Two years of missed government deadlines for Woodsetts and Ellesmere Port shale gas decisions

The government has now missed its own deadline by two years for decisions on shale gas schemes in south Yorkshire and Cheshire.

Aerial photo of the proposed Ineos shale gas site at Woodsetts (brown field on right of picture). Photo: Woodsetts Against Fracking

Ministers promised a target date of 8 April 2020 for rulings on Ineos plans for exploration at Woodsetts near Rotherham and on IGas testing at a well site in Ellesmere Port. Neither scheme was directly affected by the moratorium on fracking.

On the second anniversary of the deadline, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities was unable to tell DrillOrDrop when the decisions would be made.

In the past two years, the government has announced decisions on 36 other appeals.

Two years ago, on the target date, the then Ministry of Communities, Housing and Local Government said:

“regrettably, the secretary of state will not be in a position to publish a decision on the application today. I realise this will be disappointing news, and apologise for the delay in issuing a final decision on this application.”

A year ago, a department spokesperson said:

“These complex cases remain under consideration – decisions on both will be issued as soon as is practicable.”

Both schemes had been refused permission by local planning committees in 2018. Ineos and IGas appealed against the refusals and the schemes were considered by public inquiries in 2019.

In June 2019, after the end of the inquiries, the then local government secretary, James Brokenshire, announced he would decide, or recover, both appeals.

Since then, the post of secretary of state has changed twice. The current holder is Michael Gove.

Matthew Wilkinson, a campaigner against the Ineos plans at Woodsetts, told DrillOrDrop today he was not surprised that the government had failed to make a decision in a reasonable time. He said:

“Fracking plans, operations, policies and legal challenges have been a nightmare for the government for some time now. Nothing has worked out. Communities still hate it, as they have done since day one. The industry has looked predatory and untrustworthy. Scientists warn against it. Campaigners just seem to get stronger. Legal injunctions used by the industry have been successfully challenged. The frackers have more than tried, and completely failed, to extract shale gas.

After a series of earth tremors caused by fracking at Preston New Road in Lancashire, he said: “I think most people could see that scaling up such a high-risk operation was never going to work”.

He added: “ultimately the science for putting fracking under moratorium has not changed”.

“The frackers should stop lobbying and doing PR campaigns and read the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report from last week.”

A year ago, the MPs for Rother Valley, Alexander Stafford, and Ellesmere Port, Justin Madders, called for an end to the uncertainty over the schemes.

Last month, (March 2022), the Ellesmere Port MP, Justin Madders, asked in a parliamentary debate why it was so hard to decide the IGas appeal, now three years after the public inquiry.

The business minister, Greg Hands, replied:

“It is not possible for me at the Dispatch Box to comment on individual decisions as they may be being assessed by the Department.”

In November 2021, the local government minister, Eddie Hughes, told Mr Madders:

“You will understand the appeal is being decided in a complex policy context relating to shale extraction and in respect of climate change.

“While I am unable to give an indication of the timing, I should assure you that we will write to you with the outcome as soon as we are able to do so.”

The delays appear to breach government policy to make planning decisions on shale gas “faster and fairer” for all affected. A written ministerial statement in May 2018 said: “no one benefits from the uncertainty caused by delay”.

After missing the April 2020 deadline, the then Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government refused freedom of information requests to release the recommendations of the inquiry inspectors. (Details here and here)

32 replies »

  1. And, what is the reality?

    Rig counts rising week on week over the Atlantic, with companies being threatened with penalties if they do not drill fast enough! Will Chesapeake Energy come to the rescue? Nah, impossible, they were supposed to have been eliminated, weren’t they Jack?

    So, a UK moratorium is doing absolutely nothing, zilch for the planet. All it is doing is requiring more LNG to be transported across the oceans with increases in maritime emissions, whilst LNG terminals are being rapidly constructed in northern Europe to receive it. Good work for civil engineers, bad news for the global environment. But, that has been seen before on DoD, except it shouldn’t have been seen as readers can not read, or, if they can, they are not allowed to comment!

    What do I say, Jack? I repeat, when you start looking at the reality then I will debate with you. Until then, and you plonk out nonsense like the price of fuel at one fuel station which was not representative of the average, or the reason you applied to it, it really is not worth the effort. Two bits of deliberate manipulation in one statement falls into the load of cobras category. (By the way, petrol is now around £1.50 in the West Midlands. Does that now mean the fossil fuel devils are suddenly becoming angels? Nope it means oil prices have reduced as reserves are released and parts of China shut down again. I suspect there may be an outlier still to be found in the UK, but not for long unless the oil price takes off again.) Shock/horror, the imbalance or balance between supply and demand adjust price. Strange that, with all that cheap renewable energy being supplied. You can argue until the cows come home, but that is pretty evident to a whole raft of people who I suspect are not inclined to do as they are instructed by people with a history of manipulating reality. If they were, then a bill for a further £150B on their energy costs may stop them in their tracks, and make them think about their house prices, cancer risks, environmental hazards etc. coming from a nuclear power station close by.

    “Your nice new cheap toy now requires this very expensive gadget to make it work. Which may just have some associated risks regarding the very issues you were told the new toy might reduce.”

    From my marketing days, I would struggle to make that one work for the consumer without attracting the ire of the ASA.

    [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

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