DERBYSHIRE: Fracking inquiry preview
Tomorrow, a landmark eight-day public inquiry will start into whether permission will be granted for exploratory mining, which could lead to fracking, in the Derbyshire countryside.
The plans, brought forward by chemicals and oil goliath INEOS, would see a 60-metre tall drill erected in a field off Bramley Moor Lane, near the village of Marsh Lane, six miles north of Chesterfield.
This is to investigate the suitability of rock 2,400 metres down in the ground for the controversial mining technique fracking.
VIDEO DEBATE: Should we allow fracking in Derbyshire?
A thumbs-up for these plans could set a precedent, with the likelihood increasing of the green light being given to future fracking sites across the county.
Fracking 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.
It is not a process which gets the backing of environmental groups, with claims that fracking pollutes water sources in the area around the mining sites.
The road to the inquiry has been a bumpy one, with the applicants taking Derbyshire County Council to appeal, citing “unreasonable delays” before the authority had even decided on whether to approve or reject the proposals.
After this appeal was submitted, the county council decided to ignore its own officers’ advice in a cross-party rejection of the scheme by nine votes to one.
However, the final decision now rests with a government planning inspector, Elizabeth Hill, in a process which could last eight days.
Campaign group Eckington Against Fracking is to have a large presence outside Chesterfield Assembly Rooms, the chosen venue of the inquiry, and has been given plenty of time to debate in the proceedings, alongside INEOS and the county council.
Spokeswoman for the group, Carol Hutchinson, said that the campaign had the full support of locals.
She said: “We are out to win and we feel buoyed by local people.
“This development is in itself in the wrong place, near to people’s homes, and will destroy our way of life – and that’s along with the bigger problem of climate change.
“We feel optimistic, we have a good case and we are also extremely pleased with the amount of money raised for legal fees for our campaign [£5,000], a lot of which has come from local people.
“This is not a well-off community, which makes money they have donated mean so much more.
“It is a lot of small donations from a lot of people, which reassures us that locally, people are with us on this – there is a good swell of people who do not want this development to happen.”
The public inquiry, to be observed by around 180 members of the public, starts on Tuesday, June 19 and will be held in the Chesterfield Assembly Rooms from 10am to 5pm.
From June 20-22 and June 25-28, each session runs from 9.30am until 5pm.
Derbyshire County Council chose not to comment until after the inquiry, while INEOS was unavailable for comment.