Monday, November 27, 2017

News: INEOS set to sidestep Rotherham planning authority

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INEOS' oil and gas exploration and production business looks set to go over the heads of the planning authority in Rotherham and go straight to the Government's Planning Inspectorate for a decision on its Harthill test well, having encountered "unreasonable delays."

Rothbiz reported last month that INEOS' plans for a drilling rig on Greenbelt land between the villages of Harthill and Thorpe Salvin were heading refusal after the Council's trasnport planners raised concerns over road safety regarding "the introduction of a significant number of additional large commercial vehicles along these narrow country lanes."

Now, Lee Rowley, MP for North East Derbyshire, where INEOS is also progressing plans for shale gas exploration, has published a draft press statement which he says shows the latest on the plans from the £35 billion turnover firm.

It reads: "INEOS has lodged three applications for test drilling activity in the East Midlands. With no decisions made by local Councils on two of them in reasonable time periods, INEOS will ask the Planning Inspectorate to intervene. INEOS felt that decisions would not be forthcoming despite granting a number of time extensions."

The Rotherham application was due to be discussed at a special meeting of the planning board that was pencilled in for November 23. The consultation period ended on November 3. Rotherham Council, one of the best performing planning authorities in the country in terms of determining applications on time, had asked for an extension of time until early in 2018.

The application has attracted over 1,000 representations. 1,129 are against the proposals and 0 are for the proposals.

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The statement from INEOS adds: "INEOS has always prioritised local consultation so is disappointed that the decision will not be taken at local level – however we cannot wait indefinitely.

"This decision has not been taken lightly and we understand the pressures on the local councils – these are nationally important issues being made at a local level. It is our duty to explore our licence areas and we have recently had the "hurry-up" from the Government's Oil and Gas Authority."

The statutory time limits are usually eight weeks for non-major applications, 13 weeks for major applications or 16 weeks for applications subject to an environmental impact assessment. Where a planning application takes longer than the statutory period to decide, and an extended period has not been agreed with the applicant, the Government's policy is that the decision should be made within 26 weeks at most.

Consultation on the Rotherham application began on June 13 2017, 24 weeks ago.

INEOS also said in its statement: "The work would bring inward investment into the local area with the possibility that the sites could be used for shale gas development if the surveys are successful.

"We are also disappointed that a strong shale presence in the region has not been more welcomed given the recent manufacturing decline in the region as a result of energy costs, including the almost closure is the former TATA steel works in Rotherham, now Liberty Speciality Steel."

INEOS Shale website

Images: INEOS / Turley

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