A planning application for a fracking exploration on the edge of a rural village in South Yorkshire has been unanimously rejected by councillors who not only followed the advice of their officials, but added their own reasons for refusing it.
Energy firm Ineos was seeking permission to drill a test bore on a green belt site alongside the village of Woodsetts in Rotherham, with the results dictating whether they would go ahead with a full application for fracking in the future.
It would appear that residents who know better than anyone else have been ignored.Clive Jepson
But Rotherham Council planners raised concerns about the proximity of the site – in a field off Dinnington Road – to ancient woodland and the effect the work could have on wildlife, accusing Ineos of failing to provide enough survey work to allow them to make a considered judgment.
However, officers did say the application did not breach the principle of a development in the green belt because it was only a temporary application, with work to install, use and remove the drilling rig taking no more than five years.
They also suggested that roads in the area were capable of taking the extra lorries work at the site would generate, about 60 movements each day.
That was put at about one per cent of traffic movements, but protesters who spoke at the meeting said it was a 300 per cent increase in the numbers of heavy vehicles which would be using the rural roads which run through the village.
Councillors rejected their officers’ appraisal and raised highways issues alongside ecological concerns as reasons to refuse the plans.
Coun Bob Walsh said small patches of ancient woodland – one only 25 metres from the site – were... “what England used to look like. It is small and quite rare. It needs looking after”.
“What we don’t have is a suitable ecological survey,” he added.
Coun Clive Jepson added: “My biggest disappointment was that there was no objection on traffic grounds. It would appear that residents who know better than anyone else have been ignored. It is a dangerous and overused route.”
He accused Ineos of “bullying and intimidatory tactics... from the word go” and added: “I would like to thank Ineos for showing how not, repeat not, to carry out a public consultation exercise.
“Without really trying, they have managed to unite a village,” he said.
Under the application, a drilling rig would have been installed to collect samples.
Scientists would then establish whether fracking in that location was viable and, if so, planning application for that work would be needed.
A possibility was that the well could have been used as a listening station for engineers to detect problems at sites elsewhere in the district.