Officials have taken the first steps to force IGas to restore its shale gas site at Misson Springs in Nottinghamshire.
Correspondence seen by DrillOrDrop confirms that IGas has failed to begun restoration work on time.
Because of the lack of progress, Nottinghamshire County Council has now served Restoration Provision Breach Notices on IGas and the site’s landowner, L Jackson & Co.
The council said it was “reviewing options for “moving matters forward and securing restoration of the site” as soon as possible.
The move was supported by a local campaign group, which has opposed IGas’s operation at Misson Springs:
“Frack Free Mission welcomes the fact that Nottinghamshire County Council are taking the first steps of enforcement action at Springs Road, acting to implement the democratic decision of the Planning Committee. Email evidence shows repeated procrastination on the part of IGas in its statutory obligation to restore the site.”
IGas has not responded to DrillOrDrop’s invitation to comment.
Last year, IGas failed to extend its planning permission when consent at the site expired.
The county council’s planning committee voted almost unanimously to refuse the company’s application. IGas was ordered to restore the site.
But 15 months later, the work had not been carried out.
Previous correspondence between council planning officers and residents indicated that a rig for plugging and decommissioning the well had been booked for October 2022.
But by then, the moratorium on fracking in England had been lifted temporarily. IGas said: “Until we have further clarity from government on what the various announcements mean, we are not bringing forward any concrete proposals.”
According to the latest correspondence, IGas has said it was unable to complete restoration work at Misson Springs before the start of the next bird breeding season in February 2023.
The well pad is near a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) used by five species of owls.
A condition of the planning permission prohibited construction work between February and August unless it could be demonstrated that noise would not have an adverse impact on breeding birds in the SSSI.
But IGas has previously argued that owls would not be affected by work during the breeding season. And in 2018, it was given permission to continue site construction at Misson Springs from 1 February-31 March.
Frack Free Misson said:
“Ever since gaining permission to explore at Misson Springs, IGas has demonstrated an arrogant indifference to the agreed planning conditions. The company readily applied for an exemption to the noise limits implemented to protect nesting birds when construction works overran due to its incompetence. However, this is now the second year it has also claimed said restrictions prevented the site restoration, without making any effort to undertake the works when allowed.
“This behaviour exemplifies the contempt that IGas has for the regulations, along with the community and environment upon which they impose themselves contrary to any form of social licence or consent.”
Nottinghamshire County Council has a local enforcement plan for dealing with planning breaches. Chapter Five states:
“Failure to comply with a PCN [Planning Contravention Notice] within 21 days or the supply of false information is a summary offence.”
The plan says the council will make a decision on what action to take within five working days of this deadline, or upon receipt of a written explanation from the site operator or owner.
Based on emails published in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) suggested a discussion with IGas on site restoration following refusal of planning permission
Formal notice of contravention of planning permission issued because site had not been restored. IGas had failed to notify NCC about the change in its headquarters address six months earlier. The company asked for more time to reply because it had not received the notice.
NCC asks IGas for an update on restoration arrangements. Arrangements for an online meeting to discuss restoration plans.
NCC suggests construction work may be viable during the nesting season with management of noise levels.
NCC asks for information on timescales about restoration work. IGas says work cannot start until September 2022 because it cannot secure a rig or workforce.
NCC requests site inspection and progress report on well abandonment and site restoration.
NCC writes to IGas because of lack of response to February 2022 email. IGas asks for more time to respond. NCC suggests work is possible in the bird breeding season with “careful working arrangements and monitoring. NCC asks whether the rig has been booked.
Site inspection carried out.
NCC asks again for an update of restoration plans.
NCC asks for a response to the June 2022 emails. IGas replies that it is “currently undertaking a campaign of abandonments and there have a rig and crew secured. The rig is currently deployed in Hampshire but will soon be moving north to commence abandonments in the East Midlands.” The company’s development director, Ross Glover, told the council:
“We strongly believe that abandoning Springs Rd is the wrong course of action. We know from Springs Rd that there is a world class shale resource in the area and through our operations at Springs Rd, we have demonstrated that this can be developed in a safe, environmentally and community sensitive manner with significant local economic benefits.”
He said abandonment would be started in October 2022, with site restoration following.
As the end of the 2022 bird breeding season approaches, NCC asks again for an update on restoration plans.