Councillors vote against fracking - but warn of tough battle ahead
Parish councillors have voted against fracking taking place in a village in north east Derbyshire - but have warned residents of a tough battle ahead.
Dozens of villagers attended an extraordinary general meeting of Eckington Parish Council tonight (Tuesday, January 24) regarding the proposal to carry out fracking in Marsh Lane, near Eckington.
Chemical firm INEOS has identified an area of privately-owned land off Bramleymoor Lane as a potential site to drill for shale gas.
The industry giant has submitted a request to Derbyshire County Council to carry out initial tests - with a full application expected to be submitted at the end of the month.
At Eckington Civic Centre residents heard councillors debate the issue and adopt the motion: ’This parish council will object to any hydraulic drilling and exploration for gas and oil and fracking on any land in the Parish boundary’.
After councillors voted unanimously in opposing the proposal, chairman of Eckington Parish Council, Councillor Brian Ridgway, said: “I make no apologies in saying that you have stepped into a political battle.
“This is a political battle and you will need friends.
“There is a long way to go and you have my future support.
“It is my intention to stand up in the county council chamber and speak up against fracking. The county council have accepted that.”
He added: “The community needs to be organised to meet this challenge. This decision by the council is a great step forward and we will help in any way we can.”
At the meeting, Coun Ridgway told residents an application from INEOS will be submitted by the end of January and a final decision by Derbyshire County Council could be made around July.
Coun Ridgway also made residents aware that operational director at INEOS, Tom Pickering, does not believe the firm needs to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment.
Following the meeting, the Derbyshire Times contacted INEOS for a response.
Operational director at INEOS, Tom Pickering, said: “The environmental screening report we submitted to Derbyshire County Council addresses whether or not an Environmental Impact Assessment (‘EIA’) is required for the proposed development.
“‘Screening’ is a formal process established in the EIA Regulations, where the proposer of a development seeks the planning authority’s formal opinion on whether EIA is required, or not.
“Our screening report sets out the issues we have considered in coming to our own conclusion that an EIA is not required in this case.
“It is for the council, having considered our submission and consulted with the appropriate bodies, to confirm whether it considers EIA is necessary. If it concludes that EIA is not required, the planning application will still be supported by a number of reports which will assess the effects of the proposal.”
He added: “The proposal is to drill a vertical exploration well to recover samples of the rock for laboratory analysis. The drilling rig will be operational for approximately three months before it is dismantled and removed from the site. We look forward to meeting residents local to the site at our drop-in exhibition on Tuesday 31 January.”
North East Derbyshire District Council’s Marsh Lane and Ridgeway ward representative Michael Gordon was also in attendance at the meeting.
He said: “The parish council has shown they are with the public on fracking, including health problems and environmental problems.
“We know factually that there is evidence that shows how it can affect the health of people who live nearby.
“In the first three months, there’s going to be continual traffic day and night, 24 hours a day up and down the roads which would be carrying contaminated waste.
“The fight does not end when the county makes a decision. The fight could go on beyond that.”
During public questions, a woman said she had just bought her a house on Lightwood Road in Marsh Lane and had no idea about the fracking proposal.
The woman, Wendy Greenwood, brought along her eight-year-old son Oliver to the meeting and he read out a letter which he has sent to prime minister Theresa May.
He said: “My mummy is very sad and I am sad too. My mummy is sad because they want to do fracking next to a house that we are buying. My mummy has cried every day. She is so worried that she will lose all her money. I am scared that fracking will make me ill. I think fracking in Marsh Lane will ruin me and my mummy’s life.”
A Facebook page called ‘Eckington Against Fracking’ has seen its presence grow from 100 members to more than 2,200 members since the application was made public on January 5.
As well as the Facebook page, residents have delivered leaflets through letter boxes, huge banners have been put up in the area and a online petition has received more than 50,000 signatures.
Last week MP for North East Derbyshire, Natascha Engel, said: “This is terrible news for the people of Marsh Lane and Eckington. Many residents have contacted me concerned for their safety and the security of their houses. I will be meeting INEOS and the county council to see how we can get a safety zone around areas where people live.”
A public meeting is set to take place on Thursday (January 26) at 7pm at Green Lawns Community Centre in Marsh Lane.
INEOS have organised a public exhibition on Tuesday (January 31), between 2pm and 8pm, also at the community centre.