Live updates on the meeting of Rotherham Council discussing Ineos planning application to drill and test a shale gas well on the edge of the South Yorkshire village of Woodsetts.
Planning officers have recommended the application for land off Dinnington Road is approved. The meeting of the council’s planning board is expected to hear from the company and opponents of the scheme. A meeting in March 2018 unanimously refused permission for the site. The current application being considered is almost identical. Background to the proposals and the decision
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11.44am Meeting closes
Applause from the public gallery.
11.32am Reasons for refusal
Councillors say they want to refuse the application on highway safety and the lack of information on control of environmental impacts.
The councillors say they were concerned that noise levels would not be controlled. The planning officer says this is not a good enough reason for refusal.
Cllr Sansome says there is no independent governance that noise levels will be broken unless the residents feel they have been broken. If the Environment Agency has a greater governance than councillors believe this could be removed. But he adds they remain concerned about traffic safety.
Councillors recommend using reasons to refuse put forward by Woodsetts Against Fracking. The planning officer says two of the reasons are not material planning reasons.
Cllr Whysall says reasons to object should include proximity of the site entrance to homes. She says she is still not satisfied with the ecological surveys.
Other councillor says they are concerned about highway safety and the access track close to sheltered housing.
The chair and vice chair are delegated to confirm the wording.
Five in favour; seven against.
The application is refused.
11.30am Legal officer
The officer reminds members that if they refuse the permission they need to think about valid reasons for refusal and any future application for costs in an appeal.
11.05am Councillor discussion
11.26am Cllr Jenny Andrews
Cllr Andrews says proximity to ancient woodland is a material planning consideration. The planning officer says Natural England has not raised an objection. He says the issue is not significant enough to refuse the application.
11.24am Cllr Stuart Sansome
Cllr Samsome asks who will monitor noise levels. The planning officer says it would be down to residents to inform there were breaches.
“They can do what they want”, people say in the public gallery.
If people feel Ineos is breaching the level, they can tell us. We have to assume the levels will not be breached, the officer says.
11.22am Cllr Robert Bird
Cllr Bird says Ineos was naive to think there would not be objections from Berne Square. He asks if the noise levels would be monitored. The planning officer says the site would have to close if it continued to breach conditions.
11.21am Ian Ferguson
Mr Ferguson says a convoy would take four minutes to travel the lorry route of 3km.
11.17am Cllr Simon Tweed
Cllr Tweed says the roads on the proposed traffic route are not fit for purpose.
He says no one has said how long a convoy would take. A convoy on a road like that should never be allowed.
I travel that road every day, he says. The roads are not fit for purpose for any type of vehicle.
I don’t see anything difference in this application from the previous one. I can’t put my hand up to support this application. WAF points are really good points.
Yes councillors might be worried about going to appeal. Sometimes you have to stand up against things.
11.13am Cllr John Williiams
Cllr Williams says he will be supporting the application. He says there is no strong planning reason to refuse the application.
If you were to refuse, knowing it would go to appeal, you have to show you have a strong chance of winning that appeal. I can’t say that.
I want the council to be in the strongest position to protect the site and the local community. The best way to do that is to support the application and enforce conditions.
Planning authorities are not in a position to resist planning applications for fracking. Until there is a change of government that won’t changed.
People shout “give him a white feather”
11.09am Cllr Jennifer Whysall
Cllr Whysall says Ineos warnings about avoiding an appeal sounded “vaguely threatening”.
She says she wants much more information from trusted medical sources f the effects on young and old people.
On traffic, she says she can’t agree with Ineos assumption that traffic would slow down for the 30mph limit.
I am yet to be convinced, expert or otherwise, on the potential danger from old mine workings, she says.
I am not convinced about this, she adds.
11.05am Cllr Bob Walsh
Cllr Walsh says the root of public concerns are government policy on energy and minerals. The public should lobby parliament and MPs, he says.
We have to work with planning law, Cllr Walsh says. The main concern was the lack of ecological. This has now been corrected. My concerns have been abated.
You want to come and live in the village, a member of the public says.
I can see no basis in planning law for turning down this application.
“Pass the buck you mean, someone says
10.59am Highways officer
Ian Ferguson, the council highways officer says the maximum number of movements would be 70 (35 in and 35 out) but the averages would be less.
The transportation unit has considered the impacts. The impact on pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders has also been considered, he says. There is a significant increase in HGV movements, he says. But averaged out there would be five or six HGV movements per hour. Convoys would reduced the frequency, he says.
The route is regarded as capable of accommodating the size of vehicles, given the temporary nature of the proposal, Mr Ferguson says. There are no accident blackspots, he adds.
The Harthill inspector acknowledged there would be some loss of amenity but it would not be unacceptable. I consider this to be the case at Woodsetts, Mr Ferguson says.
The development will not have an unacceptable impact on highway safety and the cumulative impacts on the highway network will not be severe, he says.
10.55am Planning officer response
The council’s planning officer says disruption is inevitable to local residents during the construction period of any application. There is a condition restricting HGV movements to daytime only. The wellpad is further away from homes than at Marsh Lane, which was approved, he says.
Other conditions restrict noise limits and require surveys of protected species.
The Roseacre site was not comparable. They were not exploratory wells, he says. They were the next stage. WAF disputes this.
The inspectors at Marsh Lane and Harthill decided the schemes were temporary permissions. But overall the impact on openess was acceptable.
10.51am Matthew Wilkinson
Mr Wilkinson, who lives in Woodsetts, says he is speaking for children in the village.
Ineos had not been able to identify the location and size of the school, Mr Wilkinson says, when it came to the village, despite saying it knew the village.
The village currently has a school, pre-school and toddler group, which are safe and clean, he says. This scheme will pour tonnes of toxic gases over the children’s playgrounds, Mr Wilkinson adds.
He describes the application as a “massive child safeguarding issue”. He says gases from the site will spread beyond Woodsetts. Please keep Rotherham safe and clean, he says.
Please be in no doubt the people of Rotherham are fully behind a vote no to the application, he adds.
10.48am Cllr Clive Jepson, ward councillor
Cllr Jepson supported the grounds mentioned by other objectors.
He says the scheme will have an effect on road congestion and safety.
He urges councillors to look at the application again. There are planning reasons to turn down the scheme.
10.44am Andy Tickle, CPRE
Mr Tickle says CPRE objected to the application on ecology. We still believe the ecological survey information was inadequate, particularly for protected species. It is extremely close to an extensive bat species, some of which are light intolerant. Without survey data on bat roosts, it is not possible to assess the impact.
CPRE supports objections on the impacts of the site on nearby property and the road network.
The scheme would not maintain openness of the green belt and would be inappropriate.
There are planning grounds to refuse the application.
CPRE will support the councll at an inquiry. But the council must put resources into an appeal
10.37am Firbeck Parish Council statement
The parish council voted unanimously against the application.
The council rejected the evidence supplied by Ineos. It was dismayed by the submission of a second application.
The parish council urged the planning board to consider the application on its merits. It was not bound by the recommendation of officers.
The negative impact on neighbours is a valid planning consideration.
The statement says the objections are on grounds:
- Visual amenity and impact: the conversion of the area from rural to industrial and the impact on nearby residents.
- Pedestrian safety: we are not convinced a traffic management scheme would address concerns. No route avoids residential centres.
- Noise, disturbance and air pollution from traffic
- Environmental: risk of air, noise, water, light pollution. The site is in a predominantly residential area. The access point is immediately next to the residential envelope. The impact on nearby properties has not been addressed at all.
Councillors should take into account that if they stand firm they represent the overwhelming view of the local community. Local communities must be listened to and decisions should rest with local planning authorities.
10.28am Woodsetts Parish Council
Monica Carroll, for Woodsetts Parish Council, says the Ineos application says there will 115 abnormal loads to the site. There would be four per day in stage 1, six per day in stages 2 and 6, 10 per day in stage 5. An abnormal load would need an escort vehicle. It would take up the entire carriageway, she says.
On Woodsetts and Worksop Roads, the 3km stretch to the site from the main roads, there are 13 road junctions. These are impossible to control, Monica Caroll says. There are 11 bus stops, one very close to the site entrance. There are five footpaths and bridles. There are more than 100 properties with direct entrance on the road. There are also more than 100 caravans. There is also a doctor’s surgery and busy post office. These all need access.
Children have to cross Woodsetts Road or travel along Dinnington Road to get to school. Cyclists also use route.
At the doctor’s surgery, the pavement is very narrow, in places to 900mm. This causes stress for people using buggies or wheelchairs, some of whom have to use the road.
Drivers leaving Berne Square have poor visibility when turning left or right.
The impact of 60 HGVs movements per day would affect attendance time of emergency vehicles, Ms Caroll. Commuters could be delayed by 20 minutes. The bus service could be threatened. People using the doctor’s surgery would be inconvenienced. Drivers would be in even more danger.
The reality of the lives of the residents of Woodsetts must be consideed. Woodsetts Parish Council implores you to put the lives of the residents first. Base your decision on fairness and integrity.
The hearing resumes with more presentations at 10.25am
10.11am Woodsetts Against Fracking objection
WAF says the Woodsetts application is different from other sites.
We ask councillors, people with power, to reject the plan for residents, people without power, the group says.
The fact that HGVs will pass within 20m of back gardens does not appear to matter to Ineos. The company has demonstrated a lack of concern for wildlife and people. They think they can bully you with the threat of costs to pass the application. We have commissioned a planning consultant and we believe a planning inspector would support us and refuse an appeal.
You have no reason to fear the costs that Ineos threatens you with.We have a barrister ready and waiting to represent us at a planning inquiry.
We call on you to reject the application on the planning grounds of:
- Proximity of site to residents
- Proximity of site to ancient woodland
- Unsafe access
- Loss of visual amenity
- Loss of amenity through intimidation on a right of way.
10.07am Woodsetts Against Fracking objection
Visual and amenity impact
The use of public rights of way would be reduced, with impacts on health, WAF says. The outlook of homes will be changed. The view of the entrance of the village will be diminished.
The rights of way and open green belt are key to the lives of people in the area. Surveys of the use of the footpaths next to the site show it was used in 50 and 63 people in half days.
The green belt should be protected for the future, the group says. We should be encouraging people to exercise – like the Ineos Daily Mile – but they will be deterred by the industrial site, the group says.
The group urges the application to be refused.
10.03am Woodsetts Against Fracking objection
Barry Cartwright, for Woodsetts Against Fracking, says it and the parish council have commissioned their own ecology survey.
The issue of bats in Dewdales Wood has not been considered. Woodsetts Against Fracking informed the council about an active badger sett. Ineos badger information has not been submitted. Why is this deemed satisfactory. Is this because of the Marsh Lane inquiry report, Mr Cartwright asks.
Ineos says a badger licence is not necessary. But why is Ineos dictating the needed. How will the licence be obtained. How can the council assess any impacts when they have no survey information from Ineos.
The company has still not provided adequate survey information. The application should be refused.
Mr Cartwright refers to the cancellation of drilling at Leith Hill because of the impact on ancient woodland. Dewdales Wood is ancient woodland, he says.
9.59am Woodsetts Against Fracking objection
Safe and suitable access
Chris Burton, a Woodsetts resident, says the access track would be shared with residents. They would have to negotiate HGVs to reach their homes. These include Manor Farm and private residents.
They would have to wait to go through security gates. There will be current users having to wait in an “air lock” like a prison, she says. There are safety concerns, idling engines, inconvenience. There is no evidence that planning officers have considerred this, she says.
It is “bonkers” for resident and businesses to share access with this industrial operation
The current entrance fails the NPPF test of being a safe entrance and the application should be refused.
9.48am Woodsetts Against Fracking objection
Proximity to housing
Richard Scholey, a Woodsetts residents, says the site entrnace is within “coughiiing distance from residents. It is only 20m from the boundary of homes on Berne Square residents, many of whom are elderly, vulnerable or ill.
Other schemes are several hundred metres from homes, Mr Scholey says.
He says local planning policy requires councillors to decide whether the scheme will minimise risks associated with noise or air pollution or highway safety.
Woodsetts Parish Council worked with WAF to commission a noise survey. This revealed that Ineos had understated the plant needed to install the access attract and overstated the background noise. Berne Square residents would be subject to an unacceptable level of noise, he says.
The parish council noise consultant says acceptable noise levels could be achieved if the access was relocated. Hedgerows would have to be removed with a new access. Are hedgerows more important than people, Mr Scholey asks. The council has already agreed to the removal of 350m of hedgerow for the owner of the Ineos site.
Will the Ineos scheme with the close proximity of the bellmouth and entrance to homes minimise noise pollution, Mr Scholey asks. The noise will be 24 hours a day and close proximity. will exacerbate health conditions.
Mr Scholey says a government report concluded that even exploration for shale gas can increase ozone and sulphur dioxide emissions. There are repeated consequences on health impacts from emissions of machinery and dust, he says.
Mr Scholey says Ineos said in correspondence:
“no specific consideration is needed to be given to the residents of Berge Square over and over people living elsewhere”
The impacts would not be so significant if the track and access were not so close to Berne Square.
Residents would experience lighting and vibration. The Berne Square bungalows are described as sheltered housing. How much shelter will they get, Mr Scholey asks.
Why has Ineos offered no mitigation or concessions to residents in Berne Square. The company is not prepared to offer mitigation. It is up to councillors.
The application does not minimise noise or air pollution and should be refused, Mr Scholey says.
9.44am Woodsetts Against Fracking objection
The group says this is the second time members have been arguing against the application, which is the same as the one refused unanimously previously.
They are that Ineos has claimed, incorrectly, that the Woodsetts application is not similar to the company’s Marsh Lane or Harthill scheme. The difference are:
- Proximity to housing
- Safe suitable access
- Proximity to ancient woodland
- Highways safety
- Loss of visual amenity
- Loss of amenity through intimidation on public right of way
- 9.29am Gerald Kells, traffic consultant for Woodsetts Against Fracking
Mr Kells says he has been a traffic consultant for 25 years and was the Roseacre Action Group at the Cuadrilla appeal in Lancashire.
Mr Kells says the revised National Planning Policy Framework. Paragraph 109 of the new NPPF has two separate tests. The planning officer’s report refers to the old test, he says. The new tests cover the cumulative effect on the road network and on high safety.
He says the new tests may affect the application at one example location. This concerns a cycle way, where there was an accident involving a cyclists. He shows a Ineos swept path analysis which indicates that lorries sweep out into Woodsetts Lane. The councillors now have to consider whether that is an unacceptable risk to cyclists or an unacceptable deterrence to people using that lane.
Mr Kells says he has carried out a report for Woodsetts Against Fracking. This included issues on the A57 where he said there had been accidents at junctions, no pavements in places and increased pressure on the junctions.
There is a very significant increase in large articulated heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) – up to 60 a day. The Roseacre Wood inquiry established that decision-makers should look at the peak numbers of large HGVs. There are currently only a few a day.
Mr Kells says there is no guarantee that the Ineos peak will be met if other circumstances arise. There is no guarantee that it will be spread across the day or that they will be convoyed, he adds.
On highway safety, Mr Kells the accident record is reasonable. The Roseacre Wood inspector concluded there were inherent deficiencies in the road network and that with the new development in place there would be risks. Mr Kells says the Woodsetts roads were less than 6m in places. Ineos has not demonstrated that HGVs can pass a service vehicle. There are a lot of shallow bends with poor visibility. There are high levels of speeding on Woodsetts Road. There is also an interaction with vulnerable users and voluntary parking on the traffic routes.
The revised NPPH paragraph 110 requires applications to give priority to cyclists and pedestrians. There is a cycle route on the lorry route, he says. There are nine horse riding stables. Public rights of way cross the lorry route, one of which has a dangerous crossing. Pedestrians, including children, cross the road in Woodsetts village. Ineos has not provided a pedestrian count. Councillors need to consider these issues until they conclude that there is not an unacceptable impact on highway safety.
Mr Kells says passing places take away safe places where vulnerable users will be.
He asks councillors to consider whether the lorry route should be used after dark and what would happen if the route was closed.
9.26am Matthew Sheppard, Ineos planning consultant
Mr Sheppard invites the council to approve the application. He says the council has considered the implications of the Harthill appeal which members had refused on identical reasons as the previous Woodsetts application.
There are no objections from any technical consultees, he says. There is no technical basis to uphold objections from residents.
This is a temporary development, he says. It will be visible and will add to vehicles on the road. There will be some disturbance. But he says similar cases have been won at appeal. This is an opportunity to avoid going through appeal again. He recommends councillors approve the application.
9.20am Tom Pickering, operations for Ineos Shale
Mr Pickering tells the plannning board he has extensive experience of drilling wells like the Woodsetts one across the UK. He says the East Midlands has been identified as a source of shale gas but this can be known only if the area is drilled to collect data and the resource better understood.
He says the information found by Ineos will be passed to the British Geological Survey. The system has worked well previously. The application is technically no different to wells drilled previously for oil, gas or shale exploration.
These wells have been drilled 100s of times over the decades, he says.
He thanks officers for the decision and the “timely manner” in which the application has been handled.
Mr Pickering says residents remain opposed. Once people can see for themselves Ineos will begin to build trust when online information is shown to be untrue. He invites the community to form a group to discuss matters in a professional manner.
He says councillors will want to avoid another costly appeal.
The UK’s domestic energy supply is underpinned by the supply of natural gas and will continue to be so for some time, he says. Shale gas extraction can be carried out safely and without undue impact on the environment.
The application is not for extraction, he says. But the data from the well will help to decide where best to extract shale gas. This would need a separate application.
Safety is my highest priority and for those who work in my team, he says.
The sites will have as low an impact as possible, he adds.
9.05am Presentation by planning officer
The Rotherham Council planning officer, says the application is not for fracking. Ineos seeks permission to drill a vertical coring well at the site off Dinnington Road. If the well is successful, the company will need to seek another application to frack, he says.
He says the site is alongside ancient woodland at Dewdales Wood. A new access road would run alongside an existing bridleway.
The planning officer says there would be five stages: site development (three months); drilling, coring, testing (five months); maintenance of the well site; listening operations if another well is hydraulically fractured; decommissioning. The total application is for five years.
There were 600 objections submitted until last week plus another 400 received earlier this week. Most were from the local area, the planning officer said.
A near identical application was refused on ecology and highway grounds. Since then, more ecological survey information had been submitted. The government had also restated the national importance of shale gas. An appeal by Ineos for a similar site in Rotherham at Harthill was allowed.
The new National Planning Policy Framework was published in July and is more favourable to shale gas than the previous version, the planning officer said. This required required councils to give great weight to the importance of onshore oil and gas and make this a primary consideration.
A public inquiry on the Ineos Marsh Lane site allowed Ineos’s appeal against refusal, the officer added.
The planning officer said the last meeting decided the scheme was not inappropriate development in the green belt.
He said Ineos had produced additional ecological data, including breeding bird survey and an updated habitat survey. Natural England has recommended a minimum 15m buffer from ancient woodland. That is exceeded by the site, the officer said.
On highway safety, officers did not have concerns about this issue when the previous application was considered, though councillors did. The officer said the access at Harthill was worse than Woodsetts. But the inspector at that appeal felt issues could be overcome.
In summary, he says the application should be allowed because the government policy has strengthened the support for shale gas andextra ecological information had been provided; the appeals had been allowed
9am Meeting begins
Planning board chairman, David Sheppard, opens the meeting.
8.50am Speakers and councillors take their seats
8.40am Woodsetts Against Fracking representatives arrive
8.30am Ineos representatives arrive
Reporting on this meeting has been made possible by individual donations to DrillOrDrop