Live news updates: Day 5 of inquiry into Ineos shale gas plans at Woodsetts

190530 Woodsetts screen plan

Revised plans for the Woodsetts site entrance and a noise barrier. Source: Ineos proof of evidence to the public inquiry

The inquiry into Ineos shale gas proposals is expected to hear from planning witnesses and members of the public today.

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,  Day 3 and Day 4

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.

  • A condition that prevents a scheme going ahead would be an unreasonable burden, says Ineos
  • The sound barrier measuring 3mx270m would have an adverse effect on openness in the Green Belt
  • But it would meet planning policy guidelines, the council planning witness says
  • Woodsetts scheme with barrier is inappropriate development in the Green Belt, says council planning witness
  • Woodsetts Against Fracking does not have a membership for self protection following Ineos injunction, witness tells inquiry
  • Ineos compares garden fairy lights to rig illumination
  • Woodsetts residents are already experiencing stress from the Ineos plans

4.40pm Inquiry adjourns

The inquiry resumes at 9.30am on Thursday 20 June 2019.

Resident question

Roger Evans, a member of public, asks for 3m mark to be added on the wall at the inquiry.

The inspector says people have a measuring tape at home to work this out.

4pm Ineos planning evidence

Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, introduces Matthew Shepherd, the planning witness for Ineos.

Mr Shepherd says there will no issues with the Ineos plans from noise, loss of sleep, emissions, light pollution, traffic, loss privacy, intrusive odour, loss of amenity,

The development will cause change but not loss of amenity, he says.

Users of the public rights of way will have a more “intense” experience of the development, he says. But it will be time-limited, he says because they will not spend long on the public rights way.

There is not likely to be an effect of health and the protected status of some residents has been considered, he says.

I do not consider there would be loss of amenity to justify refusal, he says.

There will be low level economic benefit from the data, Mr Shepherd says.

The proposed development complies with the development plan and there is no material considerations  that outweigh the benefits, he says.

The development plan and material considerations weigh in favour of the scheme and the proposal should be granted permission.

Ineos note

Mr shepherd turns to a note sent to the inquiry on noise on 17 June 2019.

Noise limit He says Ineos regards a night time noise limit below 42b would be an unreasonable burden.

Public rights of way A noise barrier would not impede the public rights of way network, Mr Shepherd says.

Noise barrier Ineos says the landscape impact of the sound barrier has to be weighed against the benefit of noise reduction. The fence would be present for 10 months. It is necessary to deal with noise impacts. The noise fence does not reduce openness in the Green Belt, he says. It is of short-duration (10 months), limited installation and reversible, he says. The Green Belt is a much longer term designation.

Green Belt Mr Shepherd says the noise barrier should be considered as an integral part of the scheme. The original scheme included a 2m heras fence that would have had an impact on the landscape.

Access track Ineos says it would use banksmen at the site entrance and on the gate at the access road. They would manage access along the shared part of the track.

Very special circumstances Ineos says these include government support for shale gas exploration, including written ministerial statements.

Prejudice Mr Shepherd says Rotherham Council did not raise noise issues until the September planning meeting. After that, Ineos considered the noise baseline and and mitigation.  The 3m barrier was submitted in May after there had been discussions between the parties on the background noise. It was uploaded on 15 and 23 May. The fence was publicised by WAF, on DrillOrDrop and the Guardian, Mr Shepherd says. People still have a chance to make comments about the fence, Mr Shepherd says.

Ineos considers there has been no practical prejudice to participants in the inquiry, he says.

Mr Shepherd says the fence is not a significant change to the development. A barrier of some kind would have been installed as part of conditions had the application been granted last year.

3.54pm Review of Woodsetts Against Fracking planning witness

Jack Parker, barrister for Woodsetts Against Fracking, re-examines Katie Atkinson, planning witness for Woodsetts Against Fracking.

Mr Parker asks Ms Atkinson what the noise condition would be. Ms Atkinson says the daytime limit would be 50db.

3.43pm Questions for Woodsetts Against Fracking planning witness

Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, cross-examines Katie Atkinson, the planning witness for WAF.

Ms Atkinson is asked why the timber sound barrier is incongruous in the Green Belt. She says timber garden fences are of a different degree to what is proposed by Ineos.

Mineral extraction in the Green Belt

Mr Steele says mineral extraction is appropriate providing there is preservation of openness.

Ms Atkinson agrees, providing the scheme does not conflict with the surrounding landscape.

Mr Steele says very special circumstances can permit mineral extraction in the Green Belt.

Ms Atkinson says she disagrees with Ineos and Rotherham Council over very special circumstances.

Government support for shale gas

Mr Steele asks what other development which has this level of government support. Ms Atkinson suggests housing.

She agrees with Mr Steele’s statement that the level of government support is unique.

That makes is a special circumstance, Mr Steele suggests. Ms Atkinson disagrees. The NPPF does not refer to support in a written ministerial statement.

Mr Steele says the sound barrier would provided environmental benefits to residents at Berne Square. It would allow a lower noise threshold, Ms Atkinson says.

Mr Steele suggests that a solid voice would reduce dust levels. Ms Atkinson says it could stop some blowing. A dust management condition is not dependent on a sound barrier, she says.

WAF evidence

Mr Steele says if Ineos and Rotherham borough council evidence was preferred then the WAF transport case would be lost.

If Ineos noise evidence was preferred to WAF noise evidence then this issue would be lost, Mr Steele suggests.

Ms Atkinson says there would still be the construction of the acoustic barrier and the access track.

Mr Steele puts it to Ms Atkinson that the WAF noise witness said the scheme could be supported with mitigation.

Jon Darby, for Rotherham, says it is not helpful to question on the basis that my case is correct your case is wrong.

Mr Steele says there are a significant number of policies in favour of the scheme. If the noise and traffic cases disappear there is an overwhelming reason for approval, he says.

Ms Atkinson says the acoustic fence has a bearing on the planning balance and the decision.

Erection of the fence

Ms Atkinson says she would not feel comfortable about making a decision on oral evidence.

3.01pm Evidence from Woodsetts Against Fracking planning witness

Jack Parker, barrister for Woodsetts Against Frack, introduces Katie Atkinson, the group’s planning witness.

Ms Atkinson says she has represented Frack Free Ryedale, since 2015. She also represented Lancashire County Council at the Preston New Road/Roseacre Wood inquiry and North Lincolnshire Council on the Wressle inquiry.

Planning policy

Ms Atkinson says the paragraph 205 of the National Planning Policy Framework requires decision makers to give great weight to the economic benefits of mineral extraction.

There are no economic benefits of the scheme, Ms Atkinson says, because there will be no mineral extraction.

The inquiry hears that paragraph 209a of the NPPF has been quashed. This required mineral planning authorities to recognise the benefits of onshore oil and gas development for energy security and transition to a low carbon economy.

There has since been a written ministerial statement restating government support for shale gas.

Ms Atkinson says greater weight should be given to the NPPF and the development plan, than to a written ministerial statement.

Noise impact on Berne Square

Ms Atkinson says the NPPF requires operators to minimise noise impacts.

Ms Atkinson says the detrimental impact on Berne Square residents is a reason for refusal of the scheme.

During the drilling phase, there are concerns about vehicle movements on the access track during the day and drilling noise at night, Mr Parker says.

Ms Atkinson says the noise could be controlled only by condition of noise limited to 50db during the day. This would require a noise screen.

She says there is no written evidence that the barrier can be constructed and with adequate noise impact.

Without a barrier, the noise levels would be unacceptable, Ms Atkinson says.

Noise barrier and Green Belt

Ms Atkinson says the noise barrier would not preserve the openness of the Green Belt.

It is proposed to be 3m high and 270m long. It would be completely incongruous in the rural landscape. It would be a significant change and harmful, she says.

Ineos had proposed installing 2m high Heras fencing at the same location. Ms Atkinson says you cannot compare the two. Heras fencing is see-through. It is a different magnitude, she says.

In the application, there was no suggestion that the Heras fencing would be covered, Mr Parker says. What impact would that have, he asks.

Ms Atkinson says this would substantially alter the effect on openness.

If the sound barrier did not preserve the openness of the Green Belt, it would be contrary to planning policy and would be in appropriate development, she says.

Ms Atkinson says government support for shale gas in a Written Ministerial Statement  does not warrant exceptional circumstances for breaching Green Belt policy.

She adds that the sound barrier is mitigation for a noise problem with the Woodsetts application and does not constitute exceptional circumstances.

Ms Atkinson says there is no comparison with the Bramleymoor Lane circumstances. She says the duration of the fence,which could be for 10 months or more, does not also constitute exceptional circumstances.

Other sites or access routes

Ms Atkinson says the inspector should consider whether other sites would be more appropriate.

She adds:

There is no evidence that the site access could not be routed away from Berne Square

Policy conflict

Ms Atkinson

She says:

I consider that the proposed development conflicts with the relevant parts of the NPPF, particularly paragraphs 180 and 205. Furthermore, the proposals conflict with the
RMBC Sites and Policy Local Plan Policy SP52.

Ms Atkinson adds:

adjacent PROWs are readily accessible to the residents of Berne Square, some of whom only
manage to walk from their home to the ‘Holly Bush’ and return due to the limiting extent of
their medical conditions. As such, an unacceptable impact on residential amenity cannot be ruled out.

I conclude that the residents of Berne Square will, by reason of their health needs, be particularly sensitive to noise and other matters which impact on their occupation of their homes by reason of the appeal proposals.

Further, by reason of their health needs, the residents may be particularly affected by any development proposals which might impede their ability to use the PROW network adjacent to the appeal site.

The Appellant has not put forward any assessment or evidence of those matters and they were not taken into account by the Council at the application stage. WAF submits that, absent any evidence as to what the particular impact of the proposals on those residents of Berne Square will be in light of their particular needs means that the Inspector will not be able to
discharge her obligations pursuant to s.149 EA 2010. Ultimately, however, it is for the Appellant to satisfy her in this regard.

Ms Atkinson says the potential adverse risk to highway safety and to the amenity of residents on Berne Square as a result of noise and general disturbance cannot satisfactorily be ruled out or mitigated by conditions.

She says:

The application conflicts with the Development Plan and the relevant sections of the NPPF

The appeal should be dismissed.

3pm Inquiry resumes

2.50pm Break

The inquiry resumes at 3pm.

2.47pm Resident’s statement – Cllr Clive Jepson

The Rotherham ward councillor, Clive Jepson, says he has had no letters asking him to support the Ineos development.

He says the effects of the scheme on the residents of Woodsetts will not be reversible.

2.39pm Resident’s statement – Fiona Hopkinson

Mrs Hopkinson says her concerns are about the bridleway. She has stables horses near the access track. The horses are safe there, she says.

With constant lights, noise and lorries, together with the wash that would be behind the stables, it will be constant noise, she says.

They will be constantly upset. They are sensitive animals. They will get upset and injure themselves.

Why can’t you redirect the access away from the stables. There is another access further up the road. That would mean lorries would not come through the village.

Why does the wash bay have to be directly behind our stables?

Mrs Hopkinson says she has hacked on local roads for 40 years. They will be trapped in their own field, she says. Local riders will all feel local bridleways will be unsafe.

She says her family has created an outdoor school and stables. She says the horses are no longer going to be able to access the bridleways.

Mrs Hopkinson says she is concerned about protesters protesting at her gate and around the stables. We are going to feel unsafe.

She says there will also be disturbance from fencing contractors.

Mrs Hopkinson says the Tinker Lane site had large number of protesters. Where are these protesters going to camp, she asks.

We feel this will cause immense difficulty for our horses. Security of the business will be affected, she says. The bridleway will be unusable, the road will be more dangerous.

The disturbance from the lorries will make us prisoners in our own site

2.26pm Resident’s statement – Cllr Monica Carroll

Cllr Carroll is vice chair of Woodsetts Parish Council.

Cllr Carroll acknowledges and pays tribute to the work of Woodsetts Against Fracking. The group has been professional and the council offers sincere thanks, she says.

The parish council has the lives of residents at heart of everything it does, she says.

The application is not just about the residents of Berne Square – though the council is conscious of the effects on them – it is about the lives of residents in the whole village.

Cllr Carroll says the Ineos health witness accepted that wellbeing was an aspect of health.

Human rights will be stripped away. People will no longer be able to open their windows at night, walking to the village and on public footpaths. One woman will lose her freedom to use her right of way, instead relying on a stranger to give her permission.

Ineos will seek a closure of the public footpath if protesters arrive, she says. A footpath was closed at Kirby Misperton and a road closed at West Newton, she says.

Cllr Carroll says some traffic issues have not been covered.

She says there is a nursery/Primary school running parallel to Worksop Road, which would be used by the lorries. Ineos told the inquiry there was no school on the route.

Having a school crossing patrol has become essential, Cllr Carroll says. There have been three misses a month, she says.

The council has become concerned about traffic problems at the junction of Grange Avenue and Worksop Road, she says. People who use the shops park where they can, she says.

This is a difficult situation that would be made worse.

20 minutes would be added to commuting journeys, she says, because of lorry convoys and delays.

Cllr Carroll says there have been many additions and alterations but very little communication.

She describes Ineos as a “spoilt child kicking a toy out of the way”.

She says Ineos suggested a family moved their driveway to another location and that the 30mph sign could be moved.

It appears that Ineos expects to get permission to drill at all costs.

Ineos has accused other witnesses of spreading fear, Cllr Carroll says.

There is already a great deal of fear felt by residents, and concern has grown considerably due to the late change in the plans, she says.

Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, says he can’t remember suggesting Christine Timmons moved her driveway. Cllr Carroll says this was whe Mrs Timmons gave evidence.

2.22pm Resident’s statement – Cllr Jennifer Whysall

Cllr Whysall, a member of Rotherham Council’s planning board, tells the inquiry it is incomprehensible that the access route is sited so close to Berne Square.

The people are all vulnerable and will be subjected to noise and fumes of lorries, she says.

Why is this acceptable, she asks. Are they thought not to matter. That thought is abhorrent.

Those residents matter to all the residents in Woodsetts. They shoudl matter, every one of them. If they don’t I despair.

1.52pm Resident’s statement – Dr Tim Thornton

Dr Thornton, a GP, tells the inquiry his practice covered the Kirby Misperton area in North Yorkshire. He says he has always been interested in vulnerability.

He has worked on the evidence base of industrialisation over the past five years ago. He is a district councillor in Ryedale.

Dr Thornton says the application at Woodsetts has sidelined science and failed on sustainability.

He says vulnerable people experience more harm and disease for the same level pollutants. Children are particularly vulnerable. Multiple pollutants multiply to add to poor health.

It is difficult to predict how noise and pollution will impact on health of vulnerable people but it is concerning, he says. Even when pollution emissions are conditioned there is flexibility upwards, he says. He is concerned about “wriggle room”, unreasonable burden on an industry”, “nick and tuck”. This is why people need to expect higher levels than conditions.

There has been a reluctance to enforce traffic management, noise limits or methane emissions at other sites, he says. It should not be down to residents to monitor or complain, he says.

A study of night noise levels around Frankfurt Airport found unexpected links to heart disease, Dr Thornton says.

Gases released with methane during drilling can have impacts on breathing, Dr Thornton says. Recent studies have found increased methane emissions in oil and gas drilling areas. Wells leak, he says, quoting Richard Davies, of the Refine project.

The gas emissions could lead to heart issues and breathing problems.

The well should be established considerable distance from homes and schools. The impact on health and wellbeing should then be compared with a baseline study. If it is seen to be safe at a distance, then the setback distance could be reduced, Dr Thornton says.

He says he is not aware of any special monitoring of health and wellbeing. At Kirby Misperton, there were complaints about inabiilty to sleep during drilling from people living 820m away. There were 15 breaches of the night noise limits at this home. But there was no enforcement of the noise management plan.

The houses in Woodsetts would be half the distance from the homes in Kirby Misperton from that well.

Dr Thornton says he was told that it would be down to him to bring a civil case against the company of conditions. At Kirby Misperton, the traffic management plan was breached daily. No one took action to enforce it.

The background rural levels of vehicle emissions, changing from that typical of rural setting to urban. Emissions spiked at 180 microgrammes when the limit is 200. Vulnerable people are advised at this level to stay inside and close windows, Dr Thornton says.

Dr Thornton says residents of Berne Square potential impacts would include noise, vehicle emissions, stress, feelings of loss of mental wellbeing, risking deterioration of physical health. Dr Thornton says:

These are vulnerable people who somewhere along the line have been deemed irrelevant

One resident with poor physical and mental health has particularly sensitivity to noise. Another has conditions exacerbated by stress. The road is 40m from her home. There is a complex mix of physical and mental problems.

If Ineos want to test the deep strata at this location, a way should be found to access it through a different location. Has Ineos really considered the impact on children?, Dr Thornton says.

Ineos turned down the proposal for a 500m setback distance from homes in North Yorkshire. Dr Thornton says Ineos is ignoring the vulnerable residents. This isn’t right, Dr Thornton. These are vulnerable people who are expressing their concern. We are not going to monitor them. We are going to rely on computer modelling.

I cannot see how it is possible to reject standard setbacks and also these specific vulnerable people

Greg Clark would be disappointed that social aspects are being ignored in favour of commercial interests. Localism has been abandoned. The precautionary principle has been applied, he says.

Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, asks whether Dr Thornton is an anti-fracking campaigner. Dr Thornton says this inquiry is not about fracking. He says he describes himself as a concerned health profession.

Mr Steele asks whether Dr Thornton refers to fracking on his Facebook page or email. Dr Thornton says no. You and your son are anti-fracking campaigners. My son is, Dr Thornton says.

Mr Steele asks Dr Thornton what he considers has been applied for at Woodsetts. What is the nature of the operation, he asks. Dr Thornton describes the access track and to drill and exploratory well and test.

Dr Thornton says

Any reasonable people – a boy scout or one’s mother in law – would say to swing lorries past homes of vulnerable people doesn’t look right.

We don’t know the impact, he says. We can’t refer to impacts from other countries. We just have to look at what happens in this country. All we can do is to put these sites away from vulnerable people.

Mr Steele asks whether it is reasonable to say that Ineos has ignored people in Berne Square. Dr Thornton says if they have looked at vulnerable people they have not made the right decision. Dr Thornton says he is happy to stand by his statement that Ineos has ignored them.

1.46pm Resident’s statements – Sarah Wilkinson

Mrs Wilkinson is speaking on behalf of the Woodsetts pre-school. She says the group has been in the village for more than 50 years. It operates between 9am and 11.30am, taking schools from five villages.

The outside space is next to the Dinnington Road junction, the proposed lorry route.

It is appropriate that the inquiry is at Riverside House in Rotherham. The building  also houses the Multi-Agency Safe Guarding team, which works to ensure children grow up in safe and effective care.

Mrs Wilkinson says children are more vulnerable to polluted air. They are the level of car exhaust. Their lungs could be damaged or they could develop asthma from air pollution. Air pollution makes asthma works, she says.

There will be an impact from increased emissions on this vulnerable group, she says. Even small changes can have a big impact.

It is unjust that the commercial interests of Ineos can take precedent over the impacts on our children.

She urges the inspector to safeguard the air and unique village life.

1.45pm Inquiry resumes

12.55pm Break

The inquiry resumes at 1.45pm.

12.52pm Review of Woodsetts Against Fracking local evidence

Jack Parker, barrister for Woodsetts Against Fracking (WAF), re-examines Richard Scholey, a local witness for the group.

Mr Parker asks Mr Scholey why the group had posted a picture of a mock-up of the 3m sound barrier.

Mr Scholey says the group wanted to get an idea of what effect would be on the view.

Was it acceptable that you had to do this because Ineos had not done so, Mr Parker asks.

Mr Scholey replies:

It is unacceptable. We still don’t have a full and proper understanding of the barrier.

Mr Parker puts it to Mr Scholey that Ineos was suggesting that the photo was a way of consulting people about the proposed barrier. Mr Scholey says:

It is totally inappropriate to suggest that a black plastic sheet suspended on two garden canes is an acceptable way to consult.

Mr Parker asks what confidence was there that Woodsetts and neighbouring residents had a proper consultation on the barrier. Mr Scholey says:

No confidence whatsoever.

12.34pm Questions to Woodsetts Against Fracking local evidence

Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, cross-examines Richard Scholey, of Woodsetts Against Fracking.


Mr Steele asks how many members does WAF have. Mr Scholey says WAF doesn’t have a membership list. He says it was formed in response to the Ineos injunction.

“We don’t have a membership structure for reasons of self-protection.”

People were concerned about giving their details for fear of being part of a legal action by Ineos, Mr Scholey says.


Mr Steele asks whether WAF has organised public meetings. Yes, Mr Scholey.

Early meetings were exceptionally well attended. 30 people attended the most recent meetings.

You feel you represent the community, Mr Steele asks. Mr Scholey says the group conducted surveys. WAF believes its opposition to the development represents the wider community.

Facebook page

Mr Steele asks how many people follow WAF on Facebook. Mr Scholey says there were about 960. The vast majority are affiliated to other groups,Mr Scholey adds. Mr Steele says a mock-up of the sound barrier appeared on Facebook. This appeared on DrillOrDrop, Mr Steele says.

WAF meets regularly with the parish council and the women’s institute, Mr Scholey agrees.

The population of the village is 1,802, Mr Steele says.

Grain stores

Mr Scholey’s family has three grain stores alongside the access track, Mr Steele tells the inquiry. There are large grain drying plant outside the stores, Mr Steele says. It makes noise, Mr Steele suggests. I can’t hear it from my house, Mr Scholey says.

Mr Steele asks if Scholey’s Farm or also contractors use the grain stores. Mr Scholey says he has no involvement or arrangements of Scholey Farms Ltd.

Mr Steele suggests that trucks of significant size use the access track to the grain store.

Mr Scholey says there are 63 lorries per year visiting the grain store.

Mr Steele asks how many tractors and trailers visit the grain store. Mr Scholey says he doesn’t know.

Mr Steele says the access track is not surfaced. There is no dust mitigation, he adds.


Mr Steele asks if there is street lighting in Berne Square and flood lights at stables nearby. Yes, says Mr Scholey.

Mr Steele asks if a resident in Berne Square has a significant number of lights like a “glorified Christmas tree” in their garden.

Mr Scholey says it is irrelevant to compare fairy lights in a garden to rig lighting. We have control to turn lights on and off in our garden, Mr Scholey says.

The residents of Berne Square will not have control over rig and site lighting, he says.

11.55am Woodsetts Against Fracking local evidence

Richard Scholey WAF

Jack Parker, barrister for Woodsetts Against Fracking, introduces Richard Scholey  (right), a former police inspector and resident of Woodsetts for most of his life.

Mr Scholey says 91% of people surveyed in Woodsetts opposed the application, he says. But he says members of Woodsetts Against Fracking cannot speak for individual residents.


Mr Parker says the inquiry has to consider the issue that members of the public had been prejudiced by the late proposal for a 3m noise barrier.

Mr Scholey says there will be residents who are not aware of the barrier who would wish to comment on it.

Mr Scholey says a public rights of way survey by WAF showed that people who were concerned about the proposal lived outside of the village. I doubt that they know about the acoustic barrier, he says.

Berne Square

1904 Woodsetts WAF2

Aerial photo of the proposed Ineos shale gas site at Woodsetts (brown field on right of picture). Photo: Woodsetts Against Fracking

Mr Scholey tells the inquiry about sheltered housing Berne Square, off Dinnington Road, alongside the site field.

Many of the bungalow residents are aged and a large proportion suffer from a range of complex health issues including, heart and lung conditions, cancer, anxiety and depression, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Asthma, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, seizures, hypertension, epilepsy, arthritis and dementia.

All residents speak of the anxiety they are experiencing at the prospect of the development going ahead and most are convinced that it will exacerbate their condition and be seriously detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

it is a sad fact that for some of the residents of Berne Square, the 5 year duration could represent a large proportion, or even the remainder of their lives. In these circumstances, the development, for them, could effectively be permanent.

He says WAF is concerned that noise, dust, light, vibration and emissions from the site and traffic on the access track will exacerbating existing health conditions of residents. They could suffer health impacts, Mr Scholey says.

Mr Scholey says there will be an impact on residential amenity and the quality of life of the residents of Woodsetts and particularly those of Berne Square.

People are already experiencing stress – everyone in this room is already experiencing stress of the development, Mr Scholey says:

It is not helped by the goal posts being moved.

The change to the access layout, the introduction of a fence that we knew nothing about and still don’t. All this uncertainty erodes trust in the appeallant and generates more stress.

Everyone agrees there will be some adverse impacts on residents, Mr Scholey says. Even Ineos’s noise witness says he would not have chosen this access track.

Residents have told the inquiry they need to speak with the windows open. They have a choice, Mr Scholey says, to suffer the noise or the impacts of sleeping without the windows open.

The whole of Woodsetts enjoys dark skies to the west, Mr Scholey says. All the plans talk about the necessity to light the site. There is no information about lighting the track.

He says all houses overlooking the site will be affected, not just Berne Square.

The view from Berne Square of open skies and rolling fields will disappear, Mr Scholey says.

The views from the public right of way will be lost. The simple pleasure of walking to the Holly Bush for Berne Square residents will also be lost, Mr Scholey says.

Noise, emissions, dust and a loss of view will diminish the pleasure for people sitting in their gardens.

Construction of the barrier

Mr Scholey says there is considerable uncertainty about how the barrier will be built.

Mr Scholey says the Ineos planning witness submitted a technical document which talked about wind loading and substantial concrete foundations. The Ineos noise witness talked about drilling into bedrock. Ineos had talked about the soil being 1.4m. You would be lucky to get 0.5m of soil, Mr Scholey says. Below the top soil you are into friable layers of rock. To say you can drill into that bedrock to support a 3mx270m fence is “back of the fag packet” stuff.

There are a lack of details, Mr Scholey says.

These impacts on amenity are cumulative, Mr Scholey says. Take them together and consider the impact on residents who live nearby.

Ineos previously said no particular consideration should be given to residents of Berne Square, Mr Scholey says.

We have heard a lot about the unreasonable burden on Ineos, part of a multi-billion pound company.

What about the unreasonable burden on the residents of Berne Square?

[applause from the public]

Rights of way alongside site

Mr Scholey says the rights of way alongside the site link the village to special parts of countryside. They can be used by horse riders and cyclists.

They are the best views in and around the village by far.

The link to sites of special sites of scientific interest and to Chesterfield Canal.

It is part of the most popular circular walks in the village, Mr Scholey says. They avoid walking on or crossing roads, he adds.

Comparison with Harthill

Mr Scholey says the Harthill site is not comparable with Woodsetts. At Harthill, the site is about 1km from the village. At Woodsetts, the site is “on top of the village”, Mr Scholey says.

“Unaffected public rights of way”

Ineos’s planning witness says public right of way that would not be affected by the development.

Mr Scholey says one of these “alternatives” is on the opposite side of the village. It is a footpath, not a bridleway so could not be used by cyclists and horses. More than half is on roadside pavements and in places on the road. To access this walk, residents of Berne Square would have to cross Dinnington Road to access that walk, Mr Scholey says.

Another alternative walk proposed by Ineos. To access this walk, people who have to climb over high stone stiles. It is also a footpath, rather than a bridleway. Very few residents of Berne Square would be able to negotiate stone stiles.

Other options are variations or extensions of these walks, Mr Scholey says. They include crossing a golf course fairway three times and comes very close to the A57.

In terms of amenity and enjoyment, you can’t hold a candle to the route at the rear of Berne Square.

11.42am Review of council planning evidence

Jon Darby, barrister for Rotherham Council, re-examines Anthony Lowe, the council’s planning witness.

Sound fence Mr Lowe says a close-boarded fence, as proposed by Ineos as a sound barrier, would have a bigger impact on the Green Belt.

Harthill case Mr Lowe says the proximity of the proposed site to vulnerable people living in sheltered housing at Berne Square justifies at different approach from that taken at the Ineos Harthill shale gas site.

Noise Mr Darby asks if there is any evidence before the inquiry to suggest that concern about noise was an unreasonable position. No, says Mr Lowe.

11.10am Questions to council planning witness

190619 Woodsetts inq gv dod

Woodsetts public inquiry, 19 June 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Gordon Steele, barrister for Ineos, cross-examines Anthony Lowe.

190614 woodsetts inq site visit WAF1

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

Proposed sound barrier

Mr Steele says a 2m Heras fence surrounding the entire fence, at the same location as the sound barrier, down the eastern boundary of the proposal.

Mr Lowe says any fence above 2m would need permission under planning law.

Mr Steele asks which Mr Lowe would prefer to look at: a wooden boarded fence or a Heras fence. Mr Lowe says a 2m Heras fence would have less impact than a solid fence in planning terms.

A heras fence, of whatever height would preserve openness, Mr Lowe says.

Mr Lowe says a temporary 3m fence may meet the National Planning Policy Framework.


Mr Lowe says the council published information on the proposed sound barrier on the council’s witness.

Application history

Mr Lowe agrees that the environmental health department and highways officers did not object to the application in March 2018.

An objection on ecology was dropped when the application was resubmitted in September 2018. At that time, there were no objections from council departments, Mr Lowe agrees. He says recommended night time noise levels were 35 and day/evening 55db.

The inquiry hears that transport consultants were invited to represent the council at the inquiry. Mr Lowe says he was not involved in talking to the consultants. He says he was told 5 out of 6 consultants said there was no case to argue.

Mr Steele puts it to Mr Lowe that there was no reason for refusal. At the time, says Mr Lowe.

Mr Lowe says the councillor refused the application on the grounds of noise from the access track. Mr Lowe says there are also concerns about noise from the operational phase, including drilling.

Environmental benefits

Mr Lowe says the sound barrier would have an environmental benefit. He also accepts Mr Steele’s argument that resurfacing and widening the access track would have advantages.

Mr Lowe says there would be benefits from reduced road noise. A two-way entrance would have highway safety benefits.

Harthill inquiry

Mr Lowe accepts that the inspector granted consent, subject to a noise management plan.

The inquiry and the noise management plan accepted a daytime noise limit of 55db and nighttime at 42db, Mr Steele says.

Mr Lowe says at Harthill the nearest property was 700m away. Mr Steele says it doesn’t matter whether the property is close or a mile away. The level of 42db is at the nearest property.

Mr Lowe says the characteristics at Harthill are different than Woodsetts.

Duration of permission

Mr Lowe says the duration of any permission at Woodsetts was for five years. Mr Steele suggests that technology might have changed by the time of the start of work, which could be four years away. Mr Steele suggests there could be electric cars by then. [Laughter from public gallery]

10.45am Council planning witness

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Rotherham Borough Council planning witness, Anthony Lowe, 19 June 2019. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Jon Darby, barrister for Rotherham Borough Council, introduces Anthony Lowe, the council’s planning witness.

Openness of the Green Belt

The Woodsetts scheme is in the Green Belt.

Mr Darby says mineral extraction is permitted development in the Green Belt if it preserves openness.

Mr Lowe says with the 3m sound barrier it does not preserve the openness of the Green Belt.

Asked it if was appropriate development in the Green Belt, Mr Lowe says

“It is inappropriate development”

Ineos has argued that the development is justified by very special circumstances. One is the national support for shale gas.

Mr Lowe refers to the Talk Fracking ruling in the High Court, which quashed support for shale gas in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Mr Lowe accepts the barrier – 3m high and 270m long – is necessary to reduce noise from the Woodsetts scheme.

The decisions from Ineos schemes at Harthill and Bramleymoor Lane, also in the Green Belt, were not relevant, Mr Lowe says. He says those schemes did not include noise barriers.

Mr Lowe says the sound barrier would be in place for 10 months. He describes this as long time scale.

He says the Woodsetts barrier would have benefits for noise but it would have an adverse effect on openness in the Green Belt.

Mr Lowe says the decision is finely balanced.

Late information

Mr Darby asks whether the council been able to gather sufficient information.

Mr Lowe says the council has published the information from Ineos as soon as it was available. Officers were able to consult internally within the council but not with third parties.

There is considerable public interest in the case, Mr Lowe says. Whether third parties are prejudiced it is for the inspector and Woodsetts Against Fracking, Mr Lowe says.

10.30am Break

The inquiry resumes at 10.45am to hear from Rotherham Council’s planning witness.

10am Review of Ineos noise witness

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Gordon Steele (above centre), barrister for Ineos, re-examines the Steve Fraser, the company’s noise witness.

Reason to refuse

Mr Fraser says he remembers that the Woodsetts Against Fracking witness said there was  no reason to refuse the application on noise grounds. Mr Fraser says he agrees with the assessment.

Unreasonable burden

Mr Steele asks whether a condition that prevents a scheme would be considered an unreasonable burden. Mr Fraser agrees.

Mr Fraser says there is every reason why the sound barrier could be installed within the noise guidelines. He said the noise level would be 62db if the foundations were not drilled into bedrock.

Mr Fraser says there is no prospect of generating revenue from the Woodsetts site. This should be taken into account when considering unreasonable burden, he says.

Top drive of rig

Mr Fraser says the top drive of the rig is the main source of residual noise after other sources have been mitigated.

He says it accounts for about half of the noise at night. Triple-stacked containers would not reduce noise from the top drive, he says.


Mr Fraser says rig noise can be monitored in the compound. Above 68 you are at risk of breaching the conditions. There would be a noise monitor at an agreed distance from Berne Square to give a reasonable check, Mr Fraser says.

Monitoring noise on the site access track is harder to measure at Berne Square. It is achievable, Mr Fraser says.

Background noise surveys

Mr Fraser says the noise survey carried out for Woodsettts Against Fracking (WAF) did not comply with guidelines. They recorded lower background levels than the survey carried out for Ineos. Mr Fraser says he would not have submitted the WAF survey.

Mr Fraser says the Ineos survey was carried out for two weeks. It was extended for a further two weeks after feedback that the data was different from what had been expected.

9.53am Public questions to Ineos noise witness

Mr Fraser is asked about incremental reductions in noise levels. He says, in practice, Ineos has exhausted the engineering solutions, apart from reducing noise from the top drive.

Real life experience of noise

Deborah Gibson, of Harthill, asks noise is experienced in real terms, by a vulnerable person.

Mr Fraser says he doesn’t feel qualified to make a judgement. He says even if you make a pessimistic assumption of attenuation the noise level would still be 24db with an open window and less than 20db with a partial open window. That is quite a low level inside, Mr Fraser says, but it will be noticeable. It is such a low order of impact that it complies with the World Health Organisation impacts, he says.

9.01am Questions continue to Ineos noise witness

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

Jack Parker, barrister for Ineos, resumes his cross-examination of Steve Fraser, the noise witness for Ineos.

World Health Organisation guidelines

Mr Fraser is using the World Health Organisation guidelines on night time noise limits. He says at noise at about 45db is the lowest level of observable adverse effects.

Mr Parker says the guidelines do not cover industrial noise.

Mr Fraser tells the inquiry that noise from a drilling rig is equivalent to that of road traffic noise. Mr Parker says the guidelines are no particular use if she does not accept that drilling noise is equivalent to traffic noise.

Planning policy guidance on minerals

Mr Parker says the minerals planning guidance require night time noise be reduced to a minimum unless it imposes unreasonable burdens on the operator.

Mr Parker says it is for the operator to demonstrate that there would be an unreasonable burden. Mr Fraser agrees. He accepts it is not concerned with planning issues, such as visual intrusion.

Noise mitigation

Mr Fraser says equipment procured by Ineos for the Woodsetts site would be the quietest available.

Mr Fraser says increasing the height of an acoustic barrier would have diminishing returns.

Triple-stacked containers Mr Parker says using triple stacked containers as a sound barrier would reduce the noise impact. Mr Fraser agrees.

But Mr Parker says there has been no evidence from Ineos of the sound reduction or that there would be an unreasonable burden on the company.

Top drive enclsoure Mr Parker asks about the impact of enclosing the top drive of the rig. This has the potential to reduce noise at the nearest home by 1 or more decibel. Mr Fraser says this is experimental and it can make things worse.  It is not a silver bullet and it may not be practical.

Evidence on noise reduction Mr Parker says there is just a table provided by Mr Fraser that has evidence on the effect of noise mitigation.

Mr Parker asks whether a series of 1db reductions would have a perceptible reduction in noise. Mr Fraser accepts the principle but says there are no practical additional mitigation that has not been considered.

Stages of work and noise levels

The environmental report on the Ineso application said noise during the first phase of the operation would reach 81db. Mr Fraser had told the inquiry he disagreed with this level of noise at that stage.

Access track Guidelines allow for short-term periods of high noise levels for work that is of environmental benefit. Mr Fraser says erection of the sound barrier would fall within environmental benefit. The inspector would need to make a judgement on whether the construction of the access track would be on environmental benefit.

Acoustic barrier Woodsetts Against Fracking has raised concerns about the construction of the acoustic barrier and what the noise levels. Mr Parker says there is no evidence on how the barrier would be constructed. Mr Fraser agrees.

“Back of the envelop”

Mr Fraser agrees that 70db noise levels could be achieved for foundations for the acoustic barrier through a “back of the envelope” calculations.

Is this the sort of level of rigorous analysis you would recommend for a project of this kind, Mr Parker asks.

Mr Fraser says an acoustic barrier may need to be put around the work to install the main acoustic barrier.

Is this level of analysis acceptable?, Mr Parker asks.

Mr Fraser says he is taking this issue serious. The noise could be controlled within standards, Mr Fraser says. He agrees the quality of information is of “a lesser order” than other information submitted. The noise from constructing the sound barrier could be covered by conditions, Mr Fraser adds.

Mr Fraser acknowledges that the impact of noise will be detrimental to amenity.

9am: Inquiry resumes

The inspector, Katie Peerless, opens the 5th day of the hearing

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

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