ROTHERHAM COUNCILLORS REFUSE INEOS SHALE GAS
PLANS AT WOODSETTS FOR 2ND TIME
Planning officers opened the session with a recommendation that the application was approved as it did not contravene any planning regulations, even though they recognised disruption would be inevitable to local residents and despite the 1,000 written objections to the plans. INEOS positioned that the Harthill plans had been approved at appeal on identical reasons as the previous Woodsetts application and urged the council to approve. They acknowledged the impact of traffic and disturbance but stated similar cases have been won at appeal and this was an “opportunity” to avoid going through appeal again. Tom Pickering of INEOS recognised residents remain opposed to their plans saying “once people can see for themselves INEOS will begin to build trust when online information is shown to be untrue”. He invited the community to form a group to discuss matters in a professional manner (which is ridiculous since WAF already had such a group, but closed it down due to the lack of engagement from INEOS).
WAF had arranged for an independent traffic consultant to present the case against, who raised a number of issues and failures in planning protocol. A number of WAF representatives then presented for 30 minutes taking each topic in turn, but focusing on the fact that the plans for Woodsetts are different to other approved sites. WAF called on the councillors to reject the application on the planning grounds of proximity of site to residents, proximity of site to ancient woodland, unsafe access, loss of visual amenity, and loss of amenity through intimidation on a right of way.
Representations were made from local residents, parish councillors and Campaign for the Protection of Rural England all of who collectively recommended refusal on the various grounds of child safeguarding, ecology, proximity to property, traffic, visual amenity, safety, noise and pollution, and the impact on green belt.
Some councillors made the case for supporting the proposal on the grounds that it was government policy and wanting to avoid an appeal process. Both residents and the council had been notified in advance of the hearing that refusing the planning application would lead to a planning enquiry, and called out that approving the application would save time and money for all involved. Tom Pickering from INEOS stated that he wanted councillors to approve and avoid another costly appeal. The tone of this message was referred to by a number of parties during the hearing and Councillor Whysall said it sounded “vaguely threatening”.
Whilst the councillors said they were concerned that noise levels would not be controlled, the planning officer stated this was not a good enough reason for refusal. It was also confirmed that the noise levels were a condition of the approval, but it would likely be up to villagers to notify the council if these were breached as there would no independent governance over them.
After much debate councillors said they want to refuse the application on the grounds of highway safety, the lack of information on control of environmental impacts, and the proximity of the site entrance to homes.