Harthill inquiry April-May 2018


This page has links (in red) to detailed reports on the inquiry into INEOS Upstream’s application  for a shale gas exploration site at Common Road, Harthill in Rotherham borough.

The company appealed against non-determination of the application. The council opposed the scheme on highway and ecological grounds. Local people and community groups objected for a wider range of reasons.

Key details

The inquiry was at Riverside House, Main Street Rotherham, from 24-27 April and 1-3 May 2018

Key people




Inspector: Stephen Roscoe

Rotherham Council barrister: Jon Darby

Council highways witness: Ian Ferguson

Council planning witness: Anthony Lowe

Council ecology witness: Andrew Godfrey

INEOS barrister: Gordon Steele QC

INEOS witnesses to be added when known

Harthill Against Fracking: Iain Dupere

Opening day: 24 April 2018 – opening statements and traffic

Key issues

  • Rotherham Council considers the INEOS appeal “premature”
  • The inquiry hears INEOS submits revised traffic management plan on 23 March but it doesn’t go on council website until 11 April
  • The council is told by the Planning Inspectorate that a decision will be made on whether to consider the revised plan at the inquiry
  • The council’s barrister says INEOS’s “piecemeal” submission of evidence has caused difficulty for the authority and the public
  • Members of the public say they are disadvantaged by the lack of consultation on the revised traffic plans and ask for a four-week adjournment
  • The council and INEOS disagree over who should have publicises the revised traffic management plans
  • Council highways officer changes his mind on recommendation after meetings and site visit
  • Council is disappointed that INEOS began breeding bird surveys last month “at this late stage”
  • INEOS says the council’s traffic objection was based on misunderstanding about the width of Packman Lane
  • The inspector rules that he will consider the revised traffic management plan because it is not a significant amendment to the scheme

Day 2: 25 April 2018 – councillors statements and ecology

Key issues

  • Rotherham Planning Board councillors stand by their comments that the proposed lorry route is on unsuitable roads
  • The council’s ecologist says INEOS’s survey work is inadequate or carried out at inappropriate times of year
  • He says the impact of the scheme on wildlife was unlikely to be significant but he wants survey evidence to support a conclusion
  • INEOS says it will show that there will be no damage to hedgerows from the traffic scheme
  • INEOS says it has assumed a “worst case” scenario so further survey work is not needed

Day 3: 26 April 2018 – Sir Kevin Barron on local concerns

Key issues

  • Local MP Sir Kevin Barron says residents are concerned about the risk of INEOS proposals disturbing old mine workings and damage to local homes
  • Sir Kevin tells the hearing: “INEOS are not best developers I have met”
  • Sir Kevin says the OGA has commissioned no research on fracking in former coal mining areas
  • INEOS says its Harthill proposals “have nothing to do with fracking”

Day 4: 27 April 2018 – Harthill Against Fracking and other opposition statements

Key issues

  • Rotherham Council removes its objection on ecological grounds
  • INEOS accused of “inherent bias” and “convenience sampling” in its data collection
  • The drilling site will have “a major impact” on people who use the local roads for cycling
  • Local voices who have opposed the development need to be listened, a resident says
  • A noise expert says INEOS noise report is “ill-defined”
  • Local people are concerned the site will develop into a fracking pad
  • Harthill Against Fracking says
    • The proposed traffic route is unsuitable for large site vehicles
    • Verges would be damaged
    • Emergency vehicles could be delayed
    • Proposed passing places will change the nature of the road
    • Traffic could be diverted into the village
    • The stop-go board system will isolate properties and cause disruption and delays
    • Vulnerable road users will be at risk
    • The proposal cannot be classed as sustainable development and breaches local and national planning policy
    • The scheme does not meet national policy on noise reduction
    • Dust and NOx emissions could rise
    • The rig would be seen from five miles away
    • INEOS has not sufficiently considered local wildlife
    • Local mine workings are a major concern

Day 5: May 1 2018 – more public statements

Key points

  • The road network is unsuitable for the proposed deliveries
  • The scheme is not expected to increase local employment
  • The local landscape should have an archaeological survey before consent is given
  • There are major faults under the village
  • The could not be a more inappropriate location for an exploratory drilling site
  • There will be real intrusions and dangers for local people
  • Residents, farmers and businesses will be corralled by convoys on Packman Lane
  • The application is fundamentally flawed and unsafe for local road users
  • Passing places and the use of banksmen will not address concerns about conflicts between road users
  • The proposed stop-go boards and banksmen would impose a traffic regulation by stealth
  • Convoys would intimidate local people
  • The lorry would become a no-go area for local people
  • Local people have been disadvantaged by the inquiry because of a lack of thoroughness in the council’s preparation
  • The submission of the revised traffic management plan without wider consultation is detrimental to the public’s ability to comment
  • Possible ecological damage of the scheme remains unresolved
  • Gaps in Ineos data mean the company cannot say there would no adverse impacts
  • The council and Ineos have “written-off the potential for climate change impact as a planning issue
  • The lorry route would prevent farming activities and access to home, family and friends
  • Proposed passing places do not improve safety and would urbanised the character of the lorry route

Day 6: May 2 2018 – Ineos evidence

Key points

  • Two sides disagree over limitations of computer modelled swept path analysis and accident data
  • At one point on the lorry route the maximum clearance for the biggest vehicles is 60cm
  • Ineos says the scheme will not have an impact on the highway network; Rotherham Council says this is not credible
  • Convoys improve road safety, says Ineos; escort vehicles increase traffic, says Rotherham Council
  • Traffic increase on Bondhay Lane would be 6,000%. This is a material increase, says the council; Ineos says it is not a significant increase in absolute numbers
  • 80% of vehicle movements would be in the first nine months, says Ineos
  • Drilling rigwould be on site for only five months, Ineos landscape witness tells the inquiry
  • The impact of the drilling rig, at 60m high, would be limited to 1.5km of the site
  • The proposed site is not a valued landscape in the context of landscape guidelines, expert says
  • Vehicle reversing alarms should be disabled during the night, inquiry told
  • Ineos witness says noise impacts of convoys would be negligible
  • Ineos noise witness says proposed 55db is too high for the drilling phase of the operation
  • Pressure transient test is completely different from fracking, Ineos witness says
  • Ineos says there are no major faults and no mineworkings in the area of the proposed site
  • The risk to local ground and surface water is “negligible”
  • Ineos does not expect to detect radon or hydrogen sulphide in the well and heavy metals would not be used in drilling muds

Day 7: May 3 2018 – more Ineos evidence and closing statements

Key points


  • No material considerations outweigh the benefits of the development
  • The Harthill proposal is supported by national policy
  • Regulators can remove concerns about environmental impacts
  • The Traffic Management Plan meets highway safety concerns
  • Passing places will improve road safety
  • Daytime noise limit dropped to 50db
  • Convoys would pass Packman Lane for only 18 minutes a day
  • Ineos protest injunction not aimed at anyone “in the [inquiry] room”
  • Residents’ concerns were overstated
  • Fracking would not be allowed under the application

Rotherham Council

  • Highway concerns have not been resolved
  • Both sides agree “it is a challenging route”
  • HGV deliveries rely on vehicles overrunning the carriageway and for inch-perfect manoeuvres
  • Limitations in Ineos the accident data
  • Increases in traffic will creates clashes between road users
  • The 4.3km lorry route is not suitable because it needs 23 passing places and 705m subject to traffic controls
  • Proposed passing places would exacerbate flooding, have an impact on homes and farms and on hedges and verges
  • Traffic plans have an unrealistic reliance on the control of third parties and their co-operation and experience
  • Convoys of site traffic could result in fear and intimidation
  • The impact of protests is a real risk and has not been addressed
  • Displacement of traffic has not been addressed


  • Harthill Against Fracking felt bullied by the reference to the protest injunction by Ineos Operations Director, Tom Pickering
  • Residents felt democratically disadvantaged by the inquiry
  • Residents felt let down by Rotherham Council’s preparation for the inquiry
  • The inquiry may not have been needed if there had been better liaison between the council, Ineos and residents

Decision by the inspector – 7 June 2018

Inspector Stephen Roscoe allowed the Ineos appeal and granted planning permission.

Reporting at this inquiry was made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers