Derbyshire head teacher’s concerns over controversial fracking site on school’s doorstep

Fiona Marsh, head teacher of Marsh Lane Primary School.
Fiona Marsh, head teacher of Marsh Lane Primary School.

The head teacher of a primary school a few hundred metres from a proposed shale gas drilling site fears that parents will remove their children from the area if the plans are approved.

Fiona Marsh gave her statement at the start of the second week of a public inquiry which could see exploratory mining given the go ahead in the Derbyshire countryside, a few miles north of Chesterfield.

Ms Marsh, the head at Marsh Lane Primary School, which has 129 pupils aged 5-11, also lodged her concerns at the lack of communication regarding the application, which could lead to fracking.

Fracking involves the use of millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals to drill through rock thousands of metres below ground to create tiny fractures.

MORE ON THIS STORY: VIDEO: CAMPAIGNERS PROTEST AT OPENING OF FRACKING INQUIRY

These fractures release shale gas which can then be filtered up a well to the surface where it can be collected.

Ms Marsh says that both Derbyshire County Council and the applicant, petrochemical giant INEOS, have both been lax in their communication with the school.

The school lies 753 metres from the proposed drilling site; the playing field is 636 metres away; and the playground is 502 metres away.

She said: “Parents have informed us that if the proposal is approved then they will move their children to another school.

“We need to ensure that our parents do not move out of the area but we also need to be advised on how INEOS would safeguard the pupils at our school – especially in the case of an emergency at the site.

“We are disappointed that questions in regards to even the most generic health concerns have not been answered.

“Marsh Lane Primary School is an impartial party and only wishes to highlight concerns about the proposals.

“Prior to the application, neither INEOS or the county council approached us to explain the application, we have relied on parents at the school to tell us.

“To date we have received no further communication from INEOS in response to the questions that we have asked of them.”

Ms Marsh stated that governors at the primary school had looked into other applications for exploratory mining and fracking and had noted that education chiefs at a school in Yorkshire had also raised concerns for the health of pupils.

As part of the proposals, INEOS would construct a 60-metre drilling rig on a field in Bramley Moor Lane, which would drill 2,400 metres down into the ground for three months.

INEOS has applied for permission to use the site for five years.

The public inquiry, led by planning inspector Elizabeth Hill and hosted at Chesterfield Assembly Rooms, began on Tuesday, June 19 and is set to conclude on Friday, June 29.

INEOS had appealed to government over its application due to “unreasonable delays” from Derbyshire County Council on ruling on the proposals.

The county council subsequently ruled to object to the proposals by nine votes to one, against the recommendation of its own officers.

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service