Derbyshire county council to oppose ‘listening well’ plans by fracking firm Ineos

Marsh Lane is the scene of a fierce battle between energy firm Ineos and anti-fracking campaigners.
Marsh Lane is the scene of a fierce battle between energy firm Ineos and anti-fracking campaigners.
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Derbyshire County Council is to oppose plans by energy firm Ineos to erect a 60 metre high drilling rig to test the suitability of the site for fracking, after rejecting the recommendation of its own officers.

The authority’s planning committee today voted nine to one in favour of a motion objecting to an application in the village of Marsh Lane, between Sheffield and Chesterfield.

Derbyshire County Council has voted to oppose the application by Ineos at Marsh Lane

Derbyshire County Council has voted to oppose the application by Ineos at Marsh Lane

The motion cited fears about impact on the green belt, traffic problems and “unacceptable night-time noise”.

It will now be sent to the Planning Inspector to be taken into account during a planning inquiry in June, which will decide whether to grant permission for the development.

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The decision followed a meeting at County Hall in Matlock where a series of residents and local figures set out their opposition to the application by Ineos, which has also submitted two similar bids in Rotherham.

For a large company to come along and treat the people of Derbyshire with such poor regard does not bode well for the future.

Martyn Ford, Derbyshire County Council

But a report by Mike Ashworth, the authority’s Strategic Director for Economy, Transport and Environment, said there were no “significant impacts or conflict with development plan policy” that would justify the council objecting, provided certain measures were put in place.

Ineos wants to erect a drilling rig up to 60 metres tall and drill around 2,400 metres below the ground off Bramleymoor Lane to investigate the suitability of the rock for fracking.

It is one of seven firms in Yorkshire with a licence to potentially do exploratory work with a view to carrying out the controversial practice, where water and chemicals are injected at high pressure into rocks deep underground in an attempt to extract shale gas.

More than 3,000 objections from local residents were received in respect of the Marsh Lane site, with just nine people expressing support for it.

Derbyshire County Council had been due to make decisions on the ‘listening well’ application – but Ineos asked the Government to intervene on the grounds the council processes were taking too long, and now the Planning Inspectorate is due to hold a hearing on June 19.

Chairman of the planning committee, Coun Martyn Ford, said he supported the view of his officers but described the conduct of Ineos as ‘disgraceful’.

He said: “For a large company to come along and treat the people of Derbyshire with such poor regard does not bode well for the future.”

He added: “It is not the end of the battle, it is probably the start of it for our officers.”

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Campaigners hailed the decision by Derbyshire County Council. Dave Kesteven, of Eckington Against Fracking, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the council have decided to support those who elect them and not a multinational plastics manufacturer whose activities would disrupt our communities and pollute our environment.

“I am sure that this victory will be repeated at the public inquiry.”

Chris Crean, campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s fantastic that today Derbyshire planners have listened to local community concerns and rightly decided that the impacts of this drilling would be damaging and unacceptable, resulting in the industrialisation of the English countryside. We now look forward to supporting the Council’s position at the public inquiry.

“We know that we have to leave the majority of fossil fuels in the ground if we are to prevent dangerous climate change, so it makes absolutely no sense to investigate the potential for fracking.”