Fracking firm warns of costs bill if new application prompts a public inquiry

Resistance: The Woodsetts Against Fracking group is expected to challenge an application for test drilling by Ineos.
Resistance: The Woodsetts Against Fracking group is expected to challenge an application for test drilling by Ineos.
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A new planning application for exploratory ‘fracking’ tests in a Rotherham village have been submitted by the petrochemicals firm Ineos with a warning the move is an attempt to spare the council a bill for legal costs should they have to take the application to a public inquiry in future.

Rotherham Council’s planning board rejected an application to drill a temporary well on farmland at Woodsetts several months ago but in the meantime plans to drill a second well in Hartill were passed when the company took the application to a public inquiry.

Councillors had not actually made a decision to reject that at the time, but had missed a deadline for making a decision which allowed Ineos to put the matter in the hands of a planning inspector, who ruled the temporary, five year, permission should be granted.

Now Ineos have submitted a fresh application for the Woodsetts site and documents supplied by the firm insist it is “identical” to the Harthill scheme, which was deemed to be justified using supporting evidence of the same type being presented with this application.

Documents submitted to Rotherham Council stated: “This application has been prepared and submitted to off an opportunity to avoid the expense of a future inquiry and the associated risks of a costs claim, which would go alongside that process.”

The council has also been told the proposal is identical to the scheme at Harthill which has now been allowed, which had been: “supported by information of the same nature and extent as provided with this application.”

The application is to drill a test well to check whether the geology of the area is suitable for ‘fracking’ and if so, it is likely that a further planning application would follow for that work.

Public consultations have already been conducted in the area, with 92 per cent of those took part saying they did not regard the site as suitable for the proposals from Ineos.

Major concerns from people in the district included the potential of damage to ground water aquifers, the impact of vehicle movements and operational safety as the work commenced.

However, the documents state Woodsetts has already been identified as the best access route to the site, which is 400 metres from Dinnington Road, “due to the greater number of houses, a school and low bridge that would be encountered through North and South Anston,” the council has been told.

There would also be the potential to extend a 30mph speed limit to assist with controlling traffic, which would be increased due to the movement of contractor’s vehicles.

A Woodsetts Against Fracking group was established when the proposals for the village first emerged and they are now working on a survey of footpath use in the village, as part of their plans to object to the current scheme.

They are also raising money to pay for a barrister to argue their case, which is estimated to cost around £20,000.

The previous planning application for the Woodsetts site was rejected unanimously by the council’s planning board.