Ineos Steps on the (Shale) gas in Derbyshire

  • Ineos continues to make ripples through the UK landscape as it presses local authorities to accelerate decisions on permits to start exploring shale reserves. (c) Philip Scalia/Alamy Stock PhotoIneos continues to make ripples through the UK landscape as it presses local authorities to accelerate decisions on permits to start exploring shale reserves. (c) Philip Scalia/Alamy Stock Photo

Ineos continues to make ripples through the UK landscape as it presses local authorities to accelerate decisions on permits to start exploring shale reserves. The Derbyshire County Council said it will hold a meeting in the next few weeks to decide whether or not to process a repeat application from the chemical group for planning permission to explore reserves near Eckington.

The council said Ineos had submitted its first application in May 2017 but in December, before the county’s governing body had found time to deal with it, the group “chose to make an appeal to the national Planning Inspectorate, saying it could not continue to wait for a decision.”

Ineos’ appeal means that a public inquiry will now be held, and the decision will be made by a planning inspector. The group wants to erect a drilling rig up to 60 meters tall and drill around 2,400 meters below the ground in the village of Marsh Lane, to investigate the suitability of the rock for fracking.

Under the law, councils may refuse to process some twin-track application. Derbyshire press reports said Mike Ashworth, the council’s strategic director for economy, transport and environment  − the department responsible for planning –  has advised the planning committee not to deal with the second application.

“There is nothing to be gained from dealing with this repeat application when an appeal process for the proposal is ongoing,” Ashworth is quoted as saying, while adding, “we feel it would be confusing and an unnecessary burden on the public to invite comments again on exactly the same proposal.

“By processing the second application,” Ashworth said, “the county council would have all the associated costs of repeating the public consultation and its dealings with other official bodies. The nationally set £8,000 fee paid by Ineos to the council on the first application only covers a small proportion of the public cost involved − currently about £100,000 − and there is no fee payable on the second application.”

Comments made to the Derbyshire council during the public consultation have been sent to the Planning Inspectorate so that all views expressed so far can be taken into account for the public inquiry, expected to be held sometime this year.

“We still prefer these planning decisions to stay at the local county level and stand by our actions to carry out a thorough and robust public consultation about the proposal last year”, the strategic director said.

However, ”Ineos took this matter out of our hands when they referred their application to the Planning Inspectorate. We will be pressing for the public inquiry into this application to be held as soon as possible.”

In 2015, the government of then-prime minister, David Cameron, introduced new rules that would allow it to fast-track planning applications for shale gas projects, bypassing councils that fail to make a decision within the mandated 16-week timeframe and in some cases override a decision not to grant permission.  

The announcement followed a decision by the Lancaster County Council to reject gas exploration company Cuadrilla’s plans to frack two sites near Blackpool, England.  Cuadrilla had applied for permission more than a year before its application was rejected.

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