UK fracking backlash: seven of eight plans rejected in 2018 – The Guardian


The application by Ineos to explore for shale gas in South Yorkshire has been rejected by local councillors, bringing the number of planning decisions that have gone against fracking companies this year to seven.

Rotherham metropolitan borough turned the application by the UK-based petrochemicals firm to drill a well near the village of Woodsetts on grounds that it could harm wildlife and cause traffic problems.

Ineos had argued that the work would be small scale, have no significant impact and was on agricultural land with little ecological value.

However, the council’s planning board voted unanimously against the application, following a meeting on Thursday.

The rejection is the seventh this year by councils across the Midlands and the north of England against fracking companies’ applications to test existing wells, drill new ones and revise traffic plans, according to Drill or Drop, a site which monitors the shale industry.

While some of the councils are controlled by Labour, which has a national policy of banning fracking, several are controlled by the Conservatives, who promised to develop a shale industry in last year’s manifesto.

The only green light has been for Cuadrilla, to test for oil flows at an existing well near the village of Balcombe, in West Sussex.

The planning delays are another headache on top of new financial tests that ministers have imposed on companies seeking government permission to frack, which were blamed on Wednesday for Third Energy postponing fracking to the autumn at a site in North Yorkshire.

The shale industry said it now took on average 58 weeks to get a planning decision on the drilling of a vertical well for exploration, up from 13 weeks five years ago.

Ineos is attempting to use fast-track powers created by the government in 2015 to get a decision on two separate shale drilling applications, one in Derbyshire and one near Rotherham. However, that process is still expected to take months.

Police.



Police in body armour assist a tanker heading for a test drill site operated by the British energy firm Cuadrilla, in Balcombe, Sussex. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire owner of Ineos, has been a vocal advocate for extracting shale gas in the UK. Woodsetts is one of a handful of sites Ineos had hoped to drill.

Rotherham’s planning officials had recommended against the application on the basis that insufficient ecological surveys had been carried out, to protect birds and bats.

Fracking opponents told councillors they were concerned about noise, water and air pollution, as well as traffic problems created by HGVs.

Sue Gilversleve, a resident in the village and member of the group Woodsetts Against Fracking, said: “We know it sounds a bit like a disaster movie, but this disaster movie is coming to a village near you.”

Andy Tickell, of the regional branch for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Simply put, this is industrialisation of sensitive and attractive countryside.”

During the sometimes heated meeting, the operations director of Ineos, Tom Pickering, had his microphone switched off by the chair, councillor Alan Atkin, for continuing to talk after being asked to stop. “I am not having anyone ridden roughshod over this planning board,” Atkin told Pickering. “Ineos has not covered itself in glory,” he added.

One councillor who attacked Ineos’s behaviour also retracted his comments, after being told by Atkin to apologise for the remarks.

Friends of the Earth said the rejection, the second by Rotherham within months, was deeply significant.

Ineos said it was disappointed by the decision. “We feel that the plans presented offer the right amount of ecological mitigation as part of what is a straightforward application. The fact that a majority of external statutory consultees agree that this is the case, exemplifies this point,” it said in a statement.



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