Controversial drilling plans for Derbyshire village approved

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Controversial plans to carry out exploratory drilling in a north Derbyshire village have today been approved.

The Planning Inspectorate has granted Ineos permission to drill a vertical hydrocarbon exploratory core well on land off Bramley Moor Lane, Marsh Lane, near Eckington, in order to extract rock samples for testing to see if it is viable to extract gas.

The decision means that fracking could eventually take place depending on the outcome of the testing.

An eight-day inquiry was held in Chesterfield in June where inspector Elizabeth Hill heard evidence from Ineos and those campaigning against the proposals, including local group Eckington Against Fracking, who have campaigned for the last 18 months and raised issues such as impact on green belt, highways and noise.

The inquiry was held after Ineos appealed saying Derbyshire County Council was taking too long to make a decision - something the authority denied.

In her report Ms Hill concluded: "I have taken into account all of the representations made. I have found that there would be slight harm in terms of the living conditions of neighbouring occupiers, in terms of night-time noise, to which I give limited weight. However, this would not outweigh the benefits of the exploration in terms of its potential to improve resources for energy supplies to which I give substantial weight. On all other matters 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.

"Therefore, I conclude that the appeal should be allowed."

In a tweet, MP for North East Derbyshire, Lee Rowley, wrote: "Extremely disappointed that the Planning Inspector has allowed drilling to go ahead at Bramleymoor Lane. This decision is simply wrong. I know residents will be hugely disappointed and I share that disappointment; will review the detail properly & come back later today."

A spokesperson for Ineos said: "Ineos Shale is pleased by today’s decision to approve the application for a test drilling site at Bramley Moor Lane.

“It is disappointing that a planning inquiry was needed for what is a straight-forward project – leading to an unjustifiable waste of public money. 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.”

And a spokesperson for Friends of the Earth said: "“This is a bitter disappointment for the local community who have worked so hard to fight this threat, and also Derbyshire County Council who opposed it, but at least local people have had a say.

"The Government’s current outrageous proposals to fast track future shale gas test drills through ‘permitted development’ rules will ride roughshod over local democracy and mean communities will be shut out of participating in decisions like this."

The full decision can be read here