Time runs out today for Ineos at a second shale gas site in England.
Planning permission, allowing exploration in the Derbyshire greenbelt, lapses at midnight.
The expiry means that there is just one onshore shale gas site in England with a current planning permission.
The Derbyshire consent, granted after a public inquiry, was for a vertical well on farmland in the village of Marsh Lane.
It came with a condition that work must begin at the site, off Bramleymoor Lane, within three years.
No work has been carried out since permission was granted on 16 August 2018 and Ineos has not been in touch with the mineral planning authority, Derbyshire County Council, .
A council spokesperson told DrilllOrDrop:
“Planning permission CM4/0517/10 [for the Marsh Lane site] will expire three years from the date that consent was granted – 16 August 2021.”
The council confirmed that Ineos would need to re-apply for planning permission if it wanted to proceed with the development. The spokesperson said:
“The only route by which to do so would be via a new full planning application”.
The spokesperson also said there had been no contact from Ineos about the site for three years:
“To date, no submissions have been received against any of the pre-commencement condition requirements of planning permission CM4/0517/10.
“Derbyshire County Council has had no contact with Ineos regarding the Bramleymoor Lane site since the appeal decision was issued.
“No contact has been made regarding the commencement of any works at the site.”
Local opponents of the Marsh Lane plan have been counting down the days to the consent’s expiry.
A social media post said today:
“I feel confidence that when Big Ben chimes midnight, it’s time to say: ’Time’s up, Ineos’”.
Planning permission ran out at another Ineos shale gas site, at Harthill in South Yorkshire, in June 2021.
The Marsh Lane and Harthill permissions were the only two to be granted so far in oil and gas licences issued by the government six years ago.
Since the consents, the government introduced a moratorium on fracking in England. This followed earthquakes caused by Cuadrilla’s operations at Preston New Road in Lancashire. The moratorium is still in force and ministers have repeatedly said there is no evidence to justify ending it.
Marsh Lane plans
Ineos first gave details of its plans for Marsh Lane in early January 2017.
|Local opposition grew quickly. At the end of a company exhibition in Marsh Lane that month, executives had to walk through a crowd of protesters.
The company submitted a planning application in May 2017, proposing to drill a 2.4km vertical coring well, using a 60m rig. More than 80,000 people signed a petition against the proposals and 5,000 formally objected.
In November 2017, Ineos sought to bypass the county council and have the decision on Marsh Lane made by a government-appointed inspector. It appealed against non-determination, saying it “felt that decisions would not be forthcoming despite granting a number of time extensions”.
The council still discussed the application and voted by nine to one to oppose at an appeal.
An eight-day public inquiry, in June 2018, chaired by a planning inspector, involved two QCs and heard evidence from expert witnesses for Ineos, the council and the campaign group, Eckington Against Fracking.
More than 20 local people and organisations made statements against the proposal. They included the current MP for Marsh Lane, the Conservative, Lee Rowley, and the former Labour MP, Harry Barnes.
The inquiry also heard from Professor Peter Styles, a geologist who advised David Cameron, as prime minister, on fracking-induced earthquakes.
In August 2019, a year after permission was granted, Ineos said pre-work conditions at Marsh Lane “need to be considered before any work can commence on site”. It added “this takes time and we currently have no operational timescales for when work will start”.
Within three months, the government issued its moratorium on fracking.
In accounts for the year to December 2019, Ineos cut the value of its exploration assets by more than £63m to zero because of the moratorium.
Shale gas setbacks
Today’s lapse of the Marsh Lane permission is the latest recent setback for the UK onshore shale gas industry.
Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool is currently mothballed. The time limit for drilling and fracking has expired. A DrillOrDrop freedom of information request confirmed this month that there was no current consent for extended well tests at the site.
In July 2021, Nottinghamshire County Council ordered IGas to restore its shale gas site at Misson after voting to refuse a three-year extension to planning permission.
Earlier this summer, Ineos told Rotherham Borough Council it had no immediate plans for the Harthill site. On 11 June 2021, the company said in an email:
“We are in agreement with the councils position that the current consent has now lapsed given the three year period to commence operations. We remain watchful of the governments position on shale gas, and indeed the decision regarding Woodsetts, before any decision is made regarding the Harthill sites future.”
The outcome of planning inquiries on Woodsetts, the third Ineos shale gas site, and the IGas site at Ellesmere Port are still awaited from the local government secretary. It is now 16 months after the previously-announced decision dates.
Ineos still holds the exploration licence for Marsh Lane (PEDL300) and PEDL304 in South Yorkshire, which includes the Harthill and Woodsetts sites.
The Oil & Gas Authority has extended the licence initial phases, during which exploration should take place, from July 2021 to July 2024, despite Ineos failing to meet its work commitments. More details
Coal Aston and Dronfield Against Fracking warned today that Ineos had another three years for the initial phase of its exploration licences. But it added:
“In the absence of any landowner consents for large-scale fracking operations, and in light of the moratorium and the fact that the issues of climate change and fossil fuel extraction are now such a political ‘hot potato’, it would seem unlikely that Ineos would be a position to take advantage of that in the foreseeable future.”
- DrillOrDrop invited Ineos to comment on the lapse of planning permission and the lack of contact with Derbyshire County Council. This post will be updated with any response.