The decisions on appeals on the IGas site at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire and Ineos plans for Woodsetts are likely to be more than six months away, it emerged today.
The Planning Inspectorate said the deadlines for the report by the inspector at the public inquiry into the Ellesmere Port scheme had been set for 23 January 2020.
The report on the Woodsetts inquiry is to be submitted by 13 January 2020.
The Woodsetts date will be almost two years after the application was first refused by Rotherham council. The inquiry was held June 2019.
It was announced last month that both appeal decisions had been recovered. This means the inspectors will submit a recommendation but the final decision will be made by the local government secretary.
There will, therefore, be another period of time after they submit their recommendations before the scheme is approved or refused.
The Planning Inspectorate said the appeals had been recovered because they involved proposals for exploring and developing shale gas, which were described as of “major importance”.
Two other recent appeals on shale gas schemes – at Harthill in south Yorkshire and Marsh Lane in Derbyshire – were not recovered. The final decisions on these schemes were announced within two months of the end of the inquiries.
“Shale suffered a major blow”
Ellesmere Port Frack Free, which gave evidence at the inquiry and cross-examined IGas witnesses, said today:
“We welcome the additional time that this delay has given us. The scale of the climate emergency is becoming more obvious day by day and refusal of this application is the only answer.
“On the other hand, if the Secretary of State makes the wrong decision and approves the application, this delay provides us with more time to mount a legal challenge to that decision.”
Ellesmere Port Frack Free said shale had “suffered a major blow” from the report by the Committee on Climate Change recommending net carbon emissions by 2050 and the government’s decision to enshrine this in law.
A spokesperson for the group said:
“Shale gas has a massive carbon footprint from its exploration, its leakage, its usage, and cannot be accommodated in this climate emergency that we find ourselves in.
“Why communities are having to go through the mill of the current round of planning applications is cruel, when the government knows it has to change track quickly, stop subsidising fossil fuels and invest in more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly technologies.
The spokesperson described the IGas application as “severely flawed”.
“IGas misled the local community in stating that they were exploring for coal bed methane, when in fact they explored for shale and, in doing so, broke the initial planning application.
“In the current application to flare the well, IGas has falsified the geology and claimed this was a conventional exploration, when indeed it is proven that they plan to stimulate shale.
“This is an area where active geological faults run underneath the town of Ellesmere Port and an adjacent nuclear facility, which has strict seismic criteria in its nuclear licence.
“To approve the application would fly in the face of civil society, approve an application based on fiction, and place the local town and businesses at risk. Hopefully this is not something the government would like to tarnish itself with.”
DrillOrDrop invited IGas to comment on today’s news. This post will be updated with any response from the company.
“Time is our friend”
Woodsetts Against Fracking, a participant in the Woodsetts inquiry, said this evening:
“It’s a confusing situation for us.
“On the one hand we are pleased that we have been granted what feels like a stay of execution, but on the other we are having difficulty in interpreting the reasons behind the initial call-in and now this lengthy timescale for the Inspector to report.
“We have always believed that time is our friend in this battle, as the case for shale gas grows weaker by the day.
“We also believe that we put up a very strong performance at inquiry and gave the Inspector plenty to consider in her report.
“Our ultimate hope is obviously that the application is refused by the secretary of state, but maybe national events in the meantime will render his decision irrelevant in the long run.
“This delay allows time for a change of government policy or a change of government to one willing to ban fracking.”
DrillOrDrop has invited Ineos to comment and will update this post with any response.
Ellesmere Port timeline
15 January 2010
Permission granted to drill two coal bed methane boreholes followed by appraisal and production
15 November 2014
Drilling starts on first well
20 July 2017
IGas gives notice of application for well test at Ellesmere Port Details
25 January 2018
Cheshire West and Chester councillors vote against IGas plans for well testing at Ellesmere Port Details
25 July 2018
IGas appeals against refusal of planning permission Details
15 January 2019
Opening of Ellesmere Port inquiry Details
6 March 2019
Final session of Ellesmere Port inquiry Details
18 June 2019
Planning Inspectorate confirms that appeal decision has been delayed because inspector wishes to consult over Committee on Climate Change report Details
27 June 2019
Local government secretary recovers Ellesmere Port appeal Details
23 January 2020
Date by which inspector must submit recommendation on Ellesmere Port appeal
3 August 2017
INEOS says it is applying for permission to drill a coring well and carry out a pressure transient test at the site. Details
25 October 2017
Application submitted to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
Woodsetts villagers gather for giant objection photo to send to Downing Street. Details
8 November 2017
Application validated and public consultation begins
12 December 2017
Woodsetts Parish Council announces it will “strongly object” to the application
8 March 2018
Rotherham Borough Council votes unanimously against Ineos shale gas plans for Woodsetts Details
5 June 2018
Ineos announces it will submit a new planning application for Woodsetts Details
31 August 2018
Planners back Ineos shale gas plans for Woodsetts. Details
7 September 2018
9 January 2019
Ineos appeals over the refusal of its second application for shale gas exploration at Woodsetts. Details
14 March 2019
Rotherham Borough Council drops highway safety objection to Woodsetts shale gas plans. Details
3 April 2019
Woodsetts Against Fracking launches Crowdjustice fundraiser to pay for legal representation at public inquiry. Details
30 May 2019
Villagers and council oppose plans to screen site with 9ft acoustic barrier. Details
10 June 2019
On eve of inquiry, MP backs “I am Woodsetts” campaign against Ineos shale drilling. Details
11 June 2019
Start of public inquiry on Ineos plans for Woodsetts. Link
20 June 2019
Final session of the public inquiry