The decision has been delayed in the public inquiry into IGas plans to test the flow of its well at Ellesmere Port, the Planning Inspectorate has confirmed.
The inquiry, which ran for 12 days from January-March 2019, was the first of its kind to consider the impact of onshore oil and gas on climate change.
A date had been scheduled for the decision. But the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) told DrillOrDrop today that this had been withdrawn following the publication of greenhouse gas reduction targets by the government’s advisor on climate change.
The Committee on Climate Change said on 2 May 2019 the UK should phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This net zero target should be put into law as soon as possible, the report said.
A spokesperson for PINs said:
“The decision [on the Ellesmere Port inquiry] had to be postponed to seek comments/representations following the Government’s Climate Change Committee’s net-zero report published in May.
“These comments will now be considered by the Inspector and a revised date for issuing the decision will be made as soon as possible”.
The Ellesmere Port inquiry had already been extended beyond the original scheduled six hearing days.
What was due to be the final day, on 6 March 2019, the High Court ruled that national planning policy on the benefits of shale gas was unlawful.
Inspector Brian Cook kept the inquiry open so that Cheshire West and Chester Council, Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton and IGas could make legal submissions on the relevance of the ruling.
Frack Free Upton and Ellesmere Port said the inspector could no longer safely give any weight to the government’s policy support for shale gas for energy security and as a transition fuel to a low carbon future.
On 24 May, the communities secretary, James Brokenshire acknowledged that the policy, in paragraph 2019a of the National Planning Policy Framework, had been quashed by the courts.
In a separate issue, the inspector also said he was required to contact Natural England about whether a habitats assessment was needed. The site, on Portside North, was close to the protected Mersey Estuary wildlife site.
Mr Cook had originally said he would need at least a month to make his decision.
IGas has said it would take no further action in its exploration licences in the Cheshire West and Chester Council area until the outcome of the Ellesmere Port appeal. This included initial fracking plans at Ince Marshes.