Plans by IGas to test a gas well at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire are to be decided by the local government secretary.
It was confirmed today that James Brokenshire had recovered the company’s appeal against the refusal of planning permission by Cheshire West and Chester Council.
The minister also recovered another appeal, by Ineos, against refusal of permission to drill for shale gas at Woodsetts in south Yorkshire (DrillOrDrop report)
Both decisions had been expected to be made by the planning inspector who chaired public inquiries. The Ellesmere Port inquiry was held over 12 days in January-March 2019.
But the Planning Inspectorate wrote to participants in the inquiry today saying:
“the Secretary of State considers that he should determine it himself.”
This means that the inquiry inspector, Brian Cook, will prepare a report and recommendation for Mr Brokenshire, who will grant or refuse permission.
The letter said:
“The reason for this direction is that the appeal involves proposals for exploring and developing shale gas which amount to proposals for development of major importance having more than local significance.
“The Government has made clear in the WMS [written ministerial statement] of May 2018 that it would consider carefully recovering appeals of this nature.”
During the inquiry, IGas repeatedly said it was exploring for gas in the Pentre Chert and not in shale.
The Ellesmere Port inquiry was the first in the UK to examine the impact of an onshore gas site on climate change.
It heard evidence from three academic witnesses on the issue. One told the inquiry greenhouse gas emissions from IGas well test would be the equivalent of all the gas use of 8,000 homes for a year or driving round the world in a typical saloon car 3,500 times.
DrillOrDrop reported last week that the inspector’s decision had been delayed following the publication of greenhouse gas reduction targets by the government’s advisor on climate change.
Shale gas inquiries
This the third time that a minister has recovered an appeal for an onshore gas site.
In November 2015, the then local government secretary, Greg Clark, decided he would recover the appeals by Cuadrilla against refusal of permission to drill, frack and test up to four shale gas wells at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood, near Blackpool.
His successor, Sajid Javid, granted permission for the Preston New Road in October 2016. In March 2019 Mr Brokenshire refused consent for Roseacre Wood.
Since then, there have been three more shale gas inquiries, all involving Ineos sites in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. The inquiries for Marsh Lane and Harthill were both decided by planning inspectors, in Ineos’s favour. Hearings in the Woodsetts inquiry concluded last week and that decision has also been recovered (DrillOrDrop report)