New proposals by Ineos have emerged for a 3m high noise barrier running for more than 100m alongside its site earmarked for shale gas exploration in the south Yorkshire green belt.
Residents in the village of Woodsetts have described the barrier as the “Great Wall of Ineos” and complained that it would “fence them in”.
But it appeared in Ineos documents, published earlier this month, which are part of the company’s appeal case to a public inquiry starting on 11 June 2019.
Rotherham Council, which is defending its planning refusal at the inquiry, said the barrier would need its own planning application and would breach green belt and local planning policy.
The campaign group, Woodsetts Against Fracking, which is also represented at the inquiry, said people would feel imprisoned by the barrier.
This is the second time that Ineos has made changes to shale gas proposals between the refusal of planning permission and the start of a public inquiry. Last year, four weeks before the hearing on its Harthill scheme, the company introduced 17 additional passing places and dropped a one-way system as part of its traffic management plan.
“3m noise barrier will reduce views”
In his submission to the Woodsetts inquiry, Ineos’s planning consultant, Matthew Sheppard, described the barrier as “additional noise mitigation” which had resulted from the “ongoing discussions about potential noise impacts during construction”.
“The now proposed 3m noise barrier will assist with reducing views, particularly from ground floor rooms. It is likely that the drill rig and mast will be seen at night from those properties with reduced hedges and upper storeys.”
But Rotherham Council’s planning officer, Anthony Lowe, complained there had been no details of an acoustic barrier in the original application and nothing was shown on the submitted plans.
“a 3m high noise barrier would need planning permission in its own right and should be considered during determination of the planning application, rather than being imposed as a future condition.
“the Council has not received any formal notification of this proposed mitigation during the determination of the planning application, during the post determination period until the submission of the appeal, or in the earlier part of this appeal phase.”
Mr Lowe said the company had not given any specifications, detailed site plans, elevations or photo montages to show the exact location and design of the proposed barrier. There was also no indication, he said, of how long the barrier would be in place.
“It is not clear whether this would just be during for the setting up of the site, up to 5 days [evidence from the company’s noise consultant] or for a longer period during the construction and drilling phase, potentially 8 months.”
The barrier is shown on an Ineos plan (see above) alongside a field track and then a bridleway, which runs from Dinnington Road towards a local landmark of a holly bush and memorial bench. The plan says “noise fence to extend min 100m past the existing buildings”, thought to refer to nearby sheltered bungalows for elderly and vulnerable people.
Currently, the bridleway and the bungalows look out over open fields.
Mr Lowe added:
“the Council has not had the opportunity to consult on this aspect either with the local community or with its Landscape and Rights of Way Officers.”
He said a barrier above 2m high in the green belt would not comply with local or national planning policy:
“I note that an application has recently been refused in May 2019 on an unrelated site for a 2.4m high fence due to the adverse visual impact on the openness of the Green Belt.”
The council’s noise consultant, Andrew Lockwood, said even with the barrier in place, the predicted daytime noise levels from the site were likely to be up to 3-4 decibels higher than the British Standard limit for construction.
“Ineos has created another problem”
Richard Scholey, of Woodsetts Against Fracking, said:
“This barrier is an indication that Ineos cannot achieve suitable noise levels and prevent an unacceptable impact on vulnerable residents. If the company could do this, why would it introduce a noise barrier at this stage?
“It will be a 3m solid fence. People in the sheltered housing will lose most of their view. They will just be able to make out the tops of trees.
“In trying to solve one problem, Ineos has managed to create another with the landscape and visual amenity.
Mr Scholey said the documents first appeared in Ineos proofs of evidence to the inquiry:
“The noise barrier never appeared on any application plan. It turned up without any discussion. We had no time to consider it properly. This gives a lie to the idea that Ineos wants to be good neighbours.
“They are fencing us in. it will be like a prison to the rest of the village.”
The Ineos appeal documents also show changes to the design of the proposed entrance. Security gates are now drawn further along the access track.
DrillOrDrop invited Ineos to comment on the issues raised by Rotherham Council and Woodsetts Against Fracking. This article will be updated with any response from the company.
- The inquiry opens at 10am on Tuesday 11 June at Riverside House, Main Street, Rotherham S60 1AE. A protest is expected outside the inquiry from about 9am. DrillOrDrop will be reporting live updates from the hearings, which are expected to last for eight days.