A legal challenge to the decision to allow shale gas exploration in the south Yorkshire village of Harthill will be heard at the High Court in this morning.
The community group, Harthill Against Fracking, have brought a case against the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The challenge focusses on the decision by the Planning Inspectorate in June 2018 to approve permission for Ineos to drill at the site in Common Road. This follows a public inquiry in Rotherham earlier in the year.
Harthill resident, Les Barlow, who lives 700m from the proposed site, is fronting the legal action on behalf of the group.
DrillOrDrop reported from the inquiry that Harthill Against Fracking asked the planning inspector for an adjournment. Members said they needed more time to consider new material from Ineos on traffic management and highways issues. They had found out about the material just before the inquiry opened.
But the inspector refused the group’s request and Mr Barlow will argue today that the inspector acted in breach of the rules of natural justice.
Mr Barlow’s case is that because the issue was not settled until the first day of the hearing the group did not know the full case it had to meet until the inquiry began. This meant that it could not make submissions, informed by an expert, to oppose Ineos’s case.
Mr Barlow, co-chairman of Harthill Against Fracking, said this morning:
“We look forward to having an opportunity at the hearing to put forward arguments as to why we believe the decision was unlawful.
“Fracking is a divisive issue across the country and it is crucial that local communities are properly involved in decisions relating to fracking which could affect their natural surroundings.
“We believe that our voice was diminished in this process due to the inspector’s refusal to adjourn the inquiry so that we could properly consider the late evidence which was submitted by INEOS.”
The case, known as a statutory review, is brought under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Mr Barlow is represented by law firm, Leigh Day. Solicitor from the firm, Anna Dews, said:
“Our client believes the Planning Inspector’s decision was wrong in law because, by allowing INEOS to adduce late evidence and refuse our client’s subsequent application for an adjournment, the inspector acted in breach of the rules of natural justice.
“We hope that the High Court will agree with our client’s arguments and quash the decision, allowing for a fresh inquiry in which all parties can properly consider all the information available and fully participate.”
DrillOrDrop will be reporting from the hearing at Leeds Combined Court at 10.30am.