Result: Woodsetts - 1, INEOS - 0
The planning application for a fracking exploration on the edge of a Woodsetts has been unanimously rejected by councillors who not only followed the advice of their officials, but added their own reasons for refusing it based on causing traffic problems. Rotherham’s planning officials had recommended against the application on the basis that insufficient ecological surveys had been carried out, to protect birds and bats. This brings the number of planning decisions that have gone against UK fracking companies this year to seven. WAF now expect Ineos to continue to pursue their application through an appeal to the National Planning Inspectorate, as they have already done with other applications.
This battle is won, the war is not over.
During the sometimes heated meeting, the operations director of Ineos, Tom Pickering, had his microphone switched off by the chair, councillor Alan Atkin, for continuing to talk after being asked to stop. “I am not having anyone ridden roughshod over this planning board,” Atkin told Pickering. “Ineos has not covered itself in glory,” he added.
Woodsetts Against Fracking during a very professional 30 minute pitch told councillors they were concerned about noise, water and air pollution, as well as traffic problems created by HGVs. Sue Gildersleve of WAF, said: “We know it sounds a bit like a disaster movie, but this disaster movie is coming to a village near you.” Andy Tickell, of the regional branch for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Simply put, this is industrialisation of sensitive and attractive countryside.”
Rotherham Council planners themselves had raised concerns about the proximity of the site 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.
“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” said Councillor Clive Jepson. 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.