Tuesday, January 16, 2018

News: INEOS outlines Rotherham case to Planning Inspectorate

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Having sidestepped the local planning authority in Rotherham, the oil and gas exploration and production business, INEOS, has put forward its case for why the Government's Planning Inspectorate should approve its proposals for a test well at Harthill.

Having been given the "hurry-up" by Government, INEOS said that it had encountered "unreasonable delays" in dealing with Rotherham Council on its plans for a drilling rig on Greenbelt land between the villages of Harthill and Thorpe Salvin.

Planners and councillors in Rotherham were left shocked, disappointed, disgusted as INEOS appealed to the Planning Inspectorate over the non-determination of the application.

INEOS has now submitted a Statement of Case via its planning consultants, Turley, ahead of a potential public inquiry later this year.

With the application for a shale gas test drilling well validated by the Counil in June, the statement notes that it should have been determined by October 6 2017. The application was due to be discussed at a special meeting of the planning board that was set for November 23 and was heading for refusal after the Council's transport planners raised concerns over road safety.

The meeting was put back to early 2018 with Cllr. Atkin, chair of the planning board at Rotherham Council, stating last month that it was INEOS that asked for an extension so that they could overcome the objections.

The case for approval centres on Rotherham Council's concerns over "poor" ecological surveys and assessments undertaken by the applicant that "fall considerably short."

The authority's other reason for refusal that would have been recommended to the planing board is over highways.

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The statement sets out that: "The proposed traffic management process is currently the main issue between the Appellant and the Council."

The Council have been unsatisfied that that it includes adequate mitigation in terms of protecting the safety of other road users on the intended route along Packman Lane and Common Road.

The proposal could generate a maximum of 70 daily vehicle movements during the site development and establishment stage and 60 among the subsequent phases. The impact of the proposal's traffic on Bondhay Lane and Common Road was confirmed as being above 10% with HGV increase above 30%.

A traffic management plan (TMP) assessed how large vehicles, potentially with an abnormal wide load of 4.1m, would travel to and from the site from junction 30 of the M1, 9.5 km away.

A draft TMP included measures such as using escort vehicles as HGVs travel in convoy, seven potential formal passing places within the adopted highway boundary, traffic management, such as STOP/GO signs, at junctions, warning signs, and the trimming of hedgerows to allow the movement of abnormal loads.

After concerns were raised by the Council the TMP was amended to include "the temporary restriction of Packman Lane, Common Road and Harthill Field Road to one-way movement of general traffic by the implementation of a traffic regulation order (TRO)."

Waiting laybys would be used as HGVs negotiate the Common Road/Harthill Field Road junction that "is somewhat constrained."

The amendments also show that abnormal loads will be reconfigured to reduce the maximum width of these loads to 3.5m. Nine potential locations of informal passing places have also been identified along Packman Lane.

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Ian Ferguson, senior highway development control officer at Rotherham Council is yet to be convinced by the amended TMP which is based on implementing a traffic regulation order (TRO).

Ferguson said: "The Council cannot make an order which would have the effect of preventing, at any time, access for pedestrians to any premises situated on or adjacent the road or to any other premises accessible for pedestrians from, and only from, the road ... There are several families living along Packman Lane.

"The Council as Highway Authority is not prepared to make such an order since it is not satisfied that traffic should be restricted or prohibited, the alternative route is not suitable and access for pedestrians to premises situated on or adjacent the road cannot be prevented."

Concerns were also raised over HGVs that are 3.5m wide leaving no space for any other road user. 3.5m coincides with the overall width of highway along significant lengths of the route measured between hedges.

The officer also disagrees with the applicants view that 9m long vehicles can negotiate the Common Road/Harthill Field Road junction and adds that the passing places on Packman Lane are not adequately spaced.

Statements and interested party comments are due with the planning inspector, Helen Skinner, by February 8. A date for a potential public inquiry has not been set.

With INEOS submitting an appeal, it essentially means that the application is refused. The planning board in Rotherham will still need to determine its reasons for refusal and establish its position before any inquiry by the Planning Inspectorate and defend it in the same way it would at a standard planning appeal.

The board pencilled in a meeting on January 25 to discuss the proposals in public.

INEOS website

Images: INEOS / Turley

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