Two years ago today, Ineos Upstream, the UK’s biggest shale gas licence-holder, submitted its first formal plans for an exploration site.
It applied for permission to drill a vertical exploration well at a site at Bramleymoor Lane, in the north east Derbyshire village of Marsh Lane.
Three weeks later, the company submitted similar proposals for a site at Common Road, in Harthill, in Rotherham borough.
Later that year, on 25 October 2017, Ineos made a third similar application for a site off Dinnington Road, Woodsetts, also in Rotherham borough.
The three applications were the first of what were expected to be multiple schemes to fulfil Ineos’s work commitment under 21 licences awarded during the 14th round in 2016. The company had agreed to drill 28 vertical wells and frack another 11 horizontal wells.
Since the three schemes were submitted, Ineos has made no more applications and has not started work on any of the sites for which permission was granted.
In this update, DrillOrDrop reviews the progress and the latest state of play.
Marsh Lane and Harthill
The Marsh Lane and the Harthill applications were unusually not decided at formal planning committee meetings.
On 24 November 2017, before a decision could be made, Ineos asked the Planning Inspectorate to intervene.
The company appealed against non-determination, saying in a statement:
“INEOS felt that decisions would not be forthcoming despite granting a number of time extensions.”
Derbyshire County and Rotherham Borough councils both decided to oppose the applications at planning inquiries. In both cases, the councils’ opposition was overruled. The Marsh Lane application was approved in August 2018 and Harthill in June 2018.
Both permissions were subject to conditions, some of which had to be complied with before work could start.
More than 10 months after the Harthill decision, less than half these conditions have been sent to Rotherham Borough Council for approval. A spokesperson for the council told DrillOrDrop:
“The planning permission was subject to 30 conditions, of which 11 must be met before construction on the site begins. The subject of the conditions range from traffic management to the impact on the local environment and residents.
“Evidence for four of the conditions has been submitted and the discharge of these conditions will be considered in early May. These conditions are:
- Condition 09 – mud on road
- Condition 12 – dust management plan
- Condition 14 – archaeological investigation
- Condition 15 – community liaison group
“Information relating to the additional conditions has not yet been submitted by INEOS.”
The spokesperson added:
“Details of when construction is likely to start has not been provided by the operator to date.”
At Marsh Lane, eight months after approval, Ineos has not submitted any conditions to Derbyshire County Council.
A council spokesperson said:
“We are still waiting for Ineos to submit the scheme so we can discharge the conditions.”
The Woodsetts application, unlike the first two schemes, was decided by councillors at a formal planning committee meeting.
Ineos made two almost identical applications for the site and both were refused. The first was rejected unanimously on 8 March 2018. The second, which had some minor changes, was rejected by seven votes to five on 7 September 2018.
In January 2019, the company appealed against the second refusal.
A public inquiry is due to begin in Rotherham on Tuesday 11 June 2019, chaired by planning inspector, Katie Peerless.
The hearing, which is expected to sit on eight days, will consider evidence from Ineos, Rotherham Borough Council and the local campaign group, Woodsetts Against Fracking (more details). All have the right to call and cross-examine witnesses.
The council is due to oppose the scheme on its likely impacts on local amenity and noise. It dropped its objection on highway safety grounds. Woodsetts Against Fracking is opposing the scheme on a range of grounds, including noise, local impact and highway safety.