Regulation

Council drops highways objection to Ineos shale gas drilling at Woodsetts

171025 Woodsetts

Proposed Ineos shale gas site at Woodsetts. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Rotherham council will not fight Ineos shale gas plans at Woodsetts on highway safety.

The planning board voted this morning to abandon the traffic reason for refusal when the scheme goes before a public inquiry in June. This was despite a local petition which collected 676 signatures in 60 hours.

Councillors will continue to oppose the Ineos plans at the inquiry on the grounds of disturbance and noise.

The campaign group, Woodsetts Against Fracking, said dropping the traffic objection would be “a betrayal of the community” and “an affront to democracy”.

It said nothing had changed since councillors voted against the plans in September 2018. The group’s own consultant said access to the Ineos site was not safe or suitable.

190314 RNBC Nigel Hancock

Nigel Hancock, Planning Officer Photo: Council webcast

But council planning officer, Nigel Hancock, told the meeting there were significant difficulties in defending the appeal on highway safety grounds. Only one of five consultants approached to review the highways case was willing to take on the work, he said. Defending the decision would come “at a significant cost” to the council.

Mr Hancock described dropping the highways objection as “both pragmatic and appropriate” and said it had been backed by the barrister who was due to represent the council at the inquiry.

190314 RNBC Richard Scholey

Richard Scholey, Woodsetts Against Fracking Photo: Council webcast

“Residents put hard-earned cash where your mouths were”

Richard Scholey, of Woodsetts Against Fracking (WAF) said the September 2018 decision to refuse planning permission, against the advice of planning officers, was “a fine example of the planning system working as it was intended”. He said:

“Planning officers should not have the final say on planning decisions.”

He said that meeting had decided that the Woodsetts drilling site represented “an unacceptable risk to vulnerable road users”.

“Since that date, nothing has materially changed to allow you to reverse that decision today.

“Woodsetts Against Fracking has worked tirelessly to raise money to pay a transport consultant. We were given the confidence to do so by the decision you made here in September.

“Residents have put their hard-earned cash where your mouths were. To remove your support now will be a huge betrayal of the community you serve. More than that, it will be an affront to democracy.”

Mr Scholey said there had been four road accidents in the past two weeks on the route the Ineos lorries would take to Woodsetts. One of the accidents involved a pedestrian who had to be airlifted to hospital.

WAF’s planning consultant, Gerald Kells, had argued successfully at a public inquiry against Cuadrilla’s traffic plans for the Roseacre Wood fracking site. Mr Kells had concluded that many of the same dangers and problems apply at Woodsetts as at Roseacre Wood, Mr Scholey said.

He said WAF had asked for the comments by the consultants contacted by the council in time for the meeting but they had not been provided.

 “One could be forgiven for thinking that there is a certain degree of self-protection here on behalf of planning officers. There is certainly a lack of transparency.”

Mr Scholely said the cost of engaging an external consultant was not a good enough reason to drop the highways objection:

“Those few thousand pounds will be nothing to the costs this local authority will incur if fracking is allowed to get a foothold in the borough. The resultant and long-term health costs, costs of repairing road networks and policing costs, to name but a few, will be huge in comparison.”

He said the argument that Ineos would seek costs for unreasonableness was a “red herring”. There are very reasonable arguments to be made against this development on transport grounds, he said.

Highway officer, Ian Fergusson, told the meeting that the release of the consultants’ comments was being handled by the council’s access to information section. He said:

“We have been open and honest on everything we know.”

Planning board member Cllr Stuart Sansome told the meeting:

“When people give you advice it does make common sense to look at it, to study it and then to make a decision.”

But Cllr Jennifer Whysall said planning board members had a moral obligation to maintain their reason for objecting.

 “It seems to suggest to me that we are superfluous if we accept that officers are always right.

“We have every right to disagree.

“We are not professional planners but we do know the places that we represent and that has to have validity.”

Cllr John Williams said it would be irresponsible to go into the inquiry without the confidence that the council had a good chance to winning the appeal.

Cllr Alan Atkin, who voted in September to approve the Ineos scheme, said the planning board also “had a moral duty to the public purse”.

“If we think we would be throwing good money after bad we would be failing in our duty.”

Ineos response

In a statement, Ineos operations director, Tom Pickering, said:

“This has been a waste of time and money for everyone involved and we are disappointed that this objection was mounted in the first place. The Council has now acknowledged that defending a Planning Enquiry on the grounds it presented was a futile exercise that would incur significant cost and that dropping it was pragmatic and appropriate. We regret that this outbreak of common sense didn’t occur earlier and that the Council’s frivolous attitude to public money still continues in the form of their other objections to the scheme.

“Our plans are for the drilling of a single vertical core well to gain scientific knowledge of what is below the surface – as has been agreed by many councils many times in the past to support the coal industry in the region. This may or may not lead to a thriving shale industry; what is certain is that it will help to inform us all based on science, whether or not the geological characteristics necessary to underpin such an industry exist. If gas is present and can be safely extracted and flowed at commercial rates we know that this won’t add costs to councils but rather provide jobs, investment and secure energy across, in parts of Britain that need it most.”

 

15 replies »

  1. Mr Atkin lives in wath and has absolutely no idea what it’s like for traffic in Woodsetts. Our kids run a gauntlet trying to get to school every day. [Edited by moderator]

  2. Highway issues were the end of Cuadrilla at Roseacre in Lancashire. Lots of hard work and expense required though.
    After the recent Judicial Statement that inflicting fracking by SIR was UNLAWFUL due to lack of consideration of World Climate Destruction by fossil fuel extraction and combustion, I would hope that alone should do the job nowadays anyway.

  3. Just shows up the problems within the planning process when a few individuals think their opinions should be supported by tax payers money-many with different views to theirs- even after professional advice has indicated there is no justification that would hold water, within the planning system, for those opinions.

    Perhaps they are happy for libraries to be closing, homelessness to still be an issue, food banks increasing and fuel poverty killing thousands, whilst their opinions are wasting money?

    Multiply this across the country and it is horrific. There is no such thing as UDI with regard to planning. Those who think there is are simply willing to waste other peoples money. Shame is that they get away with it as they are usually elected by a very small vote, which represents a clique of buddies, and at the next election the blame for cost cutting is placed elsewhere.

  4. Did anyone expect a council such as Rotherham not known for having a back bone, but is known for blubbering when ever asked to fight or campaign for resources fit for purpose, or indeed saving our planet for future generations to live and enjoy. Fracking is not known for envioromentally looking after the areas they drill across the world, what’s going to be different here “Nothing” and yet cometh the hour, cometh the coward, well done Rotherham council following your choice to help poison our planet rather than protect it.

  5. Well, Jennifer, as they are being encouraged to be on strike most of the time by other antis, that issue seems to be controlled already.

    More seriously, there are plenty of development projects along school routes that increase traffic considerably. The question with regard to planning is whether that can be mitigated within reason. That takes expert assessment, because without, the
    costs will be paid out and the schools will find they are short of facilities-even including traffic controllers.

    Insulting those with that responsibility (not you) seems to miss the reality and just focuses upon the emotion. Such could be very expensive.

  6. Martin, not for the first time recently you have made a statement such as “Perhaps they are happy for libraries to be closing, homelessness to still be an issue, food banks increasing and fuel poverty killing thousands, whilst their opinions are wasting money?”

    Being an intelligent chap, you will know full well that the budgets for planning and appeals do not come from the budgets that affect the aforementioned. You are fully aware that the ‘potential saving’ by made by The Council will not be used to keep libraries open.

    Also, you must be aware that food-banks are run by charities and not the Council.

    Probably much better if you just kept to the topic in question. 🙂

  7. Waffle-perhaps you should stick to what you can explain, rather than what you wish.

    The economics are quite straight forward. Expenditure comes from all different budgets but it is the public who pays for it, apart from what companies like Ineos pay.

    A Council racks up large bills for costs it could avoid areas will be cut. If you do not see that happening in your area, you are either not looking or are very lucky.

    Of course, they can then raise local taxation, which will mean that some will need to decide whether they can still afford to give to charities.

    The magic money trees are the tax payers.

    I have been to Appeals where it is obvious within 10 minutes that the Council will lose and have to pay costs-and they did. If you want to promote that is justifiable for the greater good that is your choice. But, be careful. There will be a claim for extreme costs at one point to stop this continuing. The antis will whinge about democracy and the locals in the area concerned will be the ones impacted. If the planning professionals seek to avoid that, all credit to them.

  8. MARTIN’S LAW……..

    ASBESTOS makes a comeback.

    If we were to accept your argument that Councils should rollover and not fight against toxic industries wanting to pop up in their communities for fear of legal costs, we’d have all sorts of obnoxious activities going on …..

    Also lets not forget ladies and gentlemen , the people who try and thrust these industries in to your area , like MARTIN, DO NOT LIVE in your area , in fact they don’t even live in the North of England .

    When you have Leading Doctors , Scientists and engineers saying that Fracking is dangerous, why should communities accept it ?????

    Do you want me present my evidence ( LINKS ) regarding the dangers MARTIN ????? It may help you understand and we can then both on here, discuss the matter in depth.

  9. [Edited by moderator] I have a brother who has asbestosis, following his service in the Royal Navy. These were the days Jack when UK oil and gas were largely imported and protection of that trade was required.

    [Edited by moderator]

    Looking at the actual point, if a Council is advised there is no chance of success following a certain path, you believe your dogma justifies money to be wasted, simply to keep some excitement going. Looking into todays press regarding Rotherham, there seems to be many areas where resources are needed to be focused, and you want to reduce those resources. Your excitement has consequences.

    But, of course Jack, following your logic, you as a resident in the Rotherham area (LOL) are perfectly happy for YOUR money to be wasted!

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