Arrangements to control traffic on country lanes where a petrochemicals company wants to drill a ‘test’ well for potential fracking in South Yorkshire would be legally unenforceable, a public inquiry has been told.
Scottish firm Ineos wants to drill in a green field location near the village of Harthill, which is in Rotherham and on the southern fringe of the county and has taken their application to a public inquiry after Rotherham Council missed the legal deadline for making a decision on a planning application.
Councillors have since made a decision that they would refuse the application, though that is now in the hands of a planning inspector who is hearing evidence about the contested elements of the application.
Originally council highways officials recommended refusal on highway safety grounds, but after Ineos came up with a second plan for getting convoys of lorries through the narrow country lanes in the area, the experts accepted the arrangements would work and recommended that plan was accepted.
It involves the use of passing places, to allow traffic to move of the highway to avoid approaching vehicles, with banksmen to control vehicle flow and a ‘stop-go’ arrangement to allow convoys of lorries to form up and then move off into or out of the site.
But resident Leslie Barlow told the hearing there was no legal power to allow Ineos or its staff to impose the traffic management plan they had drawn up.
Mr Barlow said the Highway Code was clear about who could legally direct traffic – from police officers through to school patrol wardens – but those working for Ineos would not fall into that category, he said, and instead it would have to be operated on a voluntary basis.
“It would depend on a voluntary system, making it unsafe. Ineos cannot get away from that, access to the site is from a single track lane that was never intended for HGVs.
“It would be a case of ‘I’m bigger than you so move over’.
“The traffic management plan is an ad hoc arrangement and would create an unsafe environment.”
Mr Barlow also has concerns that noise levels from the site would be unacceptable and that work there would have an unacceptable impact on the environment.
The Ineos application, if approved, would make way for the drilling of a ‘listening’ well to test geological conditions below ground.
If they were deemed suitable for fracking, a futher planning application would be needed before that process could start.
Yorkshire Friends of the Earth are in opposition to the plan, on the grounds that further sources of fossil fuels are not needed.