Chemical giant INEOS announced today that it will ask the Planning Inspectorate to take the decision out of the hands of Derbyshire County Council, which it says has subjected the process to ‘unreasonable delays’.
It argues the statutory period for determining the applications has long since finished and that it believes a decision was unlikely in the short term.
Tom Pickering, operations director at INEOS Shale, said: “This decision has not been taken lightly, and we understand the pressures on the councils to make decisions of national importance at a local level.
“Nevertheless, because of the unreasonable delays we have been left without an option if there is to be progress on these important projects.
“It is our duty to explore our licence areas and we have recently had the ‘hurry-up’ from the Government’s Oil and Gas Authority.
“Whilst our consultation process has always prioritised local people, we cannot wait indefinitely for these local decisions.
“Finally, we are also disappointed that a strong shale presence in the region has not been more welcomed given the recent manufacturing decline in the region as a result of energy costs, including the almost closure of Liberty Steel.”
The shock move put the company at odds with the County Council, which rejected the idea it had acted unreasonably.
Council bosses said they would continue their work to assess the development’s suitability despite the company’s request.
A council spokesman said: “The county council in its role as minerals planning authority considers each planning application on its individual merits and is impartial.
“Each planning decision is based on objective analysis of evidence, taking into account local and national planning policies and the relevant comments of the public and official consultees such as parish councils. We reject the suggestion that there has been any unreasonable delay on the council’s part.
“This detailed analysis and consultation for major planning applications of this nature takes time – particularly when we have to go back to the applicant to request more information, as in this case, and give people the chance to comment on the additional information.
“We’re currently carrying out a second period of publicity and consultation which ends on 7 December 2017.
“We have been in regular contact with INEOS and have kept them informed every step of the way.
“We will continue with our work to assess whether or not the application is suitable development for the location proposed.”
Ineos’ request refers to two applications to drill ‘coring wells’ in the region - one at Marsh Lane and the other near Rotherham at Harthill.
If these wells prove successful, the sites could then be used for shale gas development in the future - subject to further planning applications.
For more, see next week’s Derbyshire Times.