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Campaigners hail rejection of fracking exploration plan outside Sheffield as victory for local democracy

Plans to conduct shale gas exploration work in Marsh Lane will be examined at a public inquiry - but have been opposed by local councillors.
Plans to conduct shale gas exploration work in Marsh Lane will be examined at a public inquiry - but have been opposed by local councillors.
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Anti-fracking campaigners have hailed a council’s decision to reject shale gas exploration plans for a village on the outskirts of Sheffield as a victory for local democracy.

Derbyshire County Council’s planning committee voted nine to one to oppose petrochemical giant Ineos’s plans to conduct exploration work in the village of Marsh Lane, a process which could eventually lead to fracking.

The decision is only advisory as Ineos had already won Government permission for a planning inspector to conduct a public inquiry this summer into the application on the grounds the council was taking too long to make a ruling.

Ineos has also been granted permission for a separate public inquiry for similar exploration work it wants to carry out at a site at Harthill, Rotherham - less than 10 miles from the Marsh Lane site.

Rotherham Council has also made an advisory decision opposing the plans for Harthill.

The parallel public inquiries due to take place in the next few months represent the first time a company involved in the shale gas industry has been allowed to bypass local councils ruling on planning applications for fracking exploration work in favour of Government inspectors determining the cases.

Should the tests on underground wells to determine their suitability for fracking prove successful, it could pave the way for the controversial process - which involves the injection of water and chemicals at high pressure into rocks deep underground to release shale gas - to begin permanently.

But those fighting against the plans have hailed the decision of the Derbyshire planning committee on Monday, with councillors going against a planning officer’s recommendation that the tests should be approved with strict conditions attached.

Deborah Gibson, campaigner with Harthill Against Fracking, said: “I am happy the committee came to this conclusion; it shows how local democracy works when given a chance. Because Ineos bypassed the local planning process, we are all hoping the decision should now carry some weight with the planning inspectorate, alongside all our new objections.”

The decision came after a four-hour hearing which included objections to the plans from local Conservative MP Lee Rowley. No one from Ineos spoke at the meeting in support of the application and councillors cited concerns about harm to greenbelt land, traffic and night-time noise in their reasons for refusal.

Dave Kesteven, campaigner with Eckington Against Fracking, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the council have decided to support those who elect them and not a multi-national plastics manufacturer whose activities would disrupt our communities and pollute our environment. I am sure that this victory will be repeated at the public inquiry.”

Ineos has also submitted a third application for Woodsetts, Rotherham.

Ineos did not respond to request for comment.