Friday, February 9, 2018

News: Fracking firm finding favour with second set of Rotherham plans

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INEOS looks to be in a better position to achieve planning permission for its second identified site in Rotherham at Woodsetts.

The planning board at Rotherham Council recently confirmed its objections to INEOS' plans for a test drilling well at its first site Harthill over highways and ecology issues. As it stands, these same issues are not considered by the authority as reasons for refusal for the second site at Woodsetts.

If approved, both applications would provide temporary permission for a maximum of five years and the operation would involve months of various site investigation surveys and site preparation before a period of drilling, coring and testing. A well would be drilled to approximately 2,800 m using a drill rig of maximum 60 m rig height followed by three months of testing.

The site would be restored after the activity has taken place and tests will be carried out on the suitability of the area for hydraulic fracturing.

Rothbiz reported last month that the decision on the Harthill site will be made following a public inquiry that is scheduled to begin in April.

Both sites are within the borough's Greenbelt. Rotherham Council planners considered that the Harthill proposals do not represent inappropriate development in the Greenbelt - often a reason for refusal. The decision was justified by planners over the relatively short term period and that plans include proposals to restore the land after use (any potential future fracking activity would require a further application).

Plans were submitted last year for the second site which is on agricultural land at Dewidales Wood, close to Woodsetts, Rackford Farm, Anston Stones Wood (a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)) and Lindrick golf course.

On the Harthill site, planners concluded, and planning board members agreed, that the proposed traffic management plans were inadequate and that they were unsatisfied 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.

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In responding to the details of the Woodsetts plans, Ian Ferguson, senior highway development control officer at Rotherham Council, states that it can be supported from a highways point of view, despite transport objections being raised from the local parish council and campaign groups.

The proposals would lead to a "significant percentage increase" in traffic through Woodsetts but the actual number of HGV movements as a result of the proposals are considered to be "relatively modest."

A maximum of 60 HGV movements a day are estimated by the applicants. The route to and from the site includes vehicles travelling along the C70 from Gateford roundabout which is considered satisfactory for HGVs.

With a 30mph limit through the village and mitigation measures such as signage and the use of convoys and escorts, the traffic management plan is unlikely to be put forward as a recommended reason for refusal.

Ferguson said: "I am of the opinion that safe and suitable access to the site can be achieved and the cumulative impact of the development in transport terms is unlikely to be severe. Accordingly, the development can be supported from a highway aspect, subject to a number of conditions."

The conditions include a traffic management plan being signed off by the Council, new signage being installed and further details being submitted regarding on-site vehicle areas, parking and turning.

On the Harthill plans, the borough's ecologist put forward a reason for refusal based on being unsatisfied with the ecological surveys and assessments undertaken by the applicant. On the Woodsetts plans, the ecology officer has asked for more surveys and information before a decision is made.

The consultation period for the Woodsetts application is set to end on February 16.

As it stands, a decision will be made by councillors on the planning board who showed their frustration and upset at INEOS "bypassing" local decision-making and "treating local democracy with contempt" and taking the application straight to a national planning inspector.

INEOS website

Images: INEOS / Turley

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