Ineos plans to drill for shale gas in the south Yorkshire village of Woodsetts are to be decided by the local government secretary, James Brokenshire.
The Planning Inspectorate confirmed today that Mr Brokenshire had recovered the appeal against refusal of consent by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.
The news came a week after the end of a six-day public inquiry into the Woodsetts scheme, headed by a planning inspector.
Also today, it was confirmed that Mr Brokenshire would decide the appeal by IGas against refusal of permission for testing at its Ellesmere Port site in Cheshire. DrillOrDrop report.
Both appeals had been due to be decided by the inspectors. But in identical letters, the Planning Inspectorate said:
“the Secretary of State considers that he should determine it himself”.
This means the inquiry inspectors will prepare a report and recommendation for Mr Brokenshire, who will make the final decision.
Both letters 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.”
Impact on vulnerable residents
The Woodsetts inquiry focused on the impact of the proposed shale gas site on elderly and vulnerable residents living nearby.
The inquiry heard how the proposed access track would be close to a sheltered housing complex.
Ineos witnesses gave evidence that the scheme would have no health impacts. But residents told the inquiry about their fears about the effect of noise, lighting and dust from the proposal.
They also complained about new proposals, introduced by Ineos before the inquiry opened, to install a 9ft noise barrier alongside the access track.
Rotherham Council and Woodsetts Against Fracking argued the barrier would damage the openness in the Green Belt. It would also spoil local views and enjoyment of bridleways, they said.
The council said the barrier should require a separate planning application. There were concerns that local people had been disadvantaged because they had not been consulted on the barrier in the original application.
Shale gas inquiries
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.