A planning application to explore underground shale gas reserves in Derbyshire has been given a green light despite objections from the county council.
The oil and chemical firm INEOS has been granted planning permission, with conditions, by a Government-appointed planning inspector to erect a drilling rig near the village of Marsh Lane.
Derbyshire County Council opposed INEOS’ application to erect the 60 metre tall rig because, they argued, it would have an ‘unacceptable impact’ on local road users.
They also opposed the application on the grounds that it would harm the Green Belt and produce ‘unacceptable’ levels of night-time noise.
The development is to investigate the suitability of the rock for potential shale gas extraction by 'fracking'.
This is the process of injecting water and chemicals at high pressure into rocks deep underground to create tiny cracks so shale gas can flow up a well to the surface and be collected.
A separate planning application and approval would be required before any fracking could take place.
The planning inspector, Elizabeth Hill, concluded that there would be ‘slight harm’ in terms of the living conditions of residents neighbouring the development, but not enough to ‘outweigh the benefits of the exploration.’
‘On all other matters,’ she continued, ‘I consider that the impact is neutral overall. The conditions following this decision would ensure the development would be carried out in an acceptable manner.’
‘This is a very disappointing result for the residents of Marsh Lane and the surrounding area who came together and mounted such a well-organised campaign to oppose the application,’ said Cllr Martyn Ford, chair of Derbyshire County Council’s planning committee.
‘We’ll be looking at the inspector’s report in detail over the coming days.’
Sheffield City Council reacted with anger at the announcement that fracking will be allowed in North East Derbyshire, which borders Sheffield.
‘I am furious and dismayed at this decision,’ said Cllr Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and development at Sheffield City Council.
‘Let’s be clear here - fracking is dirty, dangerous and reckless and should not be happening in North East Derbyshire, Sheffield or anywhere else.
‘It risks causing earthquakes, polluting our water and damaging our area’s beautiful countryside.
‘I have asked our Planning Team to undertake an urgent assessment of the risks that will arise for Sheffield from today’s dangerous decision.’
A spokesperson for INEOS said they were 'pleased' by the decision to approve the application for a test drilling site.
'It is disappointing that a Planning Inquiry was needed for what is a straight-forward project – leading to an unjustifiable waste of public money,' they said.
'The permission allows for the drilling of a single vertical core well to gain scientific knowledge of what is below the surface – as has been agreed by many Councils many times in the past to support the coal industry in the region.
'INEOS Shale hopes that this case will set a precedent for timely decisions on future applications based upon the facts. A fully-fledged shale industry can be a huge boost to the UK, providing jobs, investment and secure energy.'