor Styles says he can’t return next week.
The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, says if Professor Styles can’t be cross-examined it will not add weight to his evidence.
Professor Styles says Ineos already has a copy of the presentation slides.
Mr Steele says he has not had a copy off the slides. I need time to consider this new information, he says. Professor Styles says the geologists and senior executives in Ineos already have the information and the slides. This is not my fault, he says. He says he has already made a three-hour journey to attend the inquiry but would be willing to attend again.
11.40am: Professor Peter Styles gives evidence
Emeritus Professor Peter Styles says he is making the same presentation to the inquiry about the geology of coal field areas that he has previously given to the House of Lords, the Oil and Gas Authority and others.
Professor Styles describes how even a “good working coal mine” had about 1,000 very small earthquakes in a day. A hall of residence at Keele University had to be demolished because of subsidence prompted by Silverdale Colliery several miles away, he says.
At Clumber Park, in Sherwood Forest, he says the main earthquake activity was at 800m but there was also fracturing the rocks nearer the surface. Mining at 1km depth could have effects at the surface, Professor Styles says.
He says he investigated the earthquakes around Blackpool in 2011 which were linked to fracking at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preese Hall. Professor Styles says researchers identified a pre-existing fault.
A report on the earthquakes, written by Professor Styles and others, was presented to Government, resulting in a traffic light system for seismic monitoring. He tells the inquiry this requires fracking to stop if there was seismic activity of magnitude 0.5.
A fault required to trigger the traffic light system of earthquakes of 0.5M may be only a few metres long, Professor Styles says.
Professor Styles says surface seismic surveys do not detect the size of faults that could cause seismic activity that would trigger the traffic light system.
He says the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, asked how far away companies should frack from a fault. Professor Styles says this “respect distance” varies from 120-800+m. He has recommended 850m based on conservative modelling and US experience.
Professor Styles says he superimposed a map of identified faults from mine records to a map of small earthquakes. The earthquakes lie on the small faults, he says. Most of the earthquakes were more than 0.5ML, that would trigger the traffic light system for fracking.
Faults near Marsh Lane
Professor Styles quotes from the planning application for Marsh Lane. This said there were no faults under the site. Two faults are 570m west and 600m north of the site.
He says pre-existing faults stimulated by coal mining led to seismic events up to about 3ML. There are detailed maps made by coal mining engineers, he says.
“It is critical that this high resolution, carefully mapped data set should be included in any planning process for unconventional oil and gas activities.”
The inquiry resumes at 11.40am
11am: Deborah Gibson
Ms Gibson, tells the inquiry she is a resident of Harthill, where Ineos has permission for exploratory drilling.
Ms Gibson asks the inspector about frequent references by Ineos to the planning decision to approve shale gas exploration at Harthill. Should these be considered?, she asks. If this planning decision is admissible, Ms Gibson says she would like to raise other decisions and the behaviour of Ineos companies.
She also says the Harthill decision may be subject to further discussions. The differences between Harthill and Marsh Lane are “worlds apart”, she says.
There are moves afoot in Government to re-examine shale gas exploration and production, she says. The government has commissioned research to update the risks and benefits of fracking, she says. I would like to make a request that the inspector should pay great attention to these upcoming discussions.
The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, says where we don’t know the final result, we give them limited weight.
10.47am: More questions to Lee Rowley
David Kesteven, chair of Eckington Against Fracking, re-examines the evidence of Mr Rowley.
He asks Mr Rowley how he remembers the previous drilling on the site more than 30 years. Mr Rowley says he used to go past it to visit his grandmother.
Mr Rowley says the importance of the Marsh Lane site to his constituents makes him so passionate about the decision. He says:
“It is for the applicant to show why this application is not in conflict with the purposes and openness of the Green Belt. It is for the applicant to demonstrate that there are special circumstances to justify the development in the Green Belt.”
This application clearly contradicts the openness of the Green Belt, Mr Rowley says. This is a settled agricultural area. Looking at it objectively, openness would be transgressed. Five years has an element of semi-permanence. But within Ineos evidence, the company says the five year duration is a function of the PEDL licence. Mr Rowley says:
If the licence is extended then we could see an extension of the five year duration of the permission.
You don’t stick 2ha of concrete in the countryside and then not expect there to be encroachment of the countryside.
The original purpose of the Green Belt in plans dating from 1977 was to protect this area, Mr Rowley says. The policy says there is a need to protect the attractive landscape around the town, Mr Rowley adds.
The local Green Belt documents say development should be sited to have the least visual impact, he says.
The Europa oil exploration at Bury Hill Wood in Surrey does not prove that exploratory drilling is not inappropriate development everywhere in the Green Belt, Mr Rowley says.
Ineos evidence does not demonstrate this is the only place in the PEDL licence where oil and gas can be found.
He adds that at a meeting in parliament this week, the industry body, UKOOG, said urban areas could be drilled. These sections of the PEDL could be considered for suitable sites.
Ineos’s own statement does not prove there are very special circumstances.
Gordon Steele says there has been additional evidence in this part of the hearing and he asks the inspector to disregard it because it has not arisen from questions. He says the reference to drilling in urban areas is “extremely prejudicial” and should not have been raised. Mr Rowley says he is happy to return to be cross-examined later in the inquiry. Mr Steele says an MP should know better.
10.13am: Cross-examination of Lee Rowley
Gordon Steele, the QC for Ineos, asks whether Mr Rowley is qualified as a planner or lawyer. Mr Rowley replies:
“My opinions have as much weight as anyone else because planning is based on people, not just experts.”
Mr Steele asks whether Mr Rowley wrote the entire statement himself. Mr Rowley says he did.
Written Ministerial Statement
Mr Steele asks Mr Rowley if he is aware of the Written Ministerial Statement from May 2018 on shale gas. Mr Rowley says he is. Mr Steele asks Mr Rowley if he has read all the statement. Mr Rowley says he has. Mr Steele asks if Mr Rowley agrees with it. Mr Rowley says part of the statement says councils should be make appropriate decisions and that appropriate locations needed to be found. Applications must be assessed on a site by site basis in their context. I have done that, Mr Rowley says. He says he has lived in the area for 37 years and representing more than 70,000 people.
Mr Steele asks what weight should be attached to the WMS. Mr Rowley says there should appropriate weight. Great weight should be given to the section which requires case-by-case assessment in the context of the site. This site is entirely inappropriate.
Mr Steele asks whether great weight should be applied to the statement. Mr Rowley says there are many parts to the statement.
Mr Steele asks if Mr Rowley is aware of previous drilling. Mr Rowley says this drilling lasted for three weeks in 1987 and did not need planning permission. This was not the same significant industrialisation of this site, Mr Rowley says. It is not directly comparable with the Ineos scheme, he says. We are looking at 18 pieces of bulky equipment which will be on site for five years. The development you are talking about was for three weeks.
Mr Steele asks about the duration of the rig. Mr Rowley says it will be on site in stage two. The rig will be as visible as the Chesterfield spire. He says he is concerned about the other pieces of equipment.
Mr Steele asks again how long the rig will be on site. Mr Rowley says he will have to check. Mr Steele asks again. Mr Rowley says it is important that he should check.
The rig would be installed for two weeks, drilling and coring for 12 weeks and removal for two weeks, Mr Rowley states.
Mr Steele asks again how could Mr Rowley say there was no other development when there had been other exploratory drilling. Mr Rowley says the previous drilling was not comparable with what Ineos is planning, in is opinion. He says the rig was on site for a matter days in 1987 is totally different to the five years of severe industrialisation and bulk. The previous drilling did not go through the planning process.
Mr Steele asks if Mr Rowley has been on the site. Mr Rowley says there is an injunction on access to the site. He says if he is allowed on site he would go.
Mr Steele says it is wrong to say there has been no development. Mr Rowley repeats that what Ineos is planning is not comparable. Mr Steele asks the MP to answer the question. Mr Rowley says his answer is pertinent. It has not been industrialised in my lifetime.
Mr Steele asks a third time, it cannot be said there has been no development on or adjacent to the site. Mr Rowley says the former drilling is not comparable. Mr Steele says are you refusing to answer. Mr Rowley says he is refusing to answer in the way Mr Steele wants. In my considered judgement I have answered your question, Mr Rowley says.
The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, says it is customary to give a Yes/No answer and then expand on it.
Bury Hill Wood and Calow drilling
Mr Steele asks Mr Rowley if he researched the Bury Hill Wood case himself. Mr Rowley says he did. Mr Steele asks Mr Rowley to describe this case. Mr Rowley says you cannot automatically assume that exploratory drilling is appropriate in the Green Belt.
Mr Steele asks again whether this case says oil drilling is not in principle inappropriate development in the Green Belt. Mr Rowley says it must be assessed on a site by site basis.
Mr Steele asks about an application for exploratory borehole at Calow, which was refused permission. Mr Steele asks if this application included electricity generating station. Mr Rowley says this was part of the application. Mr Steele asks if Ineos proposes to install an electricity generating station.
Mr Rowley says it does not. He says he drew comparison with the Calow case because the inspector had described it as having “alien features”. Steele says this was a proposal for 15 years. Mr Rowley says the application was for no longer than 15 years and could have been less. You are asking you semantic questions. I raised this over the “alien feature” aspect of this case, he says.
Car boot sale
Mr Steele asks whether Mr Rowley is comparing the Ineos scheme with a car boot sale. Mr Rowley says the Ineos scheme would be more intrusive than the proposed car boot sale.
Mr Steele asks whether special circumstances could include the Written Ministerial Statement. Mr Rowley says the WMS requires decisions to be made on a case-by-case basis. Mr Rowley says Ineos has not demonstrated there are special circumstances for the Marsh Lane site to justify development in the Green Belt. Mr Rowley says in the 100+ page planning statement has just six references to special circumstances.
Mr Steele says there is detailed evidence in the statements from the company’s planning experts. Mr Rowley says Ineos has not proved any special circumstances. There is a contention from the Ineos planning expert but I reject that contention, he says. Mr Rowley accepts there is evidence before the inquiry on special circumstances. He says this was correct at the time that he wrote his proof of evidence because he had not seen the statement by Ineos’s planning witness.
Derbyshire County Council recommendation
Mr Steele asks Mr Rowley whether he rejects the advice of professional planners at Derbyshire County Council. Mr Rowley says he has already said that. It is a balance, he says.
Mr Steele asks if Mr Rowley has considered any advantages of the proposal. Mr Rowley says if the scheme went ahead and led to production, there could be benefits to the UK. At this stage, exploration, Mr Rowley says he could not see any benefits to Marsh Lane. It is not for me to argue the benefits of your scheme. It is for me to point out the concerns of my constituents.
It is not appropriate for me to conduct an academic exercise.
Mr Steele puts it to Mr Rowley that he should put forward a balanced view.
Mr Rowley says he is a former oil and gas analyst. He says:
“I come from a place of not objecting to oil and gas drilling.
“Having looked at the proposal, spoken for hundreds of hours to people and considered the 4,000 objections, I consider this proposal as inappropriate for Bramleymoor Lane, Marsh Lane and my constituents.”
9.50am: Lee Rowley MP gives evidence for Eckington Against Fracking
Mr Rowley, the Conservative MP of North East Derbyshire, gives evidence to the inquiry.
He says the application is inappropriate for the area and does not comply with local and national planning policy. He says he reconfirms his objection on 13 grounds that he originally stated when Derbyshire County Council opposed the application.
He says he will concentrate on the Green Belt issues.
He says it is inappropriate development, it does not protect the Green Belt and is harmful to the openness of the Green Belt. It also ignores planning decisions that have been made nearby.
He opposes the removal of hedgerows and concreting large sections of the site, so it does not protect the Green Belt. The rig would blight the area for a number of months. The five-year development would blight the area. It would accommodate 17 different pieces of equipment, including 2m security fencing and additional 4m fencing, acoustic screening of 5m height, lighting rigs up to 9m high, 2.9m power generators, two water tanks up to 3m, a 10m high emergency vent, 4.5m cooling crusher and a blow preventer.
This bulk would be visible from multiple locations across the Moss Valley, Mr Rowley says.
The development does not satisfy the very special circumstances required for an application in the Green Belt, Mr Rowley adds.
The site is 100m from the Moss Valley Conservation Area. The impact of an application should be considered if it is adjacent to a Conservation Area.
It conflicts with the local plan, which says applications should be refused if disturbs a conservation area. This application fails to take account of the Moss Valley Conservation Area.
The landscape of the Moss Valley remains essentially rural and intact, Mr Rowley. The site has had the same characteristics as far as we are aware for centuries.
The use of this area contradicts local plans, including a requirement that proposals should be sympathetic to the landscape. Development should only be permitted when it is in keeping of the character of the countryside and does not represent an intrusion into the countryside.
This PEDL licence includes non-Green Belt land. It cannot be argued that not other sites are suitable. Ineos has not released details of other sites it has considered or are more suitable, Mr Rowley.
A 2014 application in Calow for exploratory drilling was refused by the council and an inquiry. The inspector found it would cause significant harm to the character of the area. The industrial equipment would be an alien feature. Similar points apply to this, Mr Rowley says.
Other applications for the area have been refused on grounds of traffic and visual intrusion. A car boot proposal would have been active for 14 days a year while the proposal by Ineos could be for five years.
It contravenes local and national planning policy, the purpose and openness of the Green Belt and fails to demonstrate any special circumstances needed to justify development in the Green Belt. Mr Rowley asks the inspector to refuse the application.
Mr Rowley says he has spent hundreds of hours with residents who are concerned about the development because it does not comply with local planning policy. He adds that he was a former councillor and cabinet member dealing with planning policy.
He adds that the NPPF says people are put off planning by the presence of experts. We need to show people that they can contribute to planning decision.
Mr Rowley says he was disappointed that Derbyshire County Council officers recommended approval of the application. The council said this is “a strategically important area of greenbelt”. The said the purpose of the Green Belt would be compromised and the openness would be harmed. It was a judgement reached on balance. Mr Rowley says he reached a different judgement.
The council accepted that the Green Belt was important and would be compromised by the development, Mr Rowley says.
David Kesteven, of Eckington Against Fracking, asks Mr Rowley is all parts of the Green Belt are the same. Mr Rowley says applications have to be considered on a case by case basis.
If there is a hierarchy of the Green Belt this would be at the top because it has been untouched.
Mr Kesteven asks how important is this decision to the community. Mr Rowley says it is hugely important. The openness of the Moss Valley, the views from Marsh Lane and High Moor, are very important to local people, he says. It would represent a huge intrusion into the Moss Valley. This area has never been developed in this way.
North East Derbyshire has made huge leaps related to tourism, Mr Rowley says. There is specific reference of the importance of tourism to Eckington Parish in the emerging local plan, he says.
It would be nigh on impossible to attract people to this part of the world, to stay in the area, to do the walks and use the horses if you had this kind of industrial activity and bulk in a former agricultural area that is visible for miles around.
Mr Kesteven says 7m structures on the site would be the height of a two-storey house. Mr Rowley says there is a huge amount of bulk that Ineos seeks to put on the site for the entire development. It is not for three weeks but for five long years, he says.
Mr Rowley says he doesn’t know why Ineos has not provided information about alternative sites. The company has not demonstrated that the site is the only place where minerals can be worked in the entire PEDL licence. 49% of the PEDL is not in the Green Belt. I cannot understand why the “very special circumstances” test has been met.
9.39am: Gloria Havenhand gives evidence for Eckington Against Fracking
Ms Havenhand tells the inquiry she is a biologist, bee farmer, forester and business-owner.
Her business is within half a mile of proposed shale gas site. Her property has the only remaining hay meadow, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, in the Moss Valley. It is visited by millions of insects. Her bees produce high quality honey.
She says any pollution from air, surface water or ground water within four miles of her business could destroy the ecological value of the hay meadow
Ms Havenhand tells the inquiry her key concern is who is liable for any damage. She suggests that Ineos Shale, the company behind the scheme, has limited assets and is dependent on the parent company, Ineos Industries.
She asks: “Who is Ineos?” The traces the company ownership trail. She spent 30 hours looking at company accounts, she says. None of the Ineos companies are plcs, Ms Havenhand. Holders of shares have no entitlement to speak, attend or vote at any general meeting. This is a gagging clause, Ms Havenhand says.
When we confront Ineos, we don’t confront one company, we confront 80 active companies, she says.
Ms Havenhand says Jim Ratcliffe, the owner of Ineos, should provide personal security.
Gordon Steele, the QC for Ineos, says he has no questions. There is laughter from the public in the hall.
9.30am: Inquiry opens
The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, opens this session of the inquiry.