The third day of the inquiry into Ineos drilling plans is due to hear from company executive, Tom Pickering, and its health witness, Andrew Buroni.
The hearing in Rotherham is examining Ineos Upstream’s proposals to explore for shale gas in the South Yorkshire village of Woodsetts. The proposal was refused twice by Rotherham Borough Council and opposed by the residents’ group, Woodsetts Against Fracking
The inquiry, chaired by inspector Katie Peeerless, is expected to last eight days until Friday June 21.
Reporting at this inquiry has been made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers
Key points from today’s session
We’ll update this section throughout the day with headlines from the hearing.
- Ineos witness says there are nothing in the Woodsetts project that would cause health impacts.
- Inquiry told that the Ineos scheme would not discriminate against protected groups and a project-level equality assessment was not necessary
- Ineos traffic witness questioned about how residents who would share the site access track would get to and from their homes.
- Residents complain that the proposed noise barrier would block visibility of other vehicles on the access track
- Tom Pickering, Ineos executive, says the proposed noise barrier would cost about £100,000.
- Rig hire would cost £18,000-20,000 per day, inquiry told
- Drilling the Woodsetts well could cost £8-£10m
- Inquiry told the first Woodsetts heard about proposed drilling in the village were injunction notices around the site – Ineos executive apologises
- Ineos says a condition specifying a particular rig would be wholly unreasonable
- Residents and ward councillor complain they have not been contacted by Ineos about the Woodsetts plans
- More complaints about the late submission of a proposed noise barrier
2pm Inquiry adjourns
The inquiry hearings resume at 9.30am on Tuesday. The inspector will have an accompanied site visit tomorrow (Friday).
1.39pm Inquiry planning
The inspector asks whether other WAF witnesses could be called this afternoon, with the proviso of recalling them when the noise issue was settled.
Jack Parker, barrister for Woodsetts Against Fracking, says this is unacceptable. It is unfair for the inspector to take witnesses out of turn without knowing how the noise issue had been resolved.
Ineos has submitted evidence on the night before the inquiry began. It would be unfair and prejudice our case, Mr Parker says.
Mr Darby, for Rotherham Council, suggests an initial conditions session.
1.31pm Questions to Ineos health witness
Woodsetts parish councillor, Monica Carroll, asks whether well being is an aspect of health. Yes, Dr Buroni says.
Deborah Gibson, of Harthill, asks whether policies are sufficient to protect vulnerable people. Can you really say there is no risk to the people are on Berne Square? I have followed the inquiry, Dr Buroni says. Yes, I have given every consideration to the consequences.
Have you spoken to residents of Berne Square?, Ms Gibson asks. No says Dr Buroni. I think you should, Ms Gibson says.
Dr Buroni says noise varies by source. Appropriate levels have been put in place for type, magnitude and duration, he says.
Do you feel you have fulfilled your duty to the residents of Berne Square, Ms Gibson asks. Yes, says Dr Buroni.
12.46pm Woodsetts Against Fracking cross-examination of Ineos health witness
Jack Parker, barrister for Woodsetts Against Fracking, cross-examines Andrew Buroni, the Ineos health witness.
Mr Parker refers to Dr Buroni’s comment that the council’s development plan have been subject to equality assessments. Mr Parker asks whether Dr Buroni is arguing that the decision-maker will discharge equality act responsibilities by applying the development plan.
Yes, says Dr Buroni. No aspects of the project discriminate against protected characteristics, Dr Buroni says.
If the inspector applies the development plan will she have discharged her responsibilities under the Equalities Act, Mr Parker asks. Yes, Dr Buroni replies. No inequality has been establishing in the process of the project, he says. Rotherham Borough Council has already met the duty, he adds.
Inequality is rarely addressed at the project level, he says.
Dr Buroni repeats that an equality assessment did not identify disproportionate discrimination in exploration.
If there is no risk at a strategic level for exploration, they cannot appear at a project level, Dr Buroni says. There is no disproportionate impact from the project on any protected characteristics, he says.
Mr Parker asks Dr Buroni if he thought only environmental effects that need to be considered by the inspector are those that affect health. Yes, says Dr Buroni. Public health has not been given as a reason to refuse permission, he says. Noise and air quality impacts are within the thresholds for affecting health.
Mr Parker says impacts could affect residential amenity, separately from health. Dr Buroni accepts there are other environmental impacts that would need to be considered.
On lighting, Mr Parker asks Dr Buroni whether he has taken account of effects from the revised entrance proposals. His assessment is based on the original report, Dr Buroni says. There will be an impact, Mr Parker says. Dr Buroni says there will be an element of change.
Dr Buroni says emissions from the project are not at a level to have an health impact, even for people with medical problems.
Mr Parker asks whether the assessment was carried out on the latest information. Dr Buroni says it was based on the original environmental report but he said there would be no change in his assessment. There is no risk. That is why Public Health England and the environmental health officer have not objected, he says.
Dr Buroni accepts there will be a change in the level of emissions from vehicles. He says there will be a negligible impact on residential amenity. There is no odour, you can’t see it and there is no risk to health, Dr Buroni says.
12.40pm Council cross-examination of Ineos health witness
John Darby, the barrister for Rotherham Borough Council, questions Andrew Buroni, the Ineos health witness.
Mr Darby asks Dr Buroni about his reference to revised noise assessments.Is this limited to the drilling phase. No, Dr Buroni says.
Mr Darby says why does it not refer to other stages. Dr Buroni says he has assessed all the stages. Night-time noise during the drilling phase is most sensitive and is below the threshold suggesting risk to health.
Mr Darby asks whether the conclusion is based on noise evidence from other experts. Dr Buroni agrees.
12.33pm Evidence from Ineos health witness
Gordon Steele, for Ineos, introduces Andrew Buroni, a health consultant working for the company.
“Scheme is compliant”
Dr Buroni tells the inquiry:
“Health hazards raised within the third-party representations are inherently addressed within the regulatory planning and permitting process set to protect the environment and health, and have been assessed and addressed within the submitted Environmental Report.
“The remainder of health concerns raised are in relation to different projects, of different scales, on different continents operating to different regulatory regimes, which would not be permitted in the UK.
“Having reviewed the Environmental Report and supporting information, and having regard for the regulatory process and responsibility of regulatory authorities, it is my professional opinion that the Environmental Report and subsequent assessment work undertaken on noise constitutes a thorough investigation of the potential health effects of the proposed project, is compliant with all environmental standards set to protect health, and that changes in environmental health pathways neither present a concentration or exposure sufficient to quantify any measurable adverse health outcome to local communities.
“This conclusion is further supported in that neither the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England raise any formal objections on public health grounds; and no third party representation presents evidence to suggest any adverse health outcome directly attributable to what is proposed.”
He says there are no risks from the visual impact of the site, emissions, seismicity, ground water contamination. The proposal does not discriminate against any protected groups under the equality act, he says.
Dr Buroni gave evidence for the company at the inquiries into Ineos plans at Harthill and Bramleymoor Lane. He says evidence from people living close to the site do not change his conclusions, he says.
Dr Buroni says it is the public sector’s responsibility to enforce the equality act at a strategic level. There was no project-level requirement.
The inquiry resumes at 12.30pm.
12.18pm Review of Tom Pickering’s evidence
Gordon Steele, for Ineos, asks Mr Pickering whether a condition specifying a particular rig would be unreasonable. Mr Pickering says this would be wholly unreasonable, he says. We would be at the mercy of no other option.
If a rig was not named in the condition but there was only one version that met the criteria, would that be unreasonable, Mr Steele says. Mr Pickering says it would be unreasonable for a range of reasons.
Mr Pickering says the safety culture of the rig company is important. You can see completely different safety cultures between different companies.
Mr Steele asks whether the access track would begin without any idea of the rig. No, Mr Pickering says. There would be no benefit of a delay between breaking ground and contracting the rig, he says. The ideal scenario is to get the momentum going. You have all your tenders done, design, permits, and you are able to lead straight into constructing that site and then move to drill the well, take the samples, have them analysed and remove equipment. Efficiency is important.
Condition on work phases
Mr Steele asks whether a condition could constrain the time for each phases of work. Yes, Mr Pickering says. He would accept this, he adds.
12.06pm Residents questions to Tom Pickering
Cllr Clive Jepson, the ward councillor on Rotherham Council, says he has had two or three emails from Ineos’s representative. He was not informed about the community liaison group, he says.
He asks why the barrier was put in at such a late stage when people were not aware of it.
Mr Pickering says he has spoken on consultation at length. We have done an extensive amount of writing to local groups. When people refuse any other correspondence it forces you down particular routes, he says.
On the barrier, Mr Pickering says the detail of mitigation measures comes out during discussions with council officials.
“Residents have questions – you don’t know who they are”
Deborah Gibson, of Harthill, says residents, police and parish council have been requesting a community liaison group. Nothing has happened. We are finally told it will happen when ground breaks. Will you do any better at Woodsetts and listen to people? Mr Pickering says it is a contentious issue and people’s responses can be extremely powerful.
On Harthill, we have permission, Mr Pickering says. We are discussing how a clg will work. I continue to be willing to show up and talk. We have to manage a process.
Ms Gibson asks the purpose of a clg. Mr Pickering says there is a dialogue and it is not always about saying ‘yes’. I am asking you to engage properly with the community, Ms Gibson says.
“They have questions, they are telling you they have not had communication, you don’t know who they are.”
The inspector says this is not a planning matter.
Ms Gibson says:
“liaison was supposed to be a two-way process. So far the information has been one way. Information from communities has not been taken on board.
The inspector says:
“I am not here what has happened in the past. Whether or not Ineos communicated effectively with you is not going to bear on my analysis of the planning issues.”
The inspector says the history of a company can have a bearing but she can’t necessarily decide on something based on what has happened at another site in the past.
“No contact about access track”
Christine Timmons, who has a right of way over the access track, says no-one for Ineos have contacted her family about proposed arrangements.
Mr Pickering says the company has gone through the necessary steps of engagement. I find it unusual that you have had no contact from the company or the council, he says.
“Surely, we should have been shown the proposal and our right of way and we have had nothing”, Mrs Timmons says.
“No contact with Berne Square”
Parish councillor, Monica Carroll, says Ineos has not approached residents in Berne Square who have attended the inquiry and Mr Pickering needs to know that.
11.19am Woodsetts against Fracking cross-examination of Tom Pickering.
Jack Parker, for Woodsetts Against Fracking, cross-examines Tom Pickering, Ineos operations director.
Community liaison group
Mr Pickering said in his evidence there were two meetings with Woodsetts Against Fracking to establish a community liaison group.
Mr Parker asked what is the purpose of a community liaison group. Mr Pickering says Ineos has a licence to extract a nationally-important resources where it lies. We are going into communities, he says.
“I see a clg as a means of having a conversation about what we are planning. It is about a dialogue and making ourselves accessible.”
High court injunction
Mr Pickering said:
Our relationship in Woodsetts was not the one we would have hoped for to start out with. At the time, we were faced with unlawful protest at other sites and we put in place an injunction at all our sites.
As soon as the result of the injunction, the first that was known about the Woodsetts scheme was when we had to put out notices, Mr Pickering says.
At Woodsetts, we did a land deal but at the time of the injunction we had not gone public with the community.
When we put the [injunction] signage up it was the first community had heard of it.
From that point we tried to organise community liaison groups, Mr Pickering says. All I can do is apologise and explain, he says. We remain absolutely open to work with the community.
Mr Pickering acknowledges that the injunction had been obtained without Ineos giving any notice, on an ex-parte basis.
Mr Parker invites Mr Pickering to correct his evidence, which says Ineos communicated with the community at the first opportunity, at a public meeting in Woodsetts. Mr Pickering declines. Mr Parker says the evidence is inaccurate. Mr Pickering says Ineos had publicised its licences and proposed operations.
Mr Pickering says the injunction affected only those carrying out unlawful activity. This is not correct, Mr Parker says. The Court of Appeal struck out sections that were not seen to be unlawful, Mr Parker says. Mr Pickering disagrees. Sections of the injunction were struck out, Mr Parker says. Most remained, Mr Pickering says.
Village engagement with Ineos
Resident Gareth Jones gave evidence to the inquiry about the history of the community liaison group. Mr Parker, the Woodsetts Against Fracking barrister, says Mr Jones felt very strongly that Ineos had not been transparent or forthcoming with information.
That is a common accusation, Mr Pickering says, where we are working up plans. He says:
My clear instruction is not to table things until we are clear about the rationale. I understand it can breed frustration.
Mr Parker says he is talking about ecological survey information requested by WAF and promised by Ineos representatives but then not provided. The Ineos local representative acknowledged that the company should have shared information better, Mr Parker says.
Mr Pickering says:
there is no reason to put survey information in the public domain until we have decided what it means and how we will handle it. Why would that not be provided to residents, Mr Parker says. That is our survey. The key issue is how we address the ecology in relation to the site.
On vehicle details, Ineos promised but later refused the information, Mr Parker says. This is incredibly frustrating, he says. I can understand that, Mr Pickering says.
Residents have sought information about the proposals at any opportunity and had taken an active part in the consultation, Mr Parker says. Mr Pickering says Ineos held exhibitions and corresponded with people. The company wrote to politicians, Mr Pickering says. We also wrote to all residents.
Mr Pickering accepts that residents have sought information and engaged with the statutory consultation processes.
Mr Pickering accepts that the noise barrier was not included in the application. He also accepts that people would have wanted to comment on it.
Work programme and rig tender
Mr Pickering agrees that work cannot begin until all approvals and permits have been agreed. He says these would require Ineos to state what type of rig would be used.
Asked whether the rig tender process would precede work on the site access, Mr Pickering says ‘not necessarily’.
Mr Parker asks whether the site access and noise barrier could be in place before the rig contract was signed. Mr Pickering agrees. Asked if there could be a delay because of contractual problems, Mr Pickering says this is unlikely. He says Ineos can construct the site to accommodate a wide range of rigs.
How far would you want to be down the rig contract process before beginning site access, Mr Parker asks. Mr Pickering says :
“I would want to be reasonably close to know what rig I want to go for”.
“We are under a time pressure from government to fulfil the obligation to drill wells. There are other pressures that come to bear on us.”
Mr Parker suggests that Ineos may need to pay for more for a particular rig. Mr Pickering agrees.
Mr Parker asks what would be the cost of renting a rig. Mr Pickering it depends on the type of rig, depending on market conditions, would are talking about £18,000-£20,000 per day.
There is no evidence before the inspector on how much more a particular rig would cost, Mr Parker suggests. Mr Pickering says the company has given an example at other inquiries.
Mr Parker says that was about an enclosure of the rig to reduce noise. He says he is asking about rig rental. He asks again what would be the increased cost for a particular rig. I cannot give you a worked example of that, Mr Pickering says. One of the first laws of business is not to put yourself in a exposed position over cost.
In the UK we have a rig market we have to work with, he says. I would expect there would be a significant premium on the rig, Mr Pickering adds.
He says rig owners have rigs sitting in the yards and may not be anxious to get them working. There is a cost and work to bring rigs out of cold stack. The companies have to ask whether this is worth it, he says.
If you were required to pay a significant premium, Mr Parker asks, you are making an investment from which you may not recover any profit. That is exploration, Mr Pickering says.
Mr Parker says the inspector will have to balance the benefits of a rig, such as its noise reduction, against the cost of the rig. Mr Pickering says Ineos has sought to mitigate noise.
11.14am Council cross-examination of Tom Pickering
John Darby, barrister for the council, asks Mr Pickering about the process for rig tendering.
Mr Darby put it to Mr Pickering that it would not be unreasonable to limit the type of rig available to meet noise levels. Mr Pickering says the company has to weigh up different attributes of a rig.
There is nothing unusual for companies to be advised that they should operate within noise limits, Mr Darby says. That is correct, Mr Pickering says.
If the inspector receives advice on a threshold noise, there is nothing unusual for you to tender within those constraints, Mr Darby asked. That is true, Mr Pickering says.
10.56am Evidence from Ineos executive, Tom Pickering
Tom Pickering, operations director of Ineos Upstream, gives evidence to the inquiry.
Mr PIckering says:
[shale gas has a role] in reducing our reliance on coal and transitioning to a mix of energy sources which have lower emissions – there is a time period where the UK will need to rely on gas during this transition process.
Estimates of how long this transition will take vary and some parties argue that gas will not be needed to assist with this transition at all. However, it is likely that it will be several decades before the UK is able to decarbonise sufficiently to remove its reliance on fossil fuels for a reasonable proportion of its energy mix.
He says the company seeks to drill a vertical well. Horizontal drill and fracking are not included in the application. The site could be used for appraisal. Consents would be needed for future use of the site.
Ineos will continued keep the local community informed.
Ineos works in close partnership with community groups and other stakeholders to ensure that we are a responsible neighbour, particularly where we have active operations.
All companies contracting to and/or supplying Ineos will be expected to demonstrate a robust record of SHE performance and improvement. HSE audits will form a critical part of the tender process and successful companies and their employees will be expected to participate fully in achieving the objectives.
Drilling rig and unreasonable burden
Mr Pickering says the decision on the drilling rig will depend on safety health and environment, security, performance, financial, operational performance, consistency of associated equipment and efficiency.
He says it would be an unreasonable burden to prevent working at night. Enclosure of the rig with a shroud would be very expensive, Mr Pickering says. It would also have operational implications.
There is no guarantee of success and there will be no revenue from the well, he says.
Cost of drilling
Mr Pickering says the Tinker Road and Springs Road wells in Nottinghamshire £8-10m.
Mr Pickering said:
Ineos understands and respects the legitimate concerns of the local community and other concerned parties. As such, in advance of submitting the original planning application, we communicated our early plans at the first opportunity to a very well attended public meeting in the village hall. The meeting was attended by the Parish Council, the local MP, Councillors and villagers.
At this meeting we set out our hope to establish a Community Liaison Group (CLG), with the intention to use this as a mechanism for two way dialogue with the community and their elected representatives along with providing an opportunity for community input.
Despite two meetings with Woodsetts Against Fracking (WAF) to try and establish the CLG, we were unable to formally set up a process with WAF which at that time decided to withdraw from ‘any further communication with Ineos.
Mr Pickering adds:
If the application is approved, we would continue to be committed to engaging with the representatives of the community through a formal CLG; to build confidence through two way dialogue, operational explanation and scientific monitoring before, during and after operations.
The 9mx270m barrier would cost £100,000, Mr Pickering says. That is extremely costly but the company would be willing to work to achieve, he says.
Considering the circumstances and the concern voiced by the community, our desire to work to build that relationship, I would be willing to accept the cost of the noise barrier.
10.02am Questions to Ineos transport witness
Ineos traffic witness, Kevin Martin, of Aecom, has returned to the inquiry to answer questions from members of the public.
Additional work at the bellmouth. Woodsetts resident, Mike Hill, asks Mr Martin about additional work needed at the bellmouth. None, says Mr Martin.
Wheel wash. Mr Hill asks about the location of the wheel wash, installation details and the size of vehicles using it. Mr Martin says it is inside the security fence and it could accommodate any size of vehicle.
Vehicle types. Mr Martin says he was not involved in the initial environmental reports. He thought more information would be useful. He says Ineos has provided details in the Aecom review on the types of vehicles needed every day.
Surfacing of access track. Mr Hill asks when the 20m access track would be surfaced. Mr Martin says the surfacing would begin at the start of work. It would not be tarmaced, he says. Mr Hill says the proposal says it would be tarmaced. Mr Martin says the plan now is to retain the concrete construction of the bellmouth and aggregate on the access track. 60 aggregate trucks are allowed for in week-1, Mr Martin says.
Aecom review. The inspector says Mr Hill is asking questions on old documents. We are very tight on time, she says. We don’t have time to go through matters that should have been agreed on before now. The Aecom document is fundamental to the traffic evidence.
Mr Hill says he doesn’t really want to be at the inquiry. But I recognise there is something wrong in the proposal document, he says.
But you haven’t read the documents, Ms Peerless says.
Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, says the drawings have been updated. All Mr Hill’s questions have been answered in the Aecom review.
Mr Hill asks whether the Aecom review was a generic document. No, Mr Martin says. He says the aggregate trucks is far in excess of the Harthill site.
Mr Hill says he will review the Aecom document.
Traffic management plan. Mr Hill asks which is the latest traffic management plan. It is an emerging document, Mr Martin says. He is not sure about where the document is. It is a draft. One of the condition that will be applied to any consent is that a traffic management plan would be produced. Mr Hill says the plan will dictate how many deliveries will come through the village and when. The inspector says the final version of the traffic management plan would be approved by the council. We are not trying to finalise that now. Any version is subject to change. It is fundamental to the traffic numbers, Mr Hill says. If the council doesn’t approve the traffic management plan the whole scheme can’t go ahead.
Woodsetts Parish Council vice chair asks whether Mr Martin is aware that Woodsetts continues beyond the village sign. She says there is no pavement on the whole route. Pedestrians mainly walk on the road, especially in wet weather. She asks whether the road width of 7.2m was in the village.
Mr Martin says he is aware the parish extends beyond the residential area. He says the road widths were measured within the village.
Mrs Carroll asks what facilities will there be for the banksman. Mr Martin says the banksman will have a cubicle. I imagine it will be portable. Will there be a toilet? How big? That is a matter of detail, Mr Martin says.
Cllr Clive Jepson
Cllr Jepson, the war councillor for Woodsetts on Rotherham Borough Council says the grass verge is cut only once a year. The road is used by people to get to two bus stops. This section of road is dangerous. Mr Martin says he has adopted the measurements by Woodsetts Against Fracking.
Mrs Timmons lives in Woodsetts and has a right of way along the access track that would be shared in places with site traffic.
Vehicle volumes. Mrs Timmons says she is concerned about the volume of vehicles on the track at certain times. Mr Martin says there are no restrictions on use of the track at certain times.
Visibility Mrs Timmons says the proposal means she will be on the wrong side of the track to get to the Dinnington Road. She says convoys will block her view onto the track. If she is trying to turn right, she will have to cross the central reservation to get on to the left hand side of the road.
Banksman Mr Martin says there would be a banksman during operational hours who would assist Mrs Timmons to get onto the track and ensure there was no conflict.
Convoys It hasn’t been decided whether there will be convoys. The length of the track is sufficient length to take convoys without them going onto Dinnington Road. The number of vehicles in a convoy would be determined what could be accommodated on the track.
Mr Martin says movements onto the site would be controlled. There would be no need to delay the vehicles on the access track because the banksman would be aware of them.
The inspector asks when the banksman would be on duty. When there were vehicle movements, Mr Martin replies. Residents will be able to use the access as they do no.
Priority Mrs Timmons asks who will have priority. It is a matter of circumstances, Mr Martin says. You may have to wait a few moments, he says. I don’t see that a serious matter.
Construction disruption Mrs Timmons asks how much disruption will there be during construction. Will be able to access our property. Mr Martin says unfettered access will be ensured by the construction management plan. The access will not be closed at any time.
Winter darkness Mrs Timmons asks about joining the access track in the dark. I am driving down the site of the barrier wall with no vision of what is on the other side. The banksman will allay that concern, Mr Martin says.
Farm track Mrs Timmons says there will be a lot of farm traffic at night during harvest. Mr Martin says there will be no normal construction traffic after 7pm. In an emergency, a banksman would be called on. Mrs Timmons says she is concerned that when she leave her property the line of sight is lost because of the 3m noise barrier across the field to wait for farm vehicles. Due care and attention would be taken, Mr Martin says.
CCTV cameras. Mrs Timmons says doesn’t this infringe my privacy? At present, I enjoy access over fields. With this you are turning my drive into an industrial estate. It is awful. That is my driveway to my home. I don’t think anyone here would like to go through that.
Gates. Mrs Timmons asks about security gates. She says it is not acceptable to have deal with a barrier to enter home. Mr Martin says it would be up to Ineos security. Mrs Timmons says the gate is currently not closed at night. Mr Martin says you would have unfettered access to Dinnington Road.
10am Inquiry resumes
Inspector Katie Peerless re-opens the session.
She says is concerned about timing of the inquiry. She says she will take the closing submissions in writing.
9.42am Inquiry opens and adjourns
Inspector Katie Peerless opens the inquiry but immediately adjourns today’s session because the Rotherham council barrister has been delayed by an emergency.
The session will resume at 10am, Ms Peerless says.
9.30am barristers conference
Representatives for Ineos, Rotherham Council and Woodsetts Against Fracking talk to inspector, Katie Peerless. Start of today’s hearing delayed.