An eight-day public inquiry into plans to bring a mammoth drill and controversial mining techniques to a field in Derbyshire will be held at the Assembly Rooms in Chesterfield.
The applicant behind the scheme, INEOS, which says it is “the world’s largest manufacturer of chemicals and oil products”, is eager to bring a 60-metre tall drill to farmland six miles north of Chesterfield.
It applied in May last year to erect the drill in a field off Bramleymoor Lane, near the village of Marsh Lane, in order to investigate the suitability of the rock 2,400 metres down in the ground for the controversial mining technique fracking.
MORE ON THIS STORY: VIDEO - Watch campaigner and Ineos boss debate firm’s safety record
It is a process of injecting water and chemicals at high pressure deep underground to create tiny cracks so gas trapped in shale rocks can flow up a well to the surface and be collected.
Environmental groups claim that fracking pollutes water sources in the area around the mining sites.
INEOS first applied in May for a test drilling site. When Derbyshire County Council had still not decided on the application by December, the company appealed to Government planners, citing “unreasonable delays” and that it could not continue to wait for a decision.
As a result, the Government decided to hold a public inquiry into the scheme, which will take place from June 19. It has now revealed the venue and the expected duration.
In February, county councillors on the planning committee met to debate the proposal and voted by nine to one to reject the recommendation from officers to approve the plans – choosing instead to decline the application.
The final decision on whether the test drilling will take place rests with a Government planning inspector, who will chair the inquiry.
This will take place at the Assembly Rooms in the Market Place, Chesterfield from 10am and could last up to eight days.
At the time of making the appeal, an INEOS spokesman said: “This decision has not been taken lightly, and we understand the pressures on the councils to make decisions of national importance at a local level.
“Nevertheless, because of the unreasonable delays we have been left without an option if there is to be progress on these important projects.
“It is our duty to explore our licence areas and we have recently had the ‘hurry-up’ from the Government’s Oil and Gas Authority.
“Whilst our consultation process has always prioritised local people, we cannot wait indefinitely for these local decisions.
“Finally, we are also disappointed that a strong shale presence in the region has not been more welcomed given the recent manufacturing decline in the region as a result of energy costs, including the almost closure of Liberty Steel.”
Anyone wishing to speak at the inquiry should be present at the start on the first day to make this known, or arrange for a representative to do so on their behalf.
Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service