Government confirms environmental assessment not needed for Marsh Lane drilling
A Government minister has confirmed that the proposed development of a site in North Derbyshire to explore shale gas reserves does not need an environmental impact assessment.
The proposal, by oil and chemical firm INEOS, is to erect a drilling rig up to 60 metres tall off Bramleymoor Lane, between Marsh Lane and Apperknowle, near Eckington.
INEOS applied to us for planning permission to drill around 2,400 metres below ground to investigate the suitability of the rock for 'fracking'. This is 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.
In February 2017, we published a detailed report giving its opinion that the proposal did not require an environmental impact assessment. 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.
But INEOS later asked the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government for a ruling on the question. This is known as a screening direction.
Now his direction has been published, which concludes that an environmental impact assessment is not needed.
Drilling is proposed to take place for approximately 10 weeks, 24 hours a day. At other times, work would take place between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday and between 7am and 1pm on Saturdays, with no working on Sundays or Bank holidays.
At its peak during the well and rig installation there would be a maximum of 30 HGV and smaller vehicles visiting the site each day. Site cabins would be erected, car parking and vehicle access would be provided for up to five years and the well could be kept open for monitoring purposes.
Printed copies are also available to view at County Hall in Matlock and North East Derbyshire District Council offices on Mill Lane in Wingerworth.
The official period for sending comments to us on the application will run up to Thursday 10 August 2017.
Our Strategic Director for Economy, Transport and Communities, Mike Ashworth, said:
"The county council has a legal obligation to decide on planning applications such as mining, underground drilling or fracking in Derbyshire and people can now read and comment on this application on our website."
"This planning application does not involve fracking. An environmental impact assessment may be needed if INEOS decides to apply for any other planning permission in the future.
"Our planning committee considers each planning application on its individual merits and is impartial. Each planning decision is based on objective analysis of evidence, taking into account local and national planning policies and the relevant comments of the public and official consultees such as parish councils.
"No date has been set for the proposal to be considered by the planning committee but we're committed to making information available to the public every step of the way throughout the planning process and we'll keep our website up-to-date with all the latest information − including details of when the planning committee meeting will be held."
The normal planning process has to be followed for oil and gas developments, so planning permission is required from the council's planning committee for each stage. There are three main stages:
Stage 1 - Exploration
This involves building a drilling rig and drilling vertically, deep into the ground to find out how much gas is in the shale. This does not involve fracking.
Stage 2 - Appraisal
This involves using the rig to carry out test fracking to see how the gas flows out of the shale.
Stage 3 - Production
This involves setting up a full-time commercial fracking operation. If the company gained planning permission, these works would take several years to complete.