This post has live updates from the last day of evidence at the public inquiry into plans by Ineos for shale gas exploration in the Derbyshire village of Marsh Lane. Today’s session will hear the company’s planning case in support of its application.
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 at the inquiry on the grounds of traffic, noise and harm to the Green Belt.
The hearing in Chesterfield, is expected to last until the end of this week. The first week heard evidence from Derbyshire County Council and Eckington Against Fracking.
Reporting from this inquiry has been made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers
Key points from today’s evidence
- Ineos argues the shale gas well would not be inappropriate development in the Green Belt
- But if the inspector disagrees then there are “very special circumstances” to justify the development
- The recent Written Ministerial Statement makes clear that shale gas exploration and extraction are of national importance, Ineos says
- The company says government support for shale gas amount to “very special circumstances to justify encroachment on the Green Belt
- Derbyshire County Council argues that a development of a bund with a fence on top would be inappropriate development in the Green Belt
- Ineos screened out potential sites in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty but not in the Green Belt because of “great extent” of Green Belt in the licence and Government acceptance of drilling in the Green Belt
- Ineos accepts the Marsh Lane scheme is a “technical” breach of the local development plan
- Eckington Against Fracking seeks ban on drilling at night at Marsh Lane and a health impact assessment
- Council seeks limit of three months on drilling phase
- Nearly 50 conditions on the development discussed by the inquiry
5.35pm: Inquiry adjourns
The inquiry resumes at 9.30am.
5.16pm: Further conditions from Eckington Against Fracking
Emergency and evacuation
The group says there should be emergency planning and evacuation procedures for nearby homes. It says it would be useful for residents to be aware of procedures for dealing with emergencies on hazardous substances and operations.
This covers the safety risk of the site to the local airfield. If the site and the airfield have to coexist there should be suitable arrangements for safety, EAF says.
Ineos says the condition is not needed.
Health impact assessment
EAF asks that Ineos fund a health impact assessment on fracking. There is a lot of information that is relevant and is being pushed aside, the group says. It should cover issues raised in fracking areas. Directors of public health have welcomed the idea as a baseline study, EAF says. Ineos wants to invest in the community. We think this should be spent on the health baseline of our people.
Carol Hutchinson, of Eckington Against Fracking, says:
“This is about Ineos stepping up to the plate to show that they care about the people in this country.”
“It beggars belief to be that this is pushed aside as not important.
“Health impact assessments take time to do. This is not something you can do over a short period of time.
“This is about goodwill and about Ineos looking after the community, about the promises we believe Ineos made to us that it would look after local people.
“You [Mr Steele, Ineos barrister] just saying it to us means absolutely nothing. We need to seem some hard evidence.”
Ineos says “there is no conceivable evidence” before the inquiry to justify the condition.
Derbyshire County Council says a health impact assessment was not submitted or requested for the Bramleymoor Lane site. The council says it would have difficulty supporting the condition. Paul Ellingham, for the council, says the council did not feel a health impact assessment was necessary at the exploration phase.
2.47pm: Key conditions
Condition 2: Limit of the development to five years – agreed
Condition 3: Limit of drilling to three months – not agreed
Stephen Bell, for Ineos, disagrees with the condition. He says a proposal document included in the proposal sets estimated durations of the different stages. This would cover this condition, Mr Bell says.
He says the drilling records would be taken but the progress of drilling would be a confidential issue and it would be concerned about disclosing this information.
He adds that the Harthill permission did not require this condition and the difference between the sites does not justify the condition. Mr Bell says the records were for its drilling engineers and the company would have to be sure that they would be confidential if disclosed. The company added about concerns of release of documents in response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
Ineos adds that it does not see why this condition is required. Gordon Steele, barrister for the company, says the wording of the condition require Ineos to hand over information about whether it had encountered gas or other substances. Mr Steele says the company would notify the council when drilling would start and end. Commercially-sensitive daily records were not justified, he says.
The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, says the timings in the proposal document are estimates. This would not be precise, she says. She says the issue of FOI requests would need to be considered. She asks whether daily records are needed.
Derbyshire County Council
Paul Ellingham, for the council, says the company and the council have relied on the durations in evidence to the inquiry. This condition would give certainty to the local community. Drilling is the most intrusive part of the development. A condition would limit the duration of nighttime noise, Mr Ellingham says. The council says FOI legislation allows responses to exclude confidential information.
The purpose is to identify start and end point of the drilling, Mr Ellingham says, so that there is certainty for people living locally. He says daily records are necessary but they would not have to be provided every day.
Mr Ellingham says the condition is about controlling the impact of the development.
Eckington Against Fracking
Charles Streetan, for EAF, says the group is concerned about enforceability of drilling duration without a condition. He says if Ineos is keeping the drilling records the condition would not be onerous. It could be provided to the council confidentially.
Condition 4: Development should follow durations and arrangements in proposal documents – agreed
Condition 7: Inform authority on number of operations on site – agreed
Condition 8: Site cabins and colour – not agreed
Stephen Bell, for Ineos, says this condition is not needed because the information is covered by the proposal documents. This says buildings will be in a “recessive colour”, Mr Bell says.
Mr Bell adds Ineos would be prepared to accept a condition on colour.
Derbyshire County Council
Paul Ellingham for the council, says this condition makes the requirements absolutely clear and avoiding the need for a paper trail. Mr Ellingham the condition provides certainly and clarity about the external appearance of the development.
Condition 9: Restrictions on permitted development rights – not agreed
Derbyshire County Council
The council says the condition is needed because the site is in the Green Belt. This sort of condition is commonly used in this situation.
Ineos seeks to exclude water monitoring boreholes from the condition. The council and Eckington Against Fracking agree to this change in the wording of the condition.
Condition on hours of operation – not agreed
Eckington Against Fracking
Charles Streetan, for EAF, says the group seeks no drilling at night and this should be included in this condition. Mr Streetan says daytime working in the drilling phase would be 8am-8pm.
Derbyshire County Council
The council says all minerals applications restrict the hours of operations. This makes it clear and puts it in one point. The hours are in different places in the proposals document. It helps the council officers who will be monitoring the development.
Paul Ellingham, for the council, says thought should be given to avoiding deliveries at critical times of the day, including school drop-off and pick-up times.
The council agrees to delivery times to be included in the traffic management plan (condition 12). The would also including types of vehicles, routes, management of HGV, holding areas, loading/unloading and turning of vehicles. This would provide certainty on what was required in the traffic management plan.
Ineos opposes any restrictions on nighttime drilling. It would have a significant knock-on effect on the application because drilling could not be completed in the three-month period.
Stephen Bell, for Ineos, says this condition restates information already in the proposal document, except for delivery times. He adds that delivery times should be the same as working hours.
Mr Bell says the convoying or single deliveries would be established through the traffic management plan (condition 12).
He says there is no reason why working hours should be in a condition just because it is required for other applications.
Mr Bell says delivery hours should be controlled by the traffic management plan.
Condition 15: Visibility splay – not agreed
The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, says the disagreement is on the height of the hedge (1m or 0.6m). The council says the hedge should be cut to 0.6m to allow for grow-back. Stephen Bell, for Ineos, says the the 1m height should apply to any obstruction.
Condition 20: Location of entrance gates
This condition requires gates to be set back from the highway.
Stephen Bell, for Ineos, says vehicles would contact ahead that they were on their way. There would always be someone on site to open the gates, except for the maintenance stage. He says Ineos is concerned about the setback would give protesters the opportunity to congregate off the highway but still block access to the site.
The council says this would allow vehicles to leave the highway completely before the gates were opened. Paul Ellingham says this is about highway safety and minimise the potential for collision between vehicles waiting to enter.
The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, says she wonders about the practical of the Ineos entrance arrangements.
Condition 22: Limits on HGV movements at stages of the development – not agreed
Derbyshire County Council
The council says it is necessary to limit total movements of each stage for the amenity of the local community. The numbers are taken from Ineos’s application. It is required to control the effects on the area. The council says it would not object to this requirement to be added to the traffic management plan.
Gordon Steele, for Ineos, says there is no evidence to justify a limit on the numbers of heavy goods vehicles. This should be deleted, he says. Mr Steele says the numbers are not consistent with evidence of the traffic witness. He suggests this should be dealt with by the traffic management plan.
The two sides agree it should go in the traffic management plan but Ineos does not agree to the HGV numbers specified by the council.
Nighttime noise condition – not agreed
The company has proposed 42db. Mr Steele says this complies with World Health Organisation guidelines. He says there is no justification for any reduction in the nighttime noise level.
Derbyshire County Council
The council says 35db limit was proposed by its noise expert. The condition also sets out the methodology for measuring sound.
Eckington Against Fracking
Charles Streetan, for EAF, says the group is concerned about the height of the noise monitoring equipment. It believes this will not measure noise levels accurately. There are also concerns about the methodology.
Conditions 24-26 on noise – not agreed
Gordon Steele, for Ineos, says the Harthill inquiry considered noise. He proposes that the Condition 8 of the Harthill decision was good enough for Harthill so it should be good enough for Marsh Lane. The Harthill condition encompasses all that is desired in the Marsh Lane conditions 24-26, Mr Steele says. Mr Steele says everything is included in the Harthill condition. He says these conditions are not necessary, reasonable or proportionate.
Derbyshire County Council
The council says this is Bramleymoor Lane, in Marsh Lane, not Harthill. The noise environment is different. The Bramleymoor Lane conditions have been drafted following consultation with a noise expert. The Harthill inquiry did not consider noise issues, the council says. The environmental health officer is not satisfied with the Harthill condition, the council adds.
The council says that the Harthill condition 8 refers to a noise management plan but does not specify what should be included in it or how complaints will be dealt with. The council says the conditions require noise monitoring and management schemes.
A more precise condition of what should be required in the noise monitoring scheme would benefit Ineos, the council says.
Condition on white noise vehicle alarms – not agreed
Ineos says a condition on the Harthill site required on-site vehicles were fitted with white noise alarms.
The council says this would not require off-site HGVs to have white noise alarms. Ineos says there would be a one-way system and HGVs would not need to reverse. Gordon Steele, for Ineos, says:
“We cannot have an unnecessary restriction on vehicles that would not need to reverse”
The council says it would be highly unusual for a contractor not to have a fleet of vehicles fitted with this equipment. Mr Steele says the condition would prevent the Ineos using a local contractor.
Condition on dust – not agreed
The council says the Bramleymoor Lane site, including the construction stage, is very different from other minerals sites. The construction stage would be very different from other mineral sites.
Ineos says the inquiry into the similar site at Harthill in south Yorkshire did not require this condition.
Condition 39: security fencing
The council asks for more detail on what the security fencing would look like.
Ineos says the fencing detail is included in the application. But it agrees to the detail added by the council.
Condition 42: Protection of trees and hedgerows – not agreed.
The council says the site is surrounded by important hedgerows. Not to protect the hedgerows would mean there is potential for damage. The bunds are close to some of the hedgerows. Without the condition, the bunds could be constructed too close to hedges or hedges could be damaged by vehicles, the council says. Roots of trees and hedges could be damaged by work some distance away.
Ineos argues this condition is not necessary. Stephen Bell, for the company, says all activity would be inside the security fencing. The location of fencing is already covered by a condition. The hedgerows are already protected under habitat regulations.
Condition 45: Condition on restoration and aftercare – not agreed
The company says the planning application defines the treatment of the abandoned borehole. But this is within the remit of the Environment Agency. Ineos says the specifics of what is grown on the land after restoration should be left to the landowner.
Derbyshire County Council
The Council says the concern is not about the process of abandonment but about what the borehole looks like after abandonment. It is a landscape issue, the council says.
The council also wants to specify how the site is restored and maintained so that it could be brought back into agricultural use. This is a standard requirement of a restoration operation, the council says.
Eckington Against Fracking
The group says caution is needed in restoring the land.
2.53pm: Approach to conditions
Paul Ellingham, for Derbyshire County Council, says has taken account of comments made by members of the public during the inquiry and views of statutory consultees.
Ineos says the company has reached agreement with the council on many of the conditions.
Eckington Against Fracking says it has commented on the list of conditions.
2.50pm: Inquiry resumes again
The inspector, Elizabeth Hill, begins the session on conditions.
She says the discussion does not mean she has made up her mind about whether to approve the Marsh Lane proposal. She says conditions must be necessary, reasonable and relate to the planning process.
2.15pm: Inquiry resumes and adjourns again
Ineos asks for a 30 minute adjournment.
The inquiry hears the conditions are now version 6. Eckington Against Fracking says it has seen up to version 4.
The inspector adjourns the inquiry to 2.50pm
The inquiry resumes at 2.15pm when it will consider conditions.
1.25pm: Ineos questions for its planning witness
Gordon Steele, the Ineos barrister, re-examines the company’s planning witness, Stephen Bell.
Mr Steele asks Mr Bell whether the scheme complies with the local development plan. Mr Bell says it does.
The barrister for Eckington Against Fracking, Charles Streetan, says Mr Bell conceded it did not comply. Mr Steele says that was a misunderstanding and there is nothing wrong with the decision.
Mr Bell says the Marsh Lane scheme “on the whole” it complies with the development plan. Even there was a technical conflict with policy, this does not mean it would not comply as a whole, Mr Bell says.
Mr Bell agrees there would be change to the Green Belt. He says the openness of the Green Belt would not be compromised.
He says a previous planning approval for drilling next to the Marsh Lane site should be given great weight.
On the recent Written Ministerial Statement, Mr Bell says it confirms that shale gas exploration can be regulated. It also includes Government plans to “fast track” decisions on shale gas exploration. He says there are no other developments have these procedures. Mr Bell says:
“I apply significant weight to this. It reflects how significant this is considered to be by Government”.
Mr Steele refers to a £6m support fund for councils considering shale gas applications and a shale gas brokerage service. Mr Bell agrees no other industries get this sort of treatment.
Mr Bell is it is “very unusual if not unique” to support development.
“That in my view equates to very special circumstances”.
1.05pm: Public questions to Ineos planning
Mr Ross puts it to Stephen Bill that the Green Belt is to protect the countryside.
Mr Bell says there are lots of Green Belt purposes. He says it presents opportunities for recreation and biodiversity.
Mr Ross says in broad terms he can install a fence around his garden up to 2m. He asks:
“If I applied for a 7m fence would I be successful?”
Mr Bell replies:
“It depends on the purpose off the fence. If that was considered excessive, then no. You would have justify that scale.”
Mr Ross asks whether Ineos decisions are based on government policy or Green Belt policy. Mr Bell says both are considered.
Mr Ross asks whether he should put his faith in town planners to protect the Green Belt. What is the purpose of Green Belt policy and who should I put my faith in, he asks.
Mr Bell says the planning system has a statutory basis.
Mr Ross says the Green Belt policy is there to protect us. Mr Bell says that is part of the balance and is up to the decision-maker. It doesn’t feel like that, Mr Ross says.
Mr Ross says he likes to look across the open countryside with a cup of tea in his garden. Over the next five years, will I be able to do this. Mr Bell replies:
“That is a matter for you.”
A member of the public says he has a holiday cottage. He says he has attended every day of the inquiry. He says he has heard no evidence of the impact of the Marsh Lane drilling site on local tourism.
Mr Bell is asked where do the local footpaths take walkers. Mr Bell says they would take you into the countryside. “You are already into the countryside”, Mr Bell is told. The member of the public lists the areas where people can walk.
Mr Bell says he waked a footpath close to the site. He is asked what he saw around him. Mr Bell says he saw houses, roads, hedgerows and trees.
Mr Bell is asked whether the area around the Bramleymoor is beautiful. He replies:
“That is a subjective judgement on what is beautiful. It is an attractive rural area”
Mr Belt is asked whether the view from Bramley Moor is stunning or of no significant.
Mr Bell replies:
“Personally I would not describe it as stunning. It is a open countryside scene.”
Would the bund and fencing be better than open fields to look at, Mr Bell is asked. He replies:
“That is not the best view”.
Mr Bell is asked whether anyone has contacted the riding schools. Mr Bell says Green Belt is a policy designation. The member of the public says riding school owners enjoy the local
Mr Bell is asked whether he has been to Apperknowle. Mr Bell says he has not. The member of the public says the village has been used to stand in for the Irish landscape in a film six months ago.
Mr Bell is asked whether Green Belt can support birds, insects or wildlife. He says Green Belt is a planning designation. The member of the public says deer have been seen on the junction of Snowdon Road. Things are improving to sustain wildlife in the area.
A great whirring rig will not enhance the Green Belt. Mr Bell says he cannot relate to that description.
The member of the public says the National Park boundary is five miles away. People walk from the Marsh Lane Green Belt to the National Park. Mr Bell is asked whether the Green Belt is used to promote tourism. Mr Bell says
“People would not know they were in the Green Belt where they went on holiday. They would depend on the surroundings.”
If I was to advertise my holiday cottage, ‘Come and visit a 7m high bund with a fence with a drill behind it’ do you think this wold be an attraction?”. Mr Bell replies:
No this is not an attraction.
Should a advertise it by referring to the noise of the drill. Should I advertise dodging the HGVs. All these businesses promote each other. Will continue to grow. Mr Bell says:
“My view is that this scheme should not have a material impact on tourism in the area. I see no evidence to the contrary.”
12 noon: Eckington Against Fracking questions to Ineos planning witness
Charles Streetan, the planning barrister for Eckington Against Fracking, cross-examines Stephen Bell, the Ineos planning witness.
Samuel Smith court case
Mr Streetan suggests that the planning statement was written before the Samuel Smith Brewery court case on openness in the Green Belt.
The court of appeal quashed an approval of permission because of the visual effects on the Green Belt, the inquiry is told.
Paul Macrae, the Ineos landscape witness, assessed the visual effects of the Marsh Lane development, the inquiry has heard. Mr Streetan suggests that Mr Macrae changed his approach in the light of the Court of Appeal decision.
Mr Bell agrees that Mr Macrea concluded there would be local adverse effects on the Green Belt.
This amounts to harm, Mr Streetan says. Mr Bell replies:
“It depends on the adverse effect”.
When is an adverse effect not harm, Mr Streetan asks. Mr Bell replies:
“It is a matter of degree.”
Local planning policy
Mr Streetan says Ineos accepts the Marsh Lane proposals are a “technical” breach of local planning policy GS2 on development in the Green Belt. Developments that do no comply with local planning policy should be refused, Mr Streetan says.
The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is explicit that it does not change the status of the local development plan, Mr Streetan adds.
He says the statutory presumption is that this development does not fall within the development plan. Mr Bell, Ineos planning witness, (left) says the policy should be read as a whole.
Mr Streetan says there is a matter of policy and, separately, the weight to be given of policy in a decision. He says Ineos misunderstands that the NPPF cannot distort the development plan. Mr Bell says he is considering the matter as a whole.
Mr Streetan says Ineos should first ask whether the development accords with the development plan, not what weight should be given to any conflict. Mr Bell agrees the scheme does not comply with policy GS2 in the development plan. Mr Streetan asks is there a statutory presumption against the development. Mr Bell says this is not language he would use.
Mr Bell agrees he does not give weight to the Marsh Lane proposal’s conflict with GS2 policy in the local plan over development in the Green Belt. He says GS2 does not comply with national policy.
Mr Streetan puts it to Mr Bell that the landscape is countryside. Mr Bell agrees it is countryside, rural rather than urban. If there is encroachment into the landscape then there is encroachment into the countryside, Mr Streetan says. Mr Bell says he is struggling with the issue. He says he deals with impacts on the landscape.
Mr Streetan puts it to him: if you encroach onto a rural landscape you are encroaching on the countryside. Mr Bell says
“I don’t know where you are coming from”.
Mr Streetan repeats:
“If you encroach on a rural landscape you are encroaching on the countryside.”
Mr Bell replies:
“The two are related but I don’t understand the context.”
Mr Streetan says “We are looking for whether there will be harm”. Mr Bell agrees.
Mr Streetan puts it to Mr Bell that mineral development will often have long-lasting effects. The question of the level of harm is for the inspector to decide. Mr Bell agrees.
Mr Streetan says Ineos has concluded there will be harm to the openness of the Green Belt. Mr Bell says it will be localised and temporary. Mr Streetan says five years is long enough in some cases to cause harm to the openess of the Green Belt. Mr Bell agrees.
“Green Belt land is cheaper”
Mr Streetan says the Samuel Smith case requires Ineos to demonstrate that the development must be in the Green Belt. Mr Bell agrees. The inquiry hears that 27% of the PEDL area is outside the Green Belt and urban areas.
Mr Streetan says there is no evidence that Ineos cannot acquire land because of moral objections. Mr Bell says “We cannot disclose that information” . He says it could be commercially prejudicial. There have been discussions with other landowners, Mr Streetan says. Mr Bell agrees.
Mr Streetan puts it Mr Bell that land in the Green Belt is usually a lower price. Mr Bell says this is a generalisation.
This site has been selected because it is available to your client, Mr Streetan says. Mr Bell rejects that the site was selected because it was commercially-advantageous.
Local planning policy
Mr Bell is asked about local planning policies. He says he attaches little weight to them. Mr Streetan, for Eckington Against Fracking, says local minerals plan says proposals must be acceptable.
Mr Streetan says Ineos relies on a planning decision for former drilling next to the site that pre-dates local and national planning policy. Mr Bell says he gives these documents considerable weight. Mr Streetan says they are not referred to in Mr Bell’s written evidence. Mr Bell says they are in statements from Gareth Beamish, the Ineos geologist.
National importance of shale gas – WMS
Mr Bell says the Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) is a very recent statement of government policy. There was a reason why the ministers chose to do this and it should be give great weight, he says.
Mr Streetan says it is a repetition of government policy. Mr Bell says it specifically refers to exploration of shale gas as national importance.
The benefit you rely from the development is the benefit of shale gas, Mr Streetan suggests. It is not the only harm, Mr Bell says. This has to balanced against harms, Mr Streetan suggests. If harm exists, Mr Bell replies.
Harm to the tourist trade is relevant to this inquiry, Mr Streetan says. Mr Bell agrees it is relevant. Harm should be considered in the planning balance, Mr Streetan says. I do not consider there would be harm, Mr Bell says.
Mr Streetan asks whether the many local objections are relevant. Mr Bell says the substance of the objections are relevant.
Mr Streetan suggests the Ineos case is that the the benefit of mineral exploration is so great that it overcomes any harm to the environment, amenity and the local economy.
They are your words not mine, Mr Bell says.
11.15am: More council questions to Ineos planning witness
Stephen Bell, the Ineos planning witness, asks to clarify a comment he made earlier. He says he a parallel Written Ministerial Statement by the Local Government Secretary, James Brokenshire, was headed Planning Policy.
Richard Kimblin, barrister for Derbyshire County Council, says the two statements were identical. One was headed energy policy and one headed planning policy, Mr Bell says.
Purposes of the Green Belt
Mr Kimblin returns to planning policy on the Green Belt. He says the purpose of Green Belt policy was to protect the countryside from the harm of encroachment.
Stephen Bell says the development does not constitute encroachment. Mr Kimblin asks what would constitute encroachment if fencing, cabins and a 60m drill rig does not. Mr Bell says the purpose and duration of the scheme and reversibility are relevant to the issue of openness and encroachment.
Mr Kimblin says the National Planning Policy Framework says substantial weight should be given to any harm to the Green Belt. Mr Bell agrees.
Mr Kimblin says Ineos claims great weight given support for the extraction of shale gas. Mr Bell agrees. But there should be substantial weight to openness of the Green Belt, Mr Kimblin says. It is a balancing act, Mr Bell replies. The Written Ministerial Statement gives no direction of location on shale gas schemes, Mr Bell agrees.
Mr Kimblin puts it to Mr Bell that Ineos did not consider Green Belt constraints when first selecting the Marsh Lane site. Mr Bell says the Ineos initial site screening exercise did not exclude sites in the Green Belt, unlike sites in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Mr Kimblin says he is lost by this answer.
Mr Bell says once sites has been selected then Green Belt would be considered. Mr Kimblin asks why Green Belt is not considered initially. Mr Bell replies:
“The large extent of the Green Belt in the PEDL licence and the acceptance by Government that oil and gas drilling is appropriate in the Green Belt.”
Mr Kimblin suggests Ineos did not give consideration to the Green Belt. He asks where in the Ineos planning statement is the evidence that non-Green Belt sites were considered. Mr Bell says evidence is provided by Gareth Beamish, the Ineos geologist. Mr Kimblin says he is happy to rely on Mr Beamish’s evidence.
Very special circumstances for Green Belt development
Ineos says there are “very special circumstances” to justify any harm to the Green Belt.
Mr Kimblin puts it to Stephen Bell, for Ineos, that any shale gas exploration site would not constitute very special circumstances to justify development in the Green Belt. He says Ineos has an extensive area in the exploration licence, PEDL300 (see below). Mr Bell agrees.
Mr Kimblin puts it to Mr Bell that shale gas lies across the whole of the East Midlands. Mr Bell says he relies on the evidence of the Ineos geologist, Gareth Beamish.
Mr Kimblin says the Written Ministerial Statement does not make shale gas exploration a “very special circumstance” to justify development in the Green Belt. Mr Bell agrees.
Mr Kimblin puts it to Stephen Bell, the Ineos planning witness, that noise could be reduced by not drilling at night or enclosing the rig.
Mr Bell replies that this would be an unreasonable burden on Ineos. Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, says the enclosure of works could not be agreed to under the application.
Mr Kimblin puts it to Mr Bell that a nighttime noise limit below 42db would result in less harm and be relevant to the planning balance. Mr Bell says if the inspector concluded that 42db would result in harm then reducing the noise limit would result in less harm.
Return to Harthill
Mr Kimblin returns to the Ineos application for shale gas exploration at Harthill in south Yorkshire. He asks Mr Bell whether the inquiry should take account of the consideration of other sites. Mr Bell agrees.
The inquiry resumes at 11.15am
10.02am: Council questions to Ineos planning witness
Richard Kimblin, barrister for Derbyshire County Council (right), cross-examines Stephen Bell, the Ineos planning witness.
Written Ministerial Statement
Mr Kimblin refers to the May 2018 written ministerial statement on energy policy and shale gas planning. Mr Kimblin puts it to Mr Bell that the sections used by Ineos to support the Marsh Lane scheme do not add to existing planning policy. Mr Bell agrees.
Mr Kimblin says planning authorities should give great weight to the benefits of shale gas, including exploration. He asks if there is anything additional to the policy of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Mr Bell says there is no difference in policy although the written ministerial statement (WMS) expands on policy, particularly on exploration. He says there is a difference of emphasis.
“I think it is highly relevant that the minister has chosen to recite this policy if it was not materially important.”
Mr Bell adds that the WMS also deals with how planning decisions should be made. It says shale gas exploration and extraction are of national importance and those terms are not used in the NPPF.
Mr Kimblin asks whether Mr Bell is asking for additional weight to the policy because it has been said twice, in the WMS and the NPPF. Mr Bell says he is. The WMS refers specifically to the exploration stage. “Repetition counts”, Mr Kimblin says.
Mr Bell concedes that the WMS has no guidance on the location of shale gas sites or developments.
On local planning policy, Stephen Bell, planning witness for Ineos, says policy GS2 does not specifically address mineral development in the Green Belt.
Europa decision on Bury Hill Wood
Mr Kimblin turns to the Europa Oil and Gas application for oil exploration at Bury Hill Wood in the Surrey Green Belt. The first inspector refused permission but following two court cases a second inspector approved the scheme.
One of the arguments over the Europa site was the 18-week duration of the Bury Hill Wood scheme, Mr Kimblin says. He asks Mr Bell whether the 18-week duration of the Bury Hill Wood development was significant to the decision. Mr Bell says he doesn’t know whether there was a limitation of 18 weeks. He says he hasn’t seen documents on the duration of the different phases of the development.
Mr Kimblin asks whether it is appropriate for the inspector to form a view about the extent of the development and its duration. Mr Bell agrees.
Mr Kimblin says a development of a bund with a fence on top would be inappropriate development in the Green Belt. Mr Bell agrees but says it would depend on its purpose.
Mr Bell says a section of hedge would have to be removed at the Marsh Lane development to accommodate the junction of the access road. He agrees that the access road would be in place from the start of the development.
Mr Kimblin puts it to Mr Bell that the access road, apart from its connection with oil exploration, would be inappropriate development.
Mr Bell agrees that the site would be surrounded on one side by welfare and accommodation cabins and on the other side by storage containers. That is surrounded by a substantial bund, Mr Kimblin suggests. Mr Bell says:
“No the bund is not substantial. It is a bund of 3.5m”
Mr Kimblin puts it to Mr Bell that Ineos has not recorded in the planning statement how it assessed the impact of the Marsh Lane development on openness. He suggests that the inquiry is unable to assess the company’s workings. Mr Bell says the work was done.
Mr Bell says the proposal does not constitute inappropriate development in the Green Belt. Mr Kimblin puts it to Mr Bell that Ineos says there is no harm to the openness in the Green Belt but this conclusion can be reached only from the landscape assessment. Mr Bell says the conclusion on appropriateness takes account of the duration and purpose of the scheme.
During the drilling stage, Mr Kimblin says the harm is fixed. Mr Bell agrees. Mr Bell says the duration of the development is key to appropriateness.
Decision on Harthill inquiry
Mr Kimblin turns to the decision on Ineos’s plans for a similar shale gas exploration well at Common Road, Harthill. The inspector at an inquiry ruled in the company’s favour. Mr Kimblin says the inspector referred to Green Belt issues in only one paragraph in his decision notice.
Mr Bell agrees that Rotherham Borough Council did not argue against the scheme on Green Belt grounds. Mr Kimblin says the Green Belt was raised at the inquiry by members of the public and other interested parties.
Mr Bell accepts that the inspector did not refer specifically to the scale of the Harthill development but did not disregard it.
9.34am: Ineos planning evidence
The Ineos planning witness, Stephen Bell, a planning consultant at Turley gives evidence to the inquiry.
Mr Bell reminded the inquiry that Ineos had appealed against non-determination of the application by Derbyshire County Council. The council then voted to oppose the application on grounds of traffic, noise and harm to the Green Belt. A council sub-committee later voted to continue to oppose the application on traffic grounds, despite a recommendation from independent consultants to drop this opposition.
Gordon Steele, the barrister for Ineos, reveals that the council has proposed a nighttime noise limit of 35db. The current
Mr Bell says the development will not harm the openness of the Green Belt. But if the inspector decides it is not appropriate development, Mr Bell says he has evidence that there are very special circumstances that would justify any harm to the Green Belt.
He says the development complies with the National Planning Policy Framework. He also cites a Written Ministerial Statement issued in May 2018, which states Government policy is to support the benefits of shale gas exploration and production. This is a material consideration that should be given significant weight, Mr Bell says.
Mr Bell says the scheme also complies with local planning policy. There are material considerations that support the application and the appeal should be allowed.
Very special circumstances
Mr Steele, for Ineos, says it is for the decision-maker – the inquiry inspector – to decide what is the meaning of “very special circumstances” and what weight should be attached.
Mr Bell says he regards the Marsh Lane plan is an appropriate development in the Green Belt and so Ineos does not have to prove “very special circumstances.”
Mr Steele suggested that evidence from Ineos to the inquiry yesterday that Marsh Lane was a unique opportunity to explore for shale in the East Midlands. Mr Bell says this would represent “very special circumstances”.
Mr Bell also says a previous exploration well drilled near the proposed site in 1987 should also be given weight. Mr Bell says it was inaccurate by Eckington Against Fracking to say that the previous exploration well did not need planning permission.
Mr Bell says the site was in the Green Belt at the time, the scheme extended to 2 acres and included improving an access track and site cabins. It allowed for permission for flow testing. The rig was permitted to a height of 125ft, so smaller than the 60m rig proposed by Ineos, but of “some height”.
Mr Bell says some weight should be given to the approval of the previous permission. This was a development authorised adjacent to the proposed Ineos site, he adds.
It is not accurate to say there has been development next to the appeal site, Mr Bell says. In addition to the previous well, Mr Bell says there is a farm building near the site.
The inspector asks about the duration of the original planning permission. It is for one year. Mr Steele submits the document but the barrister for Derbyshire County Council, Richard Kimblin, objects and says he will want to cross-examine Ineos witnesses on this in more detail. The document is not submitted.
Harthill inquiry decision
Mr Bell says significant should be attached to the recent approval of Ineos similar plans to drill a core shale gas well at Harthill in south Yorkshire.
This scheme was also in the Green Belt. In that inquiry approval, the inspector concluded that it was appropriate development in the Green Belt. The inspector imposed a night-time noise limit of 42dB.
Mr Bell says the inspector gave great weight to the Written Ministerial Statement issued in May 2018. The inspector said the benefits of the development should be set against any harm to the area. He also dismissed suggestions that the Harthill would result in “permission inquiry”.
9.30am: Inquiry resumes
The inquiry hears that Ineos does not need to cross-examine Professor Peter Styles who gave evidence last week. Ineos’s barrister says the evidence was “irrelevant” to the inquiry because it dealt with fracking, which is not sought by the company in the Marsh Lane application