Plans to carry out fracking in a Derbyshire village have edged a step closer.
Chemical firm Ineos has today been told it does not need to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the proposed site on privately-owned land off Bramley Moore Lane in Marsh Lane, near Eckington.
The location will now be subject to a full application for a vertical coring well to evaluate the geology.
Anti-fracking protesters said the decision was ‘disappointing’ while Derbyshire County Council said it was made after ‘careful consideration’.
Chairman of Eckington Against Fracking, David Kesteven, said: “They have picked the wrong village and we are going to fight back.
“We are very disappointed.
“The good thing is that we have tremendous support and it is growing.
“It is step back but we will resist it all the way.”
He added: “We have to carry on. There is nothing in this proposal that is good for the community.
“All we are going to get is noise, pollution and lower house prices.”
The plans have been strongly opposed by hundreds of residents who have held public meetings, launched a committee and staged a protest march on Saturday.
An online petition calling for an EIA to take place had received more than 75,000 signatures before today’s announcement.
Chairman of Eckington Against Fracking, Councillor Brian Ridgway, said: “It’s very disappointing that the company do not have to provide a EIA, but I do understand the decision in planning terms.
“Unfortunately this is exactly as Ineos planned. They don’t apply for fracking initially, purely drill and finish sounding then it’s a short step to fracking the existing bore. This strategy has been used by industry to get a toe hold towards their final goal many times.
“The company are on notice that the community will fight this every inch of the way and they should be in no doubt this incursion into our lives is not welcome.“
If given the full planning application is given go-ahead, it would mean building a drilling rig up to 60 metres tall to drill around 2,400 metres down into the ground to find out more about the shale gas reserve.
Mike Ashworth, Derbyshire County Council’s strategic director for economy, transport and communities, said: “After careful consideration, our view is that Ineos does not need to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment for this proposal which involves underground drilling and investigation but not the process of fracking. An assessment may be needed if INEOS decides to apply for any other planning permission.”
Ineos say the decision by Derbyshire County Council is consistent with the rules and regulations for temporary developments of this nature.
The firm added that it will submit a detailed planning application for the coring well and will undertake further community consultation ahead of its submission.
Tom Pickering, operations director at Ineos, said: “We are very pleased that the latest step in the process has now been completed. While we are not required to complete a formal EIA, all relative environmental concerns will be addressed as part of the application and we are looking forward to continuing to work with the council and community to discuss these as the project moves forward.”
The county council, which is the planning authority responsible for considering oil and gas developments, was approached by INEOS in January for a formal opinion on whether a planning application for this vertical well on this site would require a statutory EIA – a formal process to assess in detail the impacts of potential development on the environment when the effects are likely to be significant.
Mr Ashworth added: “The county council has a legal obligation to decide on planning applications about fracking in Derbyshire.
“Our planning committee considers each planning application on its individual merits and is impartial. As with any other planning application, each planning decision it makes is based on objective analysis of evidence, taking into account local and national planning policies and the relevant comments of official consultees – such as parish councils – and the public.
“We have already received many emails and letters from residents about the proposed drilling well and all these views will be taken into consideration by our planning committee if Ineos submits a planning application.
“We’re committed to making information available to the public on our website every step of the way throughout the planning process.
“If Ineos applies for planning permission we will publish details on our website at www.derbyshire.gov.uk/fracking with details about how people can make their views known and how they can get involved in the planning process, including speaking at the planning committee.”
View online petition at: www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/338/312/082/
MORE HERE: Fracking protestors vow to make a difference