IGas is demanding to know when the government will announce its decision on shale gas plans in Cheshire.
The company appealed against a refusal of planning permission by Cheshire West and Chester Council to test a shale gas well at Ellesmere Port.
A decision had been expected on or before 8 April 2020, more than a year after the end of a public inquiry.
The government had recovered the appeal, giving the decision to the local government secretary, rather than the inquiry inspector.
But on the deadline date, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government delayed the decision. A civil servant wrote to IGas and the inquiry’s other participants saying “the Secretary of State will not be in a position to publish a decision on the application today”.
The correspondence continued:
“I realise this will be disappointing news, and apologise for the delay in issuing a final decision on this application.
“I can assure you that we will endeavour to minimise the delay as much as possible.”
The law firm Eversheds Sutherland, which represents IGas, has called for more information from the ministry.
In an email on 17 April 2020, it said:
“Are you able to confirm likely timescales for determination please?”
A second email sent today (23 April 2020) said:
“I am sorry to chase, but I should be grateful for an update on the revised timescales that the Secretary of State is working to in respect of this matter please.”
A spokesperson for the ministry had previously said the participants in the appeal would be contacted when it was able to announce the decision.
Since our article was published the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has replied to IGas.
In an email on 24 April 2020, officials said:
“Once the target is missed there are only certain circumstances where the target is reset, for example when there is need to reference back to the parties and certain matters and to give time for those response to be returned and be assessed as part of the decision making process.
“That is not the case here and I am not able to add to my previous email other than to say that a decision is not expected to be issued in the next couple of weeks.”
Planning decisions have been issued during the covid-19 outbreak. Since the lockdown began a month ago, the outcomes of five recovered appeals have been announced. Four were allowed and one dismissed.
The ministry said the decisions wouldbe posted online for both the Ellesmere Port appeal and an appeal by Ineos over a shale gas site at Woodsetts in south Yorkshire.
Updated on 24 April 2020 to include reply from Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government