As the latest application from Ineos to investigate the potential for shale gas in South Yorkshire is rejected, the total number of planning decisions that have been turned down this year hits seven. Local councillors voted against the initiative in a clear move that shows the county’s view on fracking.
The plan was rejected by the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough based on the fact that it could potentially damage the wildlife in the area and increase traffic. It was stated that not enough research had been done as to the ecological effects of such a project. Those against the project suggested that there might be some serious noise pollution as well as air and water contamination. Ineos, a UK-based petrochemicals company was planning on drilling a well just outside the village of Woodsetts.
The company rebutted by saying that any work undertaken would be on a small scale and would not have a significant impact of the local agriculture. Furthermore, the site would be on land that had little ecological value. Nevertheless, the proposal was quashed unanimously by the council’s planning board.
This rejection is the seventh to have come from councils throughout the Midlands and North this year. The applications have proposed a variety of things, included testing new wells, drilling brand new ones and revising traffic plans.
It makes perfect sense that the councils controlled by the Labour party are voting against all fracking applications. It has been a part of the party’s manifesto for a while now to implement a national policy that would ban fracking in this country. However, it is surprising to see that some of the dissenting councils are Tory-led, despite the party’s commitment to developing a shale industry in the UK.
So far, the only company to have had some success with their application is Cuadrilla. They proposed testing for oil flows at a well that has already been drilled near the village of Balcombe in West Sussex.
The delays that come with rejection after rejection are just another obstacle that oil companies are having to get over. Financial tests, imposed by ministers upon companies hoping to obtain permission from the government to begin fracking operations, are also having an effect. These tests have been blamed for Third Energy postponing their fracking until autumn at a site in North Yorkshire.
Five years ago it would take around 13 weeks to get a planning decision as to whether or not a company could go ahead with the drilling of a new well for exploration purposes. Now the average wait time is around 58 weeks – over a year!
Ineos is hoping to be able to use fast-track powers that were created by the government in 2015. The company hopes to receive a definite answer regarding two separate potential drilling sites in Derbyshire and Rotherham. Despite being fast-track, the process is still anticipated to take months.
The owner of Ineos, billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, has not been shy in his advocacy for extracting shale gas in the UK. He has his eyes on a number of sites he wishes to explore, including Woodsetts.
Friends of the Earth back the decision by the Rotherham council and have said that the decision is deeply significant. Naturally, Ineos was far less pleased with the outcome.