Villager brings legal challenge against go-ahead for Ineos shale gas drilling at Harthill

180125 Harthill site visit Paul Rowland 2

Site visit to Harthill, 25 January 2018. Photo: Paul Rowland

A resident from Harthill in South Yorkshire is bringing a legal challenge over the decision to approve exploratory drilling by Ineos in the village.

Les Barlow, who lives 700m from the proposed shale gas site, is bringing the action on behalf of Harthill Against Fracking (HAF). This is a group of about 100 residents, formed in January 2017 to oppose Ineos plans to explore and frack for shale gas.

Harthill Against FrackingMr Barlow, for HAF, has received permission for a statutory review of the decision, granted by an inspector on 6 June 2018, after a public inquiry. Any costs against him have been limited.

The group is seeking to quash the inspector’s decision and order a new inquiry.

The case will be brought against the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Mr Barlow, for HAF, will ask the court to consider whether the inspector acted in breach of the rules of natural justice. The inspector refused HAF’s request to adjourn the public inquiry in Rotherham in April so that the group could consider new highways material from Ineos.

180424 Harthill Ineos Team DOD

Ineos team at the Harthill public inquiry. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Shortly before the inquiry was due to start, Ineos disclosed a 140-page enhanced traffic management Plan. This was given to the council on 23 March 2018 but sent to interested parties, including HAF, by council planners, only on 10 April 2018, two weeks before the inquiry was due to start.

HAF argued that because of the late evidence and the outstanding request for an adjournment, which was not decided upon until the first day of the hearing, it did not know the full case it had to meet until the inquiry had started.

The group said that given the volume and complexity of the material in the new management plan, it needed more time to consider.

The refusal of an adjournment meant, the group said, that it had been unable to offer evidence or make submissions, informed by an expert, on the opposing the case made by Ineos.

The legal challenge will be at the High Court in London on 13 November. HAF is represented by the law firm, Leigh Day. Mr Barlow will be represented by the planning barrister, Dr Ashley Bowes, of Cornerstone.

Mr Barlow said:

“Our group of local residents is very concerned about the impact of fracking on our local community and environment and we were keen to be part of the planning process to voice our concerns.

“We hope that the court will acknowledge that, as a result of the Planning Inspector’s decision to admit the late evidence and refuse an adjournment, the original planning inquiry was unfair and we hope that the court will order a fresh inquiry so that we can properly argue our case.”

Anna Dews, at Leigh Day, added:

“Our client believes the planning Inspector’s decision was wrong in law because the Inspector acted in breach of the rules of natural justice.

“By admitting key evidence, served on our client by Ineos only ten days before the inquiry started, and about which our client was unable to respond properly, we believe the inspector breached the common law.

“The judge who granted permission, also provided our client with an Aarhus environmental costs cap. This is an important step forward not only for our client but also other groups campaigning to protect the environment.”

13 replies »

  1. Delivering changes in documents and proposed conditions just before an enquiry is a typical cynical industry tactic. Ineos have teams of well-paid lawyers and consultants who can produce these documents quickly, while HAF – and all anti-fracking community groups – are unpaid volunteers with other jobs. The decision not to adjourn the hearing to allow respondents time to consider 140 pages of new traffic proposals appears to be a bad decision by the council, particularly as they sat on it for two weeks before sharing it with groups like HAF. It would seem that this legal challenge should have a good chance of success.

  2. INEOS will have plenty of opportunity to reclaim costs, not only here but elsewhere.

    Two weeks to read 140 pages! Not that big an issue. Not exactly War and Peace, was it!

  3. Whether 10 days to read 140 pages is or isn’t reasonable, it’s approx 50% less time than the (professional) planners were given to read, review, assess and formulate approaches, recommendations etc, which seems inequitable.

    Whether it was c*ck up or conspiracy depends upon how cynical you are, but good luck to Mr Barlow.

  4. The professional planners would have had MANY other matters to be looking at during those two weeks Gledders. Sorry, but creating a fictional platform to support your argument is obvious to all. I think it will be obvious to the High Court as well.

    • You seem to be implying that the non planning profession members of HAF also don’t have “MANY other matters” to be dealing with during the two weeks Martin.

      Whilst you clearly have far too much time on your hands given your posting record on DoD Martin, the MAJORITY of the population have real lives to be dealing with and that’s before having to decipher planning documents written in technicalese by professional consultants.

  5. If they are not up to it, then perhaps they will explain that to the High Court? Might not get them very far.

    They seem to have managed to employ an “expert” now. I didn’t know there were times of the year when such were in season or out of season. Is that “expert” not going to present their case? Not very convincing.

    If you wish to post more crembrule it is quite simple. First, do some research, and then you will have loads of stuff to contribute.

  6. This article states that INEOS submitted their information on the 23rd of March but that the Council did not send it to ‘interested parties’ until the 10th of April, two weeks before the start of the inquiry… INEOs actually sent the required information more than a month before the start of the inquiry……or am I reading this wrong?

    • That was how I read it. Doesn’t change the fact that HAF only had half the review time that was available to the planners.

  7. Frack Free South Yorkshire welcomes the news that Harthill has been allowed a judicial review to examine deep concerns that the decision-making process by the Planning Inspectorate disadvantaged this South Yorkshire community.
    Government continues to insist that local people can have their say, but it seems local people are not always given adequate time to prepare what they have to say. Localism and fairness are, once again, under threat.
    This is a major challenge to the Secretary of State and the process of Public Inquiries.

  8. Good to see a little light relief, Gledders.

    But, seriously, there is an issue here that will get a solution. These sites are to enable (potentially) the production of gas and oil for national use. It is only logical that if local organisations can not deal efficiently with such matters within a given time frame then other alternatives will be utilised. This is not the same consideration as a local housing estate, or shopping center.

    I understand the value of pretending it is, but it will become clear it is not, even to local MPs. A problem that should have been foreseen when certain powers were devolved, and will now be adjusted. Always been that tension between local decisions, MPs and Ministers.

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