Legal

Breaking: Judge dismisses legal case by Harthill villagers over Ineos shale gas plans

180125 Harthill site visit Paul Rowland 1

Ineos site at Harthill in south Yorkshire. Photo: Paul Rowland

Residents in the south Yorkshire village of Harthill have failed to overturn planning permission for an Ineos shale gas well near their homes.

They went to the High Court last week to argue that they had been treated unfairly at a public inquiry which decided the permission.

But in a ruling handed down this morning, a High Court judge dismissed their case and refused to quash the planning permission.

18027 Harthill 6 DoD

Inquiry inspector, Stephen Roscoe, at the Harthill inquiry, April 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The consent for shale gas exploration at Harthill had been granted by a government-appointed planning inspector, Stephen Roscoe, in June 2018, following the inquiry two months earlier.

At a court hearing in Leeds last week, Harthill villager, Les Barlow, accused the inspector of breaching natural justice. He said Mr Roscoe had not given the community group, Harthill Against Fracking, an adequate opportunity to contribute to the inquiry.

The case focussed on Harthill Against Fracking’s request, made on the opening day of the inquiry, for an adjournment. Members of the group said they needed more time to consider new material submitted by Ineos on how large delivery lorries would be managed on narrow local roads.

The inspector refused the adjournment request but allocated time for questions on the proposals and allowed Harthill Against Fracking a week before it presented its case.

Mr Barlow, on behalf of Harthill Against Fracking, argued that the refusal to adjourn the inquiry prejudiced the group’s opportunity to challenge Ineos on the traffic plans. He asked the court to quash the approval of planning permission.

Mr Barlow’s barrister, Ashley Bowes, said the new transport material submitted by Ineos was “substantial and significant”. He said the two weeks that had been available to Harthill Against Fracking before the inquiry to consider it was “insufficient”.

“Mr Barlow and the Harthill Against Fracking (HAF) were denied an opportunity to seek expert advice on the new material, adduce further evidence to meet the new material and then test the company’s case, informed by expert opinion.

“That resulted in material prejudice.”

190125harthillagainstfrackdeborahgibson

Harthill Against Fracking members outside the High Court in Leeds for the hearing on 25 January 2019. Photo: Deborah Gibson

But this morning, the judge, Mrs Justice Andrews, said:

“I have concluded that the Inspector’s refusal to adjourn the Inquiry and the reasonable and proportionate measures he adopted instead to cater for the position of interested parties, including the Claimant [Mr Barlow], did not deprive the Claimant of a reasonable opportunity to challenge INEOS’s case and put his and HAF’s opposing case on the appeal.

“There was no procedural unfairness, and there was no material prejudice.

“This statutory challenge must therefore be dismissed.”

The judge said the inspector decided that the new Ineos traffic management scheme did not significantly change the underlying proposals for the shale gas scheme. He also made “a fair evaluation of the nature and extent of the changes”, she said.

She added that Harthill Against Fracking understood Ineos’s proposals

“sufficiently well to be able to articulate a detailed and intelligent response to them in the form of the amended position statement that they handed in on day 1 of the Inquiry.”

That statement was not amended after a site visit and there were no further complaints to the Inspector, she said.

Mrs Justice Andrews said the group had not been deprived of the opportunity to seek expert advice. It chose not to do so because, at the time, it had relied on Rotherham Borough Council to deal with this issue in the inquiry.

During the inquiry, a council expert, Ian Ferguson, dropped his opposition on some of the highway evidence. The judge said HAF’s stance came with a risk that the council might change its position.

“Procedural fairness did not require HAF to be given more time simply because matters took a turn that they did not expect.

“I consider it to be significant that at no stage during the Inquiry did Mr Barlow say to the Inspector that he or his action group wished to have the opportunity to instruct their own traffic expert in the light of Mr Ferguson’s change of position.”

The judge said there was no evidence of what other arguments or materials Ineos’s opponents would have put before the inspector if they had been given more time to consider the traffic plans.

DrillOrDrop report on the court hearing

38 replies »

  1. “There was no procedural unfairness, and there was no material prejudice.”

    “This statutory challenge must therefore be dismissed.”

    Yet another misguided attempt to use the Courts to try and stop a company going about it’s lawful business.

    Still not seen any “wins” for the antis at PIs or in the Courts? There must be at least one??

    We had many successes at PIs and in Court when contesting onshore wind farms in inappropriate locations – including getting a District Council planning approval overturned and then refused by an Inspector due to incompetence of the planning committee councillors.

    Are the oil companies doing a better job with their applications than the wind farm companies used to do? More professional? Same rules apply, same Inspectors, same Courts.

    Or were the Public groups fighting the wind farm companies at JRs and PIs better prepared and making better use of the planning and legal system than the anti oilies?

    One thing for sure, we were not getting any support or advice from EOI or Greenpeas, Greenie groups etc. Perhaps this is the difference?

    • Yeah Paul, lets just cover the land in oil fields, cram them in let’s have one one in your garden. Lets burning more and more fossil fuels. Let’s just keep chucking money into the fossil fuel industry…. after all. “SO LONG AS I’M ALRIGHT JACK”

      Its not about what the law dictates. It’s about responsibility to the planet and future generations. The truth honest truth is, that this is all about keeping a dying industry going and shareholders in money ….obviously the latter isn’t working at the mo. The smart money is in renewables!

    • Paul I think you should consider the changes the government has made to planning policy, guidance and statute in favour of this industry. It is unprecedented. This has made it extremely difficult for fracking development to be refused. It has “interfered” with normal democratic decision making and the local development plans. Many local plans, including mineral and waste plans that were not drafted to deal with an unconventional industry. The same cannot be said for the development of wind farms, indeed the government is hostile towards wind farms. Things have been very heavily weighted in favour of fracking, perhaps some may consider that unfair. Communities can say no to wind farms but not to fracking.

      • No difference KatT. Wind farms were refused at local level by Planning Committees, appealed by developers and PIs and possibly JRs after that. The same. The big difference for onshore wind is that they are not allowed to tender for CFD Contracts so they have no subsidy (before they had 100% plus subsidy via ROCs, electricity was selling at £25/MWhr, ROCs were worth up to £50/MWhr). They can be built but the economics are marginal without the huge bungs they were getting previously. Communities do have some say now but developers are not putting any applications in. It is all about the money…. We keep hearing that the majority want renewables, so why are there no onshore wind applications. You will be pleased to know that extensive lobbying by my group against onshore wind won the day. The LibDems nearly messed it all up but fortunately that was a one off.

        Very few offshore wind farms are turned down. Plently of applications as they can bid for the CFDs. And much better at offshore as the load factors are considerably higher although there are still long periods of no / almost no production.

        What exactly did this Government change re Oil & Gas? Other than the Ministerial letter?

  2. Whilst losing each of these cases the antis, of course, could claim they are victims of a corrupt legal system and claim a grievance against that. But of course, they wouldn’t do this.

    Would they?

    Well, yes they do, but repetition of the same old each time loses impact as the public becomes used to the ref. being blamed for the team having nil points. But, a few die hard supporters are kept excited.

    • ‘Whilst losing each of these cases the antis, of course, could claim they are victims of a corrupt legal system and claim a grievance against that.’ – no Marty, not at all. People are using their right to speak and have a claim heard.

      The law is pretty much black and white, you cannot have a decision made on what is ‘morally’ right and wrong; am sure if there are those who do not agree with the law as it stands will look to methods of changing the law as our society becomes more aware of the inequalities promoted by the changes in legislation by the current governance; one of these might be the scope of the limited company as ‘person’ put in front of real people?

      • Nil points.

        But, glad you still remain excited. Will be the only way some in fuel poverty will be able to keep warm in the UK currently, but I suspect they will be more excited around those wishing to deny them the possibility of the means to subsidise their ability to keep warm, and alive.

        • Martin, Lord John Browne destroyed the myth that fracking would lower gas prices years ago. And this was later upheld by the Advertising Standards Agency when they too, on appeal, had to accept there was no evidence to demonstrate that it would lower gas prices. Yet those that support fracking continue to make the case that this yet unproven industry will somehow alleviate fuel poverty. The fact we have fuel poverty in one of the richest countries in the world in 2019 is a national disgrace. But the idea fracking will solve this is a fallacy.

          https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/29/browne-fracking-not-reduce-uk-gas-prices-shale-energy-bills

          • That is the same link Jack uses constantly KatT!!

            It was speculation at the time, and was consigned to history a short while after when the fracking industry in USA adjusted their technology so that much improved economic production was able to be achieved. That is why OPEC were forced to cut back production to try and raise prices again-somewhat without success. That is also the reason why some major oil and gas companies ignored the fracking potential in USA and are now playing very expensive catch up.

            How much tax could the UK achieve to remove fuel poverty if it stopped giving that tax to Norway, and others, on oil and gas imports? That’s the somehow.

            • I disagree Martin, the U.K. and US are not the same. First of al, the US has considerably more shake, expertise and infrastructure. But this is not just about production costs, you are ignoring the fact that the UK is part of a well connected gas market, the US was originally prohibited from export and then has struggled to lay new pipes to export to Europe and elsewhere. And you are also ignoring the fact that the ASA looked at this again some years later and concluded there was no evidence whatsoever to support the idea fracking would lower U.K. gas prices. So lacking was the evidence the ASA lost the appeal!

            • That wrong MARTIN ,

              There is a BOOM in FRACKING bankruptcies in the USA .

              What Lord Browne said is correct

              Supporting evidence to my above post can be supplied …… Do you want LINKS to directly click on to ?????

            • How much of US oil and gas, Jack, comes from fracking?? Are US self sufficient in gas and oil?? Are US enjoying cheap oil and gas prices??

              Yes, there is a boom in US shale-and with all booms there are some who drop out, others who do very well.

              You cuddle up to your links. Meanwhile in USA they will be comfortable that they can still keep warm thanks to the “evil” of fracking.

              How much electricity produced from a frozen turbine or a solar panel in a blizzard Jack? You can hunt a long time for links around that, but I will save you the bother-ZERO.

              But of course, Arctic Vortex is a thing of the past because climate change “scientists” say so.

              Oops.

            • That one is simple MARTIN ,

              Regarding the USA.

              Instead of poisoning their land , their air and people at an environmental and public cost of BILLIONS

              AND ……

              Instead of propping up the Great American Fracking PONZI to the tune of hundreds of BILLIONS of $ ….. They could use that wasted money to buy in the oil and gas….

            • Ahh Jack! You would rather USA buy in their oil and gas! Careful, your true motivation may be showing. Yes, very nice for some who may get defended because of it, or others who may get leverage because of it. But, if you believe a cartel is a satisfactory supplier into the worlds largest economy, when they have their own supply, you really are in Wonderland.

        • Another lazy lie. There is no evidence fracking will reduce UK fuel bills, as ususual all we have is your assertion that it will.

          • Sorry Dorkinian, it is you who is lazy. I have already explained to KatT within the last 24 hours the strange unknown world (to some) of taxation and utilisation of that for such things as winter fuel payments. Wonder what would be possible if we kept all the tax we give to Norway for imports of gas and oil? (Well, no I do not wonder as the answer is pretty obvious within the use of their Sovereign Wealth Fund.)

            So, not lazy and no lie. It is already a reality and could be a more significant reality-just as it is for those around PNR who have been given a free ride on a month or two of their fuel bills.

            The “evidence” is there. The question awaiting answering is whether it is evidence of something significant. I would like to find that out, you do not want that to happen.

            You keep on with the closed questions, where you only want one answer to be manufactured. I will stick to the open questions.

      • “am sure if there are those who do not agree with the law as it stands will look to methods of changing the law ”

        Just like the oil firms have with their injunctions. Haven’t seen much success by the antis…

          • That’s okay KatT, but you still ignore what we have discussed several times.

            If one nut is made in a UK company the manufacture of that is subject to UK tax, that goes into the “pot” to be allocated according to need. If that nut is made in another country the tax goes into their “pot” and allocated according to their needs.

            So, if the same applies to gas-or oil-then it is up to those in UK (Government) to allocate towards the priorities of the day. Maybe fuel price caps, winter fuel allowances, maybe other things and that is up to the voters to influence.

            I do find it strange for those in the UK to ignore this small point (irony) when there is the experience of the N.Sea, past and present, to go on. Anyone can argue they might have done more with the tax revenue, but without it, a lot less would have been possible. Norway seems to be making a better fist of it but it is easier for them as they were not the Sick Man of Europe before they gained such income, the UK were, (a Norwegian discussed that point with me) so the money has been carved up into a lot of pieces that are easy to lose sight of.

            Now, the Norwegians I have met are lovely people, but I would prefer our NHS to benefit from such taxes as they have a much better health service already, and our NHS is having to manage those with pneumonia brought on via fuel poverty. Equally, there are countries I would prefer we keep such taxes away from as their inclination is to spend it on rather unsavoury things. (I live near Salisbury and one of my sons is a driver in the NHS and visiting that hospital is part of his routine.)

            And, last but not least, is taxation applies to business and individuals. The more one pays, the less the other might have to pay-or, that is the theory. I prefer more to come from UK businesses, by having more business, and less from UK individuals. A rather old fashioned theory but one that tends to produce a happy community.

            Referencing a Lib Dem expert, I even would like my selenium enriched shampoo to be made in a UK factory rather than China! After all, we have this huge underground reservoir of selenium, it must be right environmentally and economically. Perhaps we could then swap for lettuces come April 1st?

  3. Great outcome Thankyou all, now we can get on with securing the UK’s energy supply without having to ship it half way around the world.. Ruth do you use gas yo heat your home ? You never respond to my request ??

    • Securing the country’s energy needs? Wake up and smell the coffee stop eating baloney sandwiches!!!

    • A fully established shale gas industry, even if viable, is several years away. Plus experts have stated that at best it could only replace half of U.K. imports. So we will require shipped gas for many years to come and imported gas possibly until we no longer require gas. And of course any shale gas extracted does not belong to the U.K. it belongs to the private companies that extract it. Just look at the North Sea, the companies operating in the North Sea include Chinese and French and North Sea gas is exported to other countries ie it is not sold exclusively to the U.K. A huge amount of unconventional gas mined in Australia is exported and sold to Asia, where the price is high and which some say has contributed to gas shortages and high gas prices in Australia. No doubt any shale gas produced in the U.K. will be sold for the best available price so the idea it will provide us with complete energy security and cheap gas doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    • “Do you use gas?” is the pat remark we hear every time from those in favour of the oil and gas industry. The situation is that most people have to use what is made available to them by those in charge of building standards and energy policies – they have very little choice- and those policies are being skewed unfairly towards the fossil fuel industry. Years of lobbying, party donations and promises of lucrative directorships for MPs have ensured that. This blinkered, irresponsible behaviour is completely ignoring the fact that Nature doesn’t care about lobbying, bribes or whatever. Nature doesn’t care about us. Climate change is happening however much government and the fossil fuel industry lie and tinker with PR hype, planning laws and regulations. Policies and laws are man made and just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.

      • Pauline, you clearly accept that many people use gas – you must also accept that it will be a long process reducing the amount of gas that is used given that gas central heating is still being fitting in houses and people are still buying gas cookers. So the question then becomes a simple one of where we get that gas from. I’d sooner produce our own than import it. The only way to reduce fossil fuel consumption is to change government policy regarding its use. Campaigning to insist that we import gas instead of producing our own doesn’t address the issue

      • Oh dear Pauline!

        It is perfectly possible for individuals to make their own choices. Sherwulfe says he does. The UN says we should-and many do, to an extent.

        You could have funded a wind turbine a few years ago and achieved a guaranteed income of £150k/annum-whether it produced or not! No lobbying for that? What about the lobbying for £1.3 billion for the Swansea Lagoon whilst the characters behind it were saying they wanted to build a bigger one-IF THE SWANSEA ONE WORKED!

        You can invest in an electric vehicle or you can go for the 3 litre diesel BMW because the lobbying towards the electric vehicle is not skewing that unfairly enough.

        Sorry, there are much more practical steps that will make a difference regarding climate change. Why not focus on getting rid of diesel trains and replacing with hydrogen? If that could be achieved, then HGVs would be likely to follow rapidly and maybe cars as well.

        • Well well, good evening ladies and gentlemen, what do we have here? A lot of noise from the anti anti PR hotdeskers because a group of private individuals were refused their assumed legal right of opportunity to prevent their homes and their community being invaded against their will and for which they very rightly stood up and attempted to get the rubber stamp ruling overturned.

          And for that they receive this, by now, well known typical cat calls and triumphalism as if the anti anti PR hotdesker “contributors” themselves actually had anything to do with it?

          Which of course they didnt,

          This was a court case and the decision was simply law talking, but what does it say?

          As you all know very well, law is not justice, it never has been, the modern UK legal system is merely a forum in which protagonists can essentially fight out their case without resorting to violence and personal combat or duel or joust, which was the previous system of dispute between people.

          The more relevant question is, is the law as it stands capable of producing a level playing field on which such cases can be fought and which would achieve a civilised justifiably fair result ?

          And the answer to that is no.

          Why is it no?

          Because austerity from 2012 onwards reduced legal aid funding by roughly £950m annually in real terms, leading to a considerable rise in people who have to represent themselves.

          David Cameron effectively stopped the funding of legal aid to those who could not afford the costs, and that gives free reign to rich operators to run all opposition out of court because they cannot afford to engage equivalent representation and the costs are way out of the ordinary persons, or group of persons financial abilities.

          In other words the crippling of the legal aid system has created a justice ceiling beyond which only rich mob handed operators can sustain, and that alienates and disenfranchises anyone else who wants to see justice upheld in a court of law.

          The then, prime minister’s own brother, Alexander Cameron QC had a case thrown out because the legal representatives refused to show when their costs were reduced to their ability to take on the case against richer opponents.

          That is what we really see here, that is the “real world” of what legal justice has become in UK, and that is not justice or anything approaching it.

          And then, the anti anti PR hotdeskers again show their contempt for anyone who opposes their greed and profit motive by these frankly rabid comments.

          All these people have tried to do is to stand up for themselves and their community against the overwhelming odds of the rich operators. An amazingly brave and optimistic thing to do in this day and age, and they should be thanked and supported for doing so by all here, since they represented us just as much as they represented themselves.

          And these anti anti PR hotdesker……”contributors”…….growl and screech and crow and insult and decry them as if they are criminals.

          once again, ladies and gentlemen, we are forced to the inevitable conclusion that to attempt any sort of legal challenge to the overbearing invaders is no longer an option in this country, since justice will never be served in an elitist money rules legal system.

          And the question then arises, if all avenues of representation and social and legal approach are undermined and overruled, then what is left for us to do when such as these treat the people of this country with such utter contempt?

          Time to end this farce isnt it?

        • No pro frackers yet to explain why these figures that show that UK shale gas extraction is financially viable are incorrect.

          In a 2013 submission to Parliament, Bloomberg said it would cost between 47 and 81 pence per therm to extract shale gas in Europe (using USD-to-GBP conversion rates).

          The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies said in its 2010 report “Can Unconventional Gas be a Game Changer in European Markets” that shale extraction would likely be even more expensive, costing between 49 and 102 pence per therm.

          EY, in its 2013 report “Shale Gas in Europe: Revolution or evolution?”, went further still, saying it would cost between 53 and 79 pence per therm.

          And Centrica, which backs UK fracking firm Cuadrilla, said it would cost at the very least 46 pence per therm to frack, according to stats referenced in this 2012 EU report.

          Gas price trends at a glance

          https://www.statista.com/statistics/374970/united-kingdom-uk-gas-price-forecast/

          Gas prices in United Kingdom (UK) 2016-2023 | Statistic
          http://www.statista.com
          This statistic shows the forecasted price of gas in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2016/17 to 2022/23. From the initial price of 34.6 pence per therm, the price of gas is expected to increase to 47 …

          By 2022/23 47.5 pence per therm

          The average of the above figures comes to 62.87 pence per therm

          So in 2023 UK shale would be operating at

          MINUS 15.3 pence per therm

          Then of course there is the additional cost of ‘gold standard’ , green completion , propane addition for calorific value correction , road damage , environmental damage , and the effects of house price devaluation etc etc

          Gas prices will always fluctuate but because the UK has such a diverse range of suppliers we will always be able secure good prices way below the high costs of UK shale.

          No pro frackers managed to say why this shale guy expert doesn’t know what he is talking about,

          Another witness to the committee, Tor Martin Anfinnsen, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Trading, Statoil, said his company had interests in shale but only in the US. He explained why:

          “We had a look at the UK sometime back as part of a global survey with Chesapeake, of the US, but we decided against going into the UK.

          “We believed we were operating in a more prolific basin in US than what the UK could offer. But I think it was primarily it was what we call the above ground risk, not so much government policy but it’s a fairly densely populated country this and there have been obstacles, if you will, to our activities in the Marcellus field in the US as well and we thought they may be even tougher to overcome here.”

          • JohnP – i know a lot of industry experts on shale gas and the general view is that you need to drill at least 10 wells to decide whether it’s worth pursuing a shale gas play. After 50 wells you have some idea of the economics of the play. The fact that we haven’t done this in the UK means that no one knows what production we are likely to achieve.

            It’s also not great to assume that because large companies can’t make things pay that smaller ones can’t. Shell for example sold a lot of their assets after they realised that they were just not trim enough to make them pay – other companies bought those assets and made them work.

            Overall, I’m not really sure why you’re so interested in how much money the companies make. If they’re not worried about their investments I’m not sure why you believe you know better.

            • I’m not so sure you have looked at the max timeline of AJ Lucas

              https://www.google.com/search?q=ajlucas+share+price&oq=ajlucas&aqs=chrome.2.69i57j0j69i59j0l3.4296j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

              I’m not sure you have looked at the max time line of Igas shares

              https://www.google.com/search?q=igas+shares&oq=igas+shares&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3j69i59j0.7223j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

              2 companies who are supposed to be leading the way with chronic share price losses.

              I doubt you can see the connection in the following, but most can.

            • JohnP – i’m not sure what you don’t understand about asset management and hedging ones bets. We all know that there is only around one in six wells that succeed in traditional exploration. But the one that does succeed makes up for the rest by a big margin. It’s exactly the same with investing in small companies exploring for oil and gas. A phrase that is often used in our great industry is “failure is part of our strategy”. In other words we know that many wells will fail to find economically viable reserves but that is built into our calculations.

            • ‘In other words we know that many wells will fail to find economically viable reserves but that is built into our calculations’

              Something that the large players couldn’t possibly deal with. Only start up companies can do this.

              Still no figures disputing EY, Bloomberg, Centrica, and OIES.

        • I absolutely agree Martin. Quote: What about the lobbying for £1.3 billion for the Swansea Lagoon whilst the characters behind it were saying they wanted to build a bigger one-IF THE SWANSEA ONE WORKED! unquote. What an absolute disgrace. What a joke.
          Oh, hang on a minute, surely you’ve not paraphrased a few thousand pages of business plans, environmental assessments, detailed costings and future aspirations into one little sentence. You have haven’t you? Nearly fooled me there.
          You and several other pro frackers on here knock any form of renewables at every opportunity (even with your own fabricated quotes). You gleefully knock wind and solar when the wind isnt blowing and the sun isn’t shining and conveniently ignore all the other forms of renewables that I and others have pointed out. So do you agree that fracked gas is a bridge to somewhere? To where exactly if renewables aren’t researched, funded, promoted, backed, built, installed, invested in (other than by private money put up by those that realise that fossil fuels have no future, even in the medium term)? Do you realise that every m3 of gas burned is taking ever more stored carbon and turning it into atmospheric carbon? Is that fine with you as long as fossil fuel investors get a return in the short term?

    • Kev you do realise there are gas pipelines for methane? Perhaps you are thinking of the Ineos Dragon ships? They are for making plastic, not energy.

  4. Antis must be really worried! John brought out again to speculate on economics of UK shale gas. Very impatient these antis.

    It was all going so well until you tried to explain that UK shale companies were financial nut cases, and deliberately avoided adding INEOS to your appraisal. Of course, no one noticed that and the reason for it?

    Oh yes they did.

    Oops.

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