Planning inquiry to decide on INEOS proposal
We've learned that a public inquiry will be held to decide on a planning application to explore shale gas reserves on a site in North Derbyshire.
It means the future of the site at Bramleymoor Lane, between Marsh Lane and Apperknowle, near Eckington will be decided by the Government's Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy or a planning inspector working on behalf of the Government instead of us.
Oil and chemical firm INEOS submitted a planning application to us in May 2017 to erect a drilling rig up to 60 metres tall and carry out gas exploration at the site.
The firm wants to drill around 2,400 metres below ground off, to investigate the suitability of the rock for 'fracking' − the process of injecting water and chemicals at high pressure into rocks deep underground to create tiny cracks so shale gas can flow up a well to the surface and be collected.
Last month INEOS appealed to the planning inspectorate to intervene claiming there had been 'unreasonable delays' in dealing with the Bramleymoor Lane application − and two others in Rotherham.
But Derbyshire County Council Leader Councillor Barry Lewis rejected the claim in view of the fact that:
INEOS requested a ruling from the Secretary of State, known as a screening direction, to decide whether an environmental impact assessment was needed. This is a formal process to assess in detail the impacts of potential development on the environment when the effects are likely to be significant. The screening direction was made mid-June 2017.
We have a legal duty to carry out a public consultation which could not be launched until after the screening direction. The public consultation ran from July until 10 August 2017 and thousands of people took part, including local people.
INEOS submitted extra information to the county council to deal with issues raised during the public consultation.
A second public consultation was needed to allow people the chance to comment on the additional information from INEOS. The consultation launched in November and closed on 7 December 2017.
Councillor Lewis said:
"We reject the suggestion that there has been any unreasonable delay on our part and we're extremely disappointed that this decision affecting our communities will now be made by central Government.
"Our planning process is a democratic process. It would have been wrong of us to deny local people and statutory consultees the opportunity to comment on the additional information - which was not included in INEOS' original planning application. And this consultation and the detailed analysis needed for major planning applications of this nature takes time.
"INEOS says it prioritises local consultation and is disappointed that the decision will not be taken at local level - and yet it is the very organisation which has pushed to have a local decision taken out of local hands."
Our planning committee will still meet to consider INEOS' proposals in the New Year and express a view for the Planning Inspector to consider and decide whether or not to grant planning permission.
All comments made to us on the Bramleymoor Lane application will be made available to the Planning Inspectorate as part of the appeal process.
No date has been set for the public inquiry. Details of the appeal will be published on Gov.UK (opens in a new window) which will be updated to include the inspector's decision once it is made.