Woodsetts residents cheered outside Rotherham Town Hall this lunchtime after the council’s second vote against Ineos shale gas plans for their village.
A meeting of Rotherham planning board refused the application for a vertical coring well by seven votes to five. DrillOrDrop live news updates from the meeting
This was much closer than the previous unanimous refusal in March this year. But it didn’t stop the celebrations.
There were shouts of “Absolutely brilliant”, “Rotherham Council rocks” and “Well done Rotherham”.
Ineos had urged the council to approve the application to avoid the costs of an appeal. The third public inquiry into shale gas plans in the East Midlands now looks likely, following the company’s appeals on sites at Harthill and Marsh Lane.
A spokesperson for the company said:
We are disappointed at the decision by Woodsetts Planning Committee. Our proposal was for a small core well just 10cm wide, hundreds of which have previously been approved and safely drilled. We look forward with interest to reading the committee’s reasons for their decision.
Residents had been cautious about the outcome of today’s meeting after planning officers recommended the application should be approved.
Several members of the planning board supported the officers’ conclusion that there were no planning reasons to refuse the application.
But Woodsetts Against Fracking put forward six grounds and said it had a barrister ready to fight a public inquiry if Ineos appealed. One of the key concerns was the proximity of the site entrance and access track to homes of elderly and vulnerable people. The site bellmouth was described as within “coughing distance” of the sheltered housing.
In a formal statement after the vote, the group said:
“We are elated by today’s decision and grateful to those councillors who were able to identify the genuine planning problems associated with this application.
“Rather than address our concerns and the reasons for refusal of the first application, Ineos chose to use the threat of seeking costs from RMBC [Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council] if they were forced to go to inquiry. Thankfully, a majority of the planning board saw through this attempt at bullying them into approving the application.
“WAF have always maintained that there are material planning differences between this application and the one that was approved at Harthill. In particular the location of the access track so close to sheltered housing and the route to the site are clearly neither safe nor suitable.
“We fully expect Ineos to appeal, but we have demonstrated today that we have cogent and well evidenced arguments and we believe that a planning inspector at public inquiry will support us in this.
“The people of Woodsetts, Rotherham Borough and our neighbouring areas which are also under threat, have shown that fracking operations are not welcome here or anywhere and we will continue to fight until we defeat this repugnant industry once and for all.”
After the meeting, Barry Cartwright, one of several speakers for Woodsetts Against Fracking, said:
“It was a roller coaster.
“I was totally disappointed by some of the comments made by some members of the committee but I felt that the arguments we presented held sway. Local residents’ heart-felt concerns and objections held the day.
“I am very surprised. We were not hopeful given the recommendation of the planning officers for approval.”
Another Woodsetts resident, Matthew Wilkinson, had argued at the meeting that the Ineos scheme was a “child safeguarding issue” because of emissions from the site. After the meeting, he said:
“I am glad the council has listened to the issue of protecting the children.”
A spokesperson for Frack Free South Yorkshire said:
“When is our government and the fossil fuel industry going to understand that exploring and fracking for shale gas is a step too far?
“The fracking industry has no social licence and any attempts by government to rewrite the rules will only make people even more angry.
“We neither need nor want shale gas.
“It is now time for government to change its policy on this controversial fossil fuel and focus instead on sustainable renewable energy jobs for a better, cleaner future.”
Andy Tickle, head of campaigns at Campaign to Protect Rural England South Yorkshire, who spoke against the application, said:
“We are really pleased that Rotherham continued to oppose drilling at Woodsetts but the decision today will be for nothing unless it defends the inquiry properly with independent experts, rather than its own officers.
“The lessons of the previous inquiry for the shale gas application at Harthill has to be learned.”
Simon Bowens, Yorkshire campaigner, Friends of the Earth, said:
“This is great news and demonstrates why well sites such as this should be all subject to scrutiny by planning committees rather than just waved through on permitted development as the government proposes.”
Reporting from this meeting was made possible by the individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers