Plans to extract methane from a disused colliery near Rufford Abbey in Nottinghamshire were approved this lunchtime by two votes.
Seven councillors on the county’s planning committee voted for the scheme but five members abstained.
One of the abstentions was committee vice chairman, Jim Creamer (left).
He said there were no planning reasons to oppose the scheme and he did not object to the technique for extracting the methane.
But he said:
“I do not think it right in this site. I cannot vote for it and I cannot vote against it.”
The committee heard that the Northampton-based company, Infinis, was seeking permission to drill a 390m borehole about 190m from Rufford Abbey, a grade 2 registered park and garden and local wildlife site.
The gas would be used to generate electricity for the grid. If the scheme proved successful, it would be operated remotely for 25 years with no on-site staff, the committee was told.
Council officers had supported the application. Specialists consulted by the council had said the cumulative impact of developments near the Rufford estate was beginning to “erode the character of the area”.
Planning officer, Jonathan Smith, told the committee:
“The impacts are recognised but they are balanced by the benefits of the scheme.”
He said there was “strong policy support” from national government for using mine methane where it could leak into the atmosphere. Where the gas wasn’t leaking, developments were justified by the generation of electricity, he said.
Rufford Parish Council had objected to the proposal on the grounds that the proposed 750m stone access track was unnecessary because there were two existing alternatives. Two members of the public had also opposed the scheme, the committee was told.
Neil Baker, a consultant for Infinis, said the site would generate minimal vehicle movements and any harm to the environment could be mitigated. He said he was proud of the way Infinis and its predecessor company, Alkane Energy, had operated eight other sites in Nottinghamshire.
He said the companies had been looking for a suitable site to access Ollerton colliery since 2014:
“Should planning permission be granted the electricity generated will help secure the future of the company”.
Two sections of hedgerow, which the original application proposed to remove, have been retained in a revision following negotiations between the council and the company.
The planners agreed with Rufford Parish Council that the land should be restored to farmland after 25 years, rather than planted with trees, as proposed by the county council’s ecologist.
Reporting at this planning committee meeting was made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers