Live news updates: Day 4 of the inquiry into Ineos shale gas plans at Woodsetts

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Site at Woodsetts earmarked by Ineos for shale gas drilling with panels representing height of proposed acoustic barrier, 14 June 2019. Photo: Woodsetts Against Fracking

The inquiry into Ineos drilling plans goes into its second week this morning with evidence expected on noise and a proposed acoustic barrier.

The hearing in Rotherham is examining Ineos Upstream’s proposals to explore for shale gas in the South Yorkshire village of Woodsetts. The proposal has been refused twice by Rotherham Borough Council and opposed by the residents’ group,  Woodsetts Against Fracking

The inquiry, chaired by inspector Katie Peerless, is expected to last eight days until Friday June 21.

DrillOrDrop’s Woodsetts inquiry page  has background, headlines and links to daily reports. Our Woodsetts timeline page has links to articles about the site. Reports from Day 1,  Day 2 and Day 3

These are news updates reported live and are not an official or verbatim record of the inquiry sessions. Please let us know if you spot mistakes or feel we have misrepresented the evidence.

Reporting at this inquiry has been made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers

Key points

During today’s session, we’ll update this section with key points from the evidence.

  • Council witness says Ineos should have submitted noise mitigation measures at the time of the planning application
  • Noise levels in Berne Square gardens from construction of the access track would be absurd, council witness tells inquiry
  • Even with proposed 3m barrier, noise would exceed guidelines limits, inquiry told
  • Ineos proposal for nighttime noise of 42db is too high, council noise expert says
  • Council says the nighttime noise limit should be 37db – Ineos says this will impose an unreasonable burden
  • Ineos noise expert says 3m sound barrier would be best practice
  • Woodsetts Against Fracking background noise survey records levels much lower than the Ineos survey – Ineos says the WAF survey does not meet guidelines
  • Woodsetts Against Fracking says there is potential for complaints from nighttime noise of 35db
  • Ineos noise witness agrees that he would not have recommended an access track as close as is proposed to sheltered housing at Berne Square in Woodsetts

6.11pm Inquiry adjourns

The inquiry resumes at 9am on 18 June 2019.

The inquiry will continue to hear from Steve Fraser, the Ineos noise witness, as well as local residents and planning witnesses.

5.35pm More questions on Ineos noise evidence

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Steve Fraser, noise witness for Ineos, 18 June 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Jack Parker begins his cross-examination of Steve Fraser, the Ineos noise witness. The inspector says she wants to finish the noise evidence by 6pm.

Unreasonable burden

Mr Parker says an acoustic barrier would not be an unreasonable burden on Ineos. Mr Fraser agrees. He says there may be other reasons that would be unreasonable.

Mr Parker complains that Mr Fraser is not answer the questions he is asking and the questions would not be completed by 6pm.

Mr Fraser says if there is a 3m barrier it will deal with daytime noise issues. If there is a 2m barrier with a 50db condition then Ineos would have to consider putting vehicles down the track that have been mitigated in someway.

Mr Fraser says there would not be a breach of policy if noise exceeded 50db.

Mr Parker says the limit of 50db is 10db above background. Where noise exceeded 50db, it would breach policy because the barrier is not an unreasonable, Mr Parker says.

I don’t agree, Mr Fraser says, it is subject to a test of unreasonable burden.

The inspector asks Mr Parker to move on with his question/

Lowest observable adverse effects

Mr Parker says the planning guidance requires operators to reduce to the lowest observable adverse level. Mr Fraser agrees.

Mr Fraser agrees the LOAL for nighttime noise is 42db. But he says the night noise limit should not take account of background levels.

Mr Parker suggests this is at odds with the approach taken by the inspector at the Preston New Road planning inquiry, who did not consider the 42db limit in WHO guidelines.

Mr Fraser says the PNR circumstances do not apply at Woodsetts. He also says the 2018 WHO guidelines have changed the approach to applying planning policy guidance.

Mr Parker says the Secretary of State in the Preston New Road decision agreed with the planning inspector. Mr Fraser accepts that the Secretary of State took a different approach than he has taken over the Woodsetts site.

Mr Parker put it to Mr Fraser that the other noise witnesses say the LAOL was below 42db. To reduce to a minimum, the night time noise level should be below 42db. Mr Fraser stands by his position.

Duration of noise

Mr Parker says the requirement in planning guidance to reduce to a minimum any adverse impact is not dependent on duration of the noise. Mr Fraser says it is self-evidence that the duration is relevant.

The duration is only relevant when considering an unreasonable burden, Mr Parker says. It is not relevant to what reducing the impact to a minimum. They are inextricably linked, Mr Fraser says.

4.13pm Questions over Ineos noise evidence

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Access track to proposed Ineos shale gas site at Woodsetts close to sheltered housing in Berne Square. New proposals show the track lined by a 3m high, 100+m long noise barrier. Photo: Woodsetts Against Fracking

Jon Darby, barrister to Rotherham Borough Council, cross examines Steve Fraser, the Ineos noise witness.

Mr Darby asks Mr Fraser about his duties to the inquiry. It is to assist the inspector, Mr Fraser says.

Mr Buroni’s evidence on health for Ineos was contingent on a 3m barrier, Mr Darby puts it to Mr Fraser.

“Access track is a major challenge”

Mr Darby asks whether Mr Fraser was involved in site selection. I don’t think so, Mr Fraser replies.

The proximity of Berne Square to the site access track is a major challenge, Mr Darby puts it to him. It is unusual, Mr Darby says. Mr Fraser it has not been an issue at the Ineos sites at Harthill and Bramleymoor Lane.

We are orders of magnitude closer at Woodsetts, Mr Darby says. Mr Fraser agrees. He agrees he would have recommended an access track further away from Berne Square than the project proposes.

Mr Darby says planning guidance requires decision-makers to avoid significant effects or minimising adverse effects. This is a reasonable interpretation, Mr Fraser agrees.

Onerous or unreasonable?

Minimising effects may be onerous but may not be unreasonable, Mr Darby suggests.

Mr Fraser says a barrier represents best practice. It is acoustically the best solution, he says.

Nighttime noise

Steve Fraser says guidance requires a maximum noise level of 42db.

Jon Darby, for the council, puts it to him that people respond differently to nighttime noise and it depends on many different factors.

Mr Fraser says epidemiological evidence applies anywhere – it is biological not cultural.

One of the factors is the increase on background levels, Mr Darby says. This is relevant at daytime, not nighttime, Mr Fraser says.

Mr Fraser agrees the response depends on local attitudes to noise.

Tolerance of noise

Mr Darby says noise is more likely to trigger a more complex and pronounced reaction if it has a specific character or source.

Mr Darby says a significant number residents will be affected and have already voiced their concerns. Mr Fraser agrees. He accepts that the noise is from an unwanted source.

The objective and subjective response is an important consideration for the inspector, Mr Darby suggests. Mr Fraser says yes for daytime but not for nighttime.

Where is this in the Ineos evidence, Mr Darby asks. I have not discussed this because I am not qualified to do so, Mr Fraser says.

Mr Darby puts it to Mr Fraser that noise measuring 30db outside homes can still have an effect on sleep. You can have a subjective response to noise, Mr Darby says. The World Health Organisation says there should be detailed investigation to assess the impacts.

Based on the evidence the inquiry has heard, you do not challenge that residents of Berne Square are vulnerable, Mr Darby asks? Mr Fraser says he is not qualified to say.

Mr Darby says the vulnerability of the residents suggests there should be a low level of noise. Mr Fraser says this has been done.

Environmental report

Mr Darby asks about the role Mr Fraser had in the Ineos report submitted as part of the planning application. Mr Fraser says he provided noise data.

Mr Darby says the environmental report predicted 83db. This is three times as loud as guidance recommends.

Not three times, Mr Fraser says. It would be unacceptable, Mr Darby says. Mr Fraser agrees.

He says it would not represent best practice. In response to concerns raised, Ineos looked at mitigation measures to see how noise could be reduced below 75db, Mr Fraser says. This is still on the high side but it is arguable acceptable, he adds.

Barrier and enforcement

Mr Fraser accepts that with the barrier some properties in Berne Square would experience noise at above 65db in week one of the project. He agrees the impact would be greater without a barrier.

Mr Fraser agrees that any noise conditions could be enforced.

On the noise from construction of the barrier, Mr Darby says there is no evidence on this. Mr Fraser says there is nothing presented to the inspector. He said informal discussions suggested the foundations could be installed in a day. The noise would not exceed 70db, Mr Fraser says. He adds he has not considered the engineering requirements of the barrier.

Nighttime noise

Mr Fraser says 42db is acceptable nighttime noise in all circumstances.

Mr Darby says it is possible to achieve lower levels than 42db so it would unacceptable not to try to reduce to a minimum below that.

He says operators are required by minerals planning guidance to mitigate noise that falls between significant adverse observed and lowest adverse observed levels.

Mr Fraser says 42db is the appropriate level and would comply with planning guidance.

Background levels

Mr Darby puts it to Mr Fraser it is not always appropriate to assume that the modal background noise levels is representative.

Conditions and unreasonable burden

Mr Fraser says too strict conditions would constrain Ineos on the choice of rigs. He accepts that Ineos has not put forward evidence of unreasonable burden on commercial disadvantage of rig selection. These are complex judgements, Mr Fraser says.

Mr Darby says the nighttime noise limit should be 37db. Ineos says this is unreasonable.

Mr Darby asks Mr Fraser where is the evidence that 37db is unreasonable. Mr Fraser says the information is in his proof of evidence. Mr Darby says Mr Fraser’s evidence is that there are beneficial effects in reducing the nighttime noise to 37db. Mr Darby says:

You can’t say it is an unreasonable burden if you haven’t assessed what the benefits are.

Mr Darby says the nighttime noise level could be reduced to 37 with a quieter rig and other methods. Mr Fraser says this would mean the rig would need to be 2db quieter to meet the conditions. This could be achieved only by enclosing.

Mr Darby says Cuadrilla was tendering in the same or a similar rig market. Mr Fraser agrees.

The inspector can be reassured that at least one other operator considers no unreasonable burden arises from 37db, Mr Darby puts it to Mr Fraser. Yes, or no, Mr Darby asks.

I can’t answer it yes or not, it is more complicated than that, Mr Fraser says.

Mr Darby says it is up to the inspector to decide what is an unreasonable burden.


Mr Darby suggests that the restoration phase (stage 5) will have similar noise levels as the first stage (site construction). Mr Fraser agrees

3.40pm Ineos evidence on noise

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Steve Fraser, noise witness for Ineos at the Woodsetts inquiry, 18 June 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, introduces Steve Fraser (pictured above), the company’s witness on noise.

Noise reduction

Mr Fraser says Ineos has looked at the quietest equipment, including hydraulic power units, mud pumps, centrifuges, generators and top drive. Some of these items will be enclosed to reduce noise levels.

The solution is to mitigate noise at source, using best practice, Mr Fraser says.

Mr Fraser says a proposal for triple stack containers as a noise barrier has to be balanced against visual impact.

Ineos has provided a menu of solutions, Mr Steele suggests.

Vulnerable groups

Mr Fraser says night noise from the drilling operation is “predicted to be less than 40 dB Lnight outside.

He says this is consistent with the 2018 World Health Organisation guidance for vulnerable groups.

A well-maintained rig would generate noise that would be similar to traffic, steady-state noise, Mr Fraser says. With those criteria, the WHO guidance on traffic noise could be applied to a rig.

40 db L Night outside is the threshold above which effects might occur, Mr Fraser says. Below that, the effects are not significant.

Mr Fraser says 40 dBL Night is an annual mean. 42 DB is a level that may never be exceeded. For 42% of the time, the wind will be blowing from the rig to Berne Square. During these times, Mr Fraser says, the noise levels would not be above 40.

A condition of 42db would be very likely to achieve a level of 40 dBL Night, Mr Fraser says.

Evening limits noise

Mr Fraser says 50db is preferable but 55 dB is acceptable. The daytime background level is 40 in Berne Square, Mr Fraser says. This is an area of sheltered housing for vulnerable people.

Site access and construction

Mr Steele says Ineos has prepared predicted noise levels for no barrier, a 3m barrier and a 2m barrier.

A 2m barrier would comply except at Berne Square, which would exceed the level by 1db, Mr Steele says.

Mr Fraser says a 3m barrier would be best practice because it would achieve the best noise reduction.

Access track construction

Mr Fraser says a barrier is not needed to meet the level of 65db for construction of the access track.

Site set up

Mr Fraser says a noise limit for site construction of 62db also does not need a noise barrier.

Drilling noise

Mr Fraser says a barrier is not required to meet a limit of 55db. A limit of 50 would be exceeded by 1db with a 2m barrier. A limit of 51db would not make much difference, he says.

A 2m barrier would be just about acceptable, he says. A 3m barrier would be better.

3.30pm Break

The inquiry resumes at 3.40pm

3.09pm Ineos questions to Woodsetts Against Fracking witness

Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, asks Mr Sproston if he has assessed a rig for noise. No Mr Sproston says.

Mr Steele asks about the top drive mitigation. Mr Sproston says Ineos’s noise witness had raised this during discussions.

Mr Steele says Ineos has given evidence of the difficulties on mitigating noise on drilling equipment.

Mr Sproston says there has been no evidence on the impact of triple-stack containers as a noise barrier. That would not reduce noise at source but it would increase noise attenuation for the rig. He agrees it would not reduce noise from the top drive but it would screen all other noise towards ground level.

This is at best speculation, Mr Steele says. Mr Sproston says there are opportunities to screen and reduce the overall level of noise.

You do not suggest there is a reason for refusal, Mr Steele says. Mr Sproston says it would be a requirement that Ineos could achieve the noise limits. You do not object to this application with the right mitigation. Correct, Mr Sproston says.


Mr Steele says Mr Sproston’s surveys do no comply with British Standards. Mr Sproston agrees this because of equipment failure.

Environmental benefits

Mr Steele suggests that guidance on road construction can exceed noise guidelines because it does not need to meet the requirement of environmental benefit because of the placement of the word “and”

Affected homes

Mr Steele asks how many properties would be affected. Mr Sproston says there are 14 properties in Berne Square. He says he would reduce this by three that would be affected. Mr Steele says the number should be reduced by 7-10. Mr Sproston disagrees. He tells the inquiry that he expects the living rooms to face the field.

Mr Steele says about half the properties face the field.

Sleep disturbance

Mr Steele suggests that sleep disturbance and the link to health is the primary concern about night time noise. Mr Sproston says it is one issue but there are others.

Mr Steele says WHO guidance the outside limit is 42db. Mr Sproston says this limit applies to transport noise. It applies to steady state noise, Mr Steele says. It is for anonymous noise, Mr Sproston says.

Mr Steele says drilling noise is steady state noise. Provided you achieve 40db outside that is sufficient for WHO purposes. Not necessarily, says Mr Sproston. You have to take into account the character of the noise. Mr Steele says he is assuming a steady state noise.

Mr Steele suggests you deduct 15db to get the impact inside a building. Mr Sproston says you deduct 10db for an open window. At 40db outside, deducting 10 would take you to 30db and that would not have an impact. If it is a steady state noise, Mr Sproston says.

Mr Sproston says residents have given evidence that they have to have their windows open at night.

2.20pm Evidence on noise from Woodsetts Against Fracking

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David Sproston, acoustic witness for Woodsetts Against Fracking, 18 June 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Jack Parker, barrister for Woodsetts Against Fracking, introduces his noise witness, David Sproston.

Mr Sproston tells the inquiry he has been to a drilling site and knows what a site sounds like.

Noise surveys

The inquiry hears that Mr Sproston’s background noise levels could be considered much lower than the levels recorded by Ineos consultants. Adding any new noise into the noise climate would have greater prominence than Ineos had suggested, Mr Sproston says.

Mr Sproston says the Ineos noise survey recorded some days when the noise was comparable to his survey – at around 20db.

It shows there is some variation in the noise levels, Mr Sproston says.

Planning policy on noise

Mr Parker says Ineos has confirmed that the sound barrier would not be an unreasonable burden on the company.

Ineos’s barrister has said the planning policy guidance on minerals gives operators “wiggle room” on daytime limits. Mr Sproston says the words “wiggle room” do not appear in the guidance.

Mr Sproston says the sound barrier would be required during the drilling stage of the project.

Planning policy says noise limits can be exceeded if they contribute to environmental benefits. Mr Sproston says this could mean creating large earth mounds to block sound.

Mr Parker asks whether a limit of 70db for constructing the new road would be justified. Mr Sproston says this would not be justified because it would not bring environmental benefits.

Under noise guidelines, access roads should be routed away from noise sensitive properties. Asked if the access road at Woodsetts complies, Mr Sproston says it does not.

Mr Parker says the decision-maker has to consider the number of people affected. Mr Sproston says the residents of Berne Square are more intolerant of noise. Their sensitivity to noise still holds for this project, despite the small number of people affected, he says.

Noise barrier

With the noise barrier, would the level during access road construction be acceptable. Unacceptable, Mr Sproston says. He says the noise level without the barrier would be unacceptable.

The inquiry hears there is no evidence about the noise impact of constructing the noise barrier or that it would be kept within acceptable limits.

A noise barrier would make the noise level of site construction acceptable, Mr Sproston says. He says the height would need to be nearer 3m than 2m.

Mr Sproston says there is no evidence from Ineos of what height of barrier would be needed to achieve 50db during the day.

Mr Sproston says the lowest observable adverse noise limit for Woodsetts at night would be 32-36db.

Noise characteristics

Mr Sproston says the noise of a drilling rig is “completely alien”. He says it can’t be compared with transport noise, he says. In my view, noise from drilling rigs at the level proposed is unacceptable.

The inspector should take into account annoyance cause by noise, as well as adverse impacts on health, Mr Sproston says.

Nighttime noise limits

Mr Sproston is asked whether there would be complaints if the level of night time noise during drilling was 42db. He says he would expect there would be. Even at a level of 35db nighttime noise maximum there is potential for complaints, he agrees.

Mr Sproston says the duration of noise is not relevant because the limits are absolute. He says no vulnerable residents had been identified during the equivalent inquiry for Ineos’s scheme at Bramleymoor Lane in north east Derbyshire.


Mr Sproston is asked whether noise-reduction has been applied to a top drive. He says he has been told that it has.

The hearing had been told that a rig would be available that was quieter than the one proposed to be used by Ineos. Mr Sproston says there are two or possibly three quieter rigs available.

The rig used at Springs Road, Misson, in combination of other mitigation, could be quieter than the Ineos proposal.

Cuadrilla had suggested it could comply with a 35db noise limit, the inquiry is told. It clearly is possible to comply with that limit, Mr Sproston says.

2.06pm Review of evidence from council noise witness

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Jon Darby, barrister for Rotherham Borough Council, 18 June 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Jon Darby, barrister for Rotherham Council, reviews the evidence from Andrew Lockwood.

In response to a suggestion from Ineos that Mr Lockwood was highly inexperienced, Mr Darby asks him whether he has felt out of his depth. Mr Lockwood says no. He says he has over 30 years’ experience as an acoustic adviser.

Ineos previously said Mr Lockwood was using an out-of-date document. Mr Lockwood says there were no significant differences in the documents.

Mr Darby asks what evidence has Ineos produced on unreasonable burden of noise conditions for daytime noise. None, Mr Lockwood says.

On nighttime noise, Mr Lockwood says there could be a case for a lower limit than 37db. But he says he thinks it would be hard to get down to below 37db.

Mr Darby asks what was agreed between the parties on noise limits. Mr Lockwood says these were the limits that should be achieved by the development.

On the suggestion that the noise barrier was not needed, Mr Lockwood says 65db complies with policy for daytime noise for residents of Berne Square, but a barrier will be a very significant barrier.

Mr Darby asks who would bear the risk of no barrier. Mr Lockwoods says it would be the Berne Square residents who would not want to go into their gardens. The only benefit would be to save Ineos some money.

2pm Inquiry resumes

1.11pm Break

The inquiry resumes at 2pm.

11.24am Cross-examination of council noise witness

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Gordon Steele, QC, barrister for Ineos, (above centre) cross-examines Andrew Lockwood, the council noise witness.

Mr Steele asks whether Mr Lockwood has advised on drilling sites or visited a site. Mr Lockwood says he has not, though he has tried to visit a site but no companies could accommodate this.

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Lockwood that he is “highly inexperienced”. Mr Lockwood says he would not accept that.

Mr Steele suggests that a document on BS 5288 that Mr Lockwood has referred to is out of date and there is a more recent one that Mr Lockwood has not seen. Mr Lockwood says he is not convinced that the newer document is significantly different.

Mr Steele asks Mr Lockwood how many properties in Berne Square are affected by noise. Mr Lockwood says he does not know the answer to this question.

Planning practice guidance minerals

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Lockwood that drilling noise should not exceed background by 10db but he says there could be an exception.

Mr Steele says there is an exception for daytime limits without imposing an unreasonable burden. It should be as near as practicable to the 10db above background, Mr Steele says.

There are no exceptions for nighttime noise, Mr Steele says. The requirement is to reduce to a minimum, not exceeding 42db, without imposing unreasonable burdens, he says.

World Health Organisation guidelines

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Lockwood that using the WHO guidelines on nighttime noise of 40db would protect vulnerable residents, like those living in Berne Square.

Mr Lockwood says Mr Steele is misusing the WHO guidelines. Mr Steele says if the 40db protects people, according to WHO, then a nighttime limit of 37db is not needed. Mr Lockwood says the 37db takes into account that people want to have windows open.

Inquiry decisions

Mr Steele, for Ineos, refers to the decision of the inspector hearing the company’s appeal against refusal of permission for shale gas exploration at Bramleymoor Lane in Derbyshire. The inspector ruled that the BS4142 did not apply to exploration sites.

Mr Lockwood says he does not agree with the inspector.

81db site noise

Mr Lockwood had said that employers had to provide ear protection at a level at 81db. Mr Steele accuses Mr Lockwood of unnecessarily alarming local residents. Mr Lockwood says he was giving evidence on the levels of noise in the original planning application.

Road noise

Mr Steele asks whether Mr Lockwood has take account of road noise. Mr Lockwood says he does not have access to a computer modelled information that is the basis of Ineos’s noise case. Mr Lockwood says he has tried to verify the noise levels.

Dispute over noise levels

Mr Steele says Ineos and the council dispute the appropriate noise limits for daytime and nighttime. The council has proposed 50db during the day and 37 for night, Mr Steele says. Mr Steele says Ineos disputes both limits. Mr Steele says there is “wriggle room” to the daytime limits, which allow exceeding the limit.

Jack Parker, barrister for Woodsetts Against Fracking, says an appropriate noise limit for daytime working is 50db. It is unacceptable that the levels could be exceeded and what the parties have agreed. It is completely unhelpful the way this has come forward, Mr Parker says.

Mr Darby, barrister for Rotherham Council, says he should re-open his examination of Mr Lockwood to discuss this issue. “This is bonkers”, he says.

Katie Peerless, the inspector, says the statement on common ground on noise says the barrier will provide the noise attenuation required.

Mr Darby asks whether there are any other paragraphs in the statement on common ground on noise that Ineos will backtrack on. Mr Steele rejects that Ineos is backtracking. It is incredibly unhelpful to raise this now, Mr Darby says.

Previous noise conditions

Mr Steele says council officers had previously suggested a daytime noise limit of 55db.

Inquiry decisions

Mr Steele, for Ineos, refers to the inspector’s decision in the inquiry for the Bramleymoor Lane proposed shale gas site. Mr Steele says the council asked for a nighttime level of 35 and the company wanted 42db.

Mr Steele says the limit to be set may not be the lowest observed adverse effect. Mr Lockwood says this does not follow because at the Preston New Road inquiry the nighttiime noise limit was lower.

Mr Lockwood says from an acoustic point of view, the duration of noise is not relevant.

Mr Lockwood says the judgement in the inquiries are planning judgements. He can’t say whether he agrees or disagrees with the inspectors’ decisions because he is an acoustic specialist, not making a planning judgement.

Mr Steele says the circumstances in the Preston New Road case are different from those at Woodsetts. Mr Lockwood agrees.

Conditions and agreement between the parties

Mr Steele refers to proposed conditions. Mr Darby, barrister for the council, says these are a working draft, not a proposal. It is not a useful line of questioning, Mr Darby says.

The draft document has a level of 70db for five consecutive working days. This then drops to 62db. The 70db relates to construction of an access road, Mr Steele says, and is consistent with planning policy guidance for minerals. The site construction noise limit is 55db, Mr Steele says, and 50db for drilling. The limit for drilling in the evening is 46db and 37db at night. The company disagrees with the nighttiime limit, Mr Steele says.

Mr Steele suggests that Ineos would meet the draft conditions for daytime noise during site construction without the noise barrier. Mr Lockwood agrees.

Mr Steele says if the condition for dayttime noise was 50db then no barrier would be allowed. If the condition was 55db then a 2m barrier would be sufficient, Mr Steele says. Mr Lockwood agrees. A 2m barrier would reduce the noise level to 51db Mr Steele says. Mr Steele asks whether a 2m barrier is justified by a difference of 1db,which no one could tell the difference.

A 3m barrier would reduce the noise to 48db, Mr Steele says. He puts it to Mr Lockwood that this is why the 3m barrier is needed. Mr Steele suggests that the full 3m may not be required. Mr Lockwood agrees.

Mr Lockwood adds that talks between noise witnesses concluded that a barrier was required and that the basis of the discussions was that the barrier would be 3m. Mr Steele says the inspector will need to consider other evidence before deciding whether a barrier was needed.

11.23am Inquiry resumes

11.10am Break

The inquiry resumes at 11.20am

9.32am Evidence from council noise witness

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Anthony Lockwood, Rotherham Borough Council noise witness, 18 June 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Jon Darby, barrister for Rotherham Borough Council, introduces noise consultant, Andrew Lockwood, to give evidence on noise impacts.

Mr Lockwood says he has advised the council on the appeal since April 2019.

Mr Darby takes Mr Lockwood through a series of documents and policies on noise.

Local planning policy

He tells the inquiry that local planning policy requires developers to submit noise mitigation at the time of the planning application. He says Ineos submitted no specific mitigation at the time of the application.

National Planning Policy Framework

Mr Lockwood says the NPPF takes an overview of the issues on noise that need to be taken into account. It puts no numbers or thresholds on noise limits, he says.

Noise policy statement for England

Mr Lockwood says the document has three aims:

  • to avoid significant impacts on health and quality of life
  • mitigate and minimise adverse impacts of health and quality of life
  • where possible, to contribute to improvements on health.

Again, he says there are no limits

Planning practice guidelines on noise and minerals

Mr Lockwood says planning guidance on noise looks at various levels of noise. He says the SOAL, significant observed adverse levels, would be different at different locations.

The minerals planning guidelines gives specific guidance on what is acceptable noise levels. It sets maximum noise levels for daytime, evening and noise limits.

The nighttime noise limit is 42 dba, which should not be exceeded in any circumstances, Mr Lockwood says.

The minerals planning guidelines (PPGM) do not prescribe methods for defining the different measures of noise.

British Standard 4142

BS4142 has been around for a long time and looks at industrial and commercial noise, Mr Lockwood says. It is clearly relevant to the application, he says. It has a way of assessing industrial noise. It is used for assessing noise outside buildings.

Mr Lockwood says PPGM takes precedence over BS 4142 but PPGM does not provide comprehensive guidance on all relevant noise matters. For example, it refers to significant observed adverse effect level (SOAEL) and lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) but provides no methodology for quantifying them. In such situations, the guidance of BS 4142:2014 is both relevant and helpful.

British Standard 8233

Mr Lockwood says BS8233 is concerned with noise inside buildings and is used by councils to assess noise on rooms in homes. It is particularly relevant for noise without particular characteristics.

Mr Lockwood is asked whether the noise from the shale gas site is likely to trigger an emotional reaction. Mr Lockwood replies:

“I think it is highly likely that it will.”

Mr Lockwood says noise that does not fluctuate much, like a drilling rig, it doesn’t matter the period that the noise is measured.

World Health Organisation guidelines

The WHO community noise document is the outcome of studies of the impact of noise on people’s health, the inquiry hears.

The WHO document is of limited value because most of the studies were looking at road traffic, aircraft and rail noise, Mr Lockwood says. It is less relevant than BS 4142, he adds.

Mr Lockwood says WHO recommends to avoid sleep disturbance noise in bedrooms should not exceed 30 dba.

WHO also focuses on vulnerable sub-groups. Mr Lockwood says residents of Berne Square fall into the examples of vulnerable people referred to by WHO. A lower level of noise than 30dba is preferred for sensitive people, Mr Lockwood adds.

WHO Night Noise Guidelines for Europe

Mr Lockwood says this document deals specifically with the impacts of noise on sleep.

He says the guidelines say nighttime noise outside houses should be limited to 40db.

The guidelines acknowledge that elderly people are more vulnerable to noise because their sleep patterns become disturbed.

Mr Lockwood says 40db outside is equivalent to the lowest observed adverse effect level.  The outside level is reached by taking the inside noise level of 19db and adding to it the  21db sound reduction through the facade.

Mr Lockwood says Steve Fraser, the Ineos noise expert, has not applied the noise criteria correctly. Ineos has not taken into account that people will sleep with their window. This would reduce the limit for outside noise to 29-34db.

British Standard 5228

The inquiry hears that this standard is for construction work so it is relevance to the construction of the proposed access track.

Ineos said the construction work would not exceed the noise limit of 65db laq or 62db free field. This limit would, however, not be met for residents of Berne Square, the sheltered housing bungalow which backs onto the proposed access track.

Noise conditions

At the application stage, Mr Lockwood says Rotherham Borough Council had proposed a noise limit of 75db at the facade of the bungalows during the construction phase of the access track. This was not an appropriate limit, he says.

The environmental report was predicting up to 81dba and so would not comply with the council condition, Mr Lockwood says.

I believe the council was entirely justified to refuse the application. A level of 81 dba in a garden would be horrendous. 81dba is roughly three times as high as 65dba, the limit in the British Standards.

Companies are required to provide ear protection to workers exposed to 80dba. To have that level of noise in a garden is absurd, Mr Lockwood says.

At that stage, Ineos was not proposing any mitigation, he adds.

Noise barrier

The inquiry hears that a report by Eversheds for Ineos indicates that the noise levels could be reduced from 81db by various scenarios, including a noise barrier.

Mr Lockwood says even with the 9ft noise barrier, levels would remain above the recommended noise.

Ineos’s expert has said “noise from the site access track construction will not exceed 65 dB LAeq,1hour freefield under any circumstances …”.

Mr Lockwood says:

[this] is both misleading and untrue. It is misleading because he is comparing a predicted free-field level with a limit expressed as a facade level, and it is untrue, because in his report dated 24 April, he predicts a level of 66 dB LAeq,1hour outside 36 Berne Square.

It is also interesting to note that in the same paragraph, he refers to the 65 dB LAeq limit in BS 5228:2009 as “advisory”.

It is not described that way in the document. Indeed, the document states “… if the total noise exceeds the appropriate category value, then a significant effect is deemed to occur”. He therefore appears to be obfuscating to disguise the fact that even with a 3 metre high fence in place, his predicted noise levels are still not fully compliant with the threshold given in BS 5228.”

Mr Lockwood says the original environmental report had no noise barrier. In April, Ineos predicted noise levels with a 3m barrier. In June, another report predicted lower noise levels than the environmental report without a noise barrier. The level of noise from noise sources appears to have changed, Mr Lockwood says.

Mr Lockwood is asked whether a 3m barrier is

It is most definitely desireable. But even with a 3m barrier we don’t get down to the required levels.

You need the barrier for the whole of stage 1 (site construction), stage 2 (drilling) and possibly stage 5 (decommissioning), Mr Lockwood says.

Without it [the barrier] the noise levels are excessive.

Mr Darby asks how the noise would be monitored. Mr Lockwood says the noise monitoring should be available in real time online to the council. The best location may not be possible because residents of Berne Square may not want a noise monitor in their garden.

Drilling noise

Jon Darby, for the council, says the drilling will be 24-hours a day. Mr Lockwood says the level of noise from drill has an uncertainty of +/- 3db.

Ineos has said there will be no significant impact on quality of life, Mr Darby says.

Mr Lockwood says planning guidance state that noise limits should not exceed 42dba free field at a noise sensitive property. Ineos is considering 42dba as an acceptable level, he says. 42dba laeq 1 hr free field is not an appropriate level for the lowest observable adverse effect level (loael). The loael should be lower than 42db, Mr Lockwood says.

The background noise level, identified by Evershed is 33db. The rig would generate 42db the compan says. At the most conservative, the increased noise would have significant observed adverse effects, Mr Lockwood says.

Mr Lockwood says another survey recorded a background noise level of 20db. If this were used, the increased noise from the rig would generate complaints, he says.

You could argue a case for a night time noise level as low as 34dba. But the council has agreed that a limit of 37db would be appropriate, Mr Lockwood says.

Ineos says this limit will impose an unreasonable burden on it.

Unreasonable burden

Mr Darby asks what evidence has Ineos provided to show that a 37db limit would be unreasonable. Mr Lockwood says he has not seen any evidence that this limit would reduce Ineos’s market position for rig selection.

Mr Lockwood says it is not all about rig selection. Ground equipment could be shielded, he says.


Mr Lockwood concludes his thought on proposed mitigation.

Stage 1 (construction): 3m high barrier is the optimum option should be the development be allowed. The barrier would be need to be more than 2m to get a reasonable mitigation. He says noise would not be compliant with policy even with the barrier. But this would be for a few days.

Stage 2 (drilling): The barrier would need to be retained. Without it, noise levels at houses from vehicles on the track would approach 65db. The guidance says it should be 50dba (no more than 10 degrees above background). The barrier could reduce noise to 50dba. The 37dba nighttime noise limit could be justified by appeal decisions and guidance.

Stage 5 (decommissioning): Noise would be very similar to stage 1 and the barrier would be needed.

9.30am Inquiry resumes

Inspector, Katie Peerless, opens today’s session of the inquiry.

Ms Peerless says the site visit, held on Friday last week, was very helpful.

Reporting at this inquiry has been made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers


14 replies »

  1. Both Cuadrilla and Egdon have submitted plans with low level noise limits. Once the plans were passed they requested to increase noise levels with no reasoning other than the lower levels were ‘unnecessary’ or ‘places an unreasonable restriction on the operation’.
    Either they don’t know how their industry needs to operate or they have a serious planning issue that they can’t get round.

  2. John: there is a negotiation on any new and existing planning permission. Have you never had to deal with a planning authority and been renegotiated?,

  3. This fence is obscene. Would Jim Ratcliffe allow such a thing to spoil his view. We are facing a climate emergency. We must stop burning fossil fuels, transition fairly to renewables and cease treating the English countryside as a sacrifice zone.

    • FI – I agree we need to stop burning fossil fuels. How is protesting at the WN site going to reduce the amount of fossil fuels burnt? Why don’t you go and do lock-ons outside petrol stations or power plants? Or better still go and protest in Russia and China

      • ‘Or better still go and protest in Russia and China’

        Less than 1% of our gas comes from Russia (dept for BEIS)

        However the Chinese UK shale gas connections are deeply concerning

        China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) -> Kerogen -> AJ Lucas -> Cuadrilla

        China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) -> Nexen -> Igas

        • John – I wasn’t writing about the UKs gas consumption as that is totally irrelevant on the scale of things. I was making the point that Russia and China are major emitters of GHGs. I also don’t quite see why you’re worried about the Chinese shale gas industry – surely their coal industry industry is far more concerning. It seems your obsession with shale gas makes you blind to the bigger picture. It’s always worth remembering that fracking shale is the safest way of getting hydrocarbons out of the ground.

          • In the scheme of things all relevant, the UK is one of the smallest contributors in the world population producing harmful GHG’s! John I’m not sure where you are going with connecting China to the UK oil and gas industry to Shale Gas?

            Id be more worried we have signed up the pledge reducing GHG emissions by 2050, and yet we are a speck on the earth. Our contribution whether we carry it through or not is eclipsed by the growth in chinese coal fired power plants, especially ones built to power energy export to india!!

    • Fi a climate emergency?, Where! Who says? Gullible nonsense stimulated by the media to engage the sheep in to action! Baa-baaa!!
      P.S. how much are the extinction rebellion and greenpeace founder management making from their memberships!!
      Enough to live comfortably i am sure, A’hem…

  4. Exactly, Eli-Goth.

    I received a planning variation application for the local housing development a week ago in the post, and that is half finished.

    I’m not sure this constant wheeling out of what is routine to most people as somehow unusual does the antis any favours. It suggests either they live in a parallel universe, or not in the UK-or both.

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