A public inquiry will rule on a planning application to explore shale gas reserves on a site in north east Derbyshire, it has been revealed.
The decision means the future of a site near Marsh Lane will now be decided by the Government’s Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, or a planning inspector working on behalf of the Government, instead of the county council.
Chemical giant Ineos wants to drill at the site to investigate the suitability of the rock for ‘fracking’ - a controversial technology whereby gas is released by injecting water and chemicals into rocks deep below the surface.
The leader of Derbyshire County Council, Councillor Barry Lewis, said he felt the decision was premature.
He said: “We reject the suggestion that there has been any unreasonable delay on our part and we’re extremely disappointed that this decision affecting our communities will now be made by central Government.
“Our planning process is a democratic process. It would have been wrong of us to deny local people and statutory consultees the opportunity to comment on the additional information – which was not included in INEOS’ original planning application.
We are extremely disappointed that this decision affecting our communities will now be made by central Government.Barry Lewis
“And this consultation and the detailed analysis needed for major planning applications of this nature takes time.
“INEOS says it prioritises local consultation and is disappointed that the decision will not be taken at local level – and yet it is the very organisation which has pushed to have a local decision taken out of local hands.”
The county council’s planning committee will still meet to consider INEOS’ proposals in the New Year and express a view for the Planning Inspector to consider.
All comments made to the county council on the application will be made available to the Planning Inspectorate as part of the appeal process.
No date has been set for the public inquiry.
Ineos: ‘We were left with little choice’
In a letter to Coun Lewis, Ineos’ commercial director, Lynn Calder, said the firm felt it was left with ‘little choice’ but to lodge the appeal. She said: “In your email you say that you reject our suggestion there has been an unreasonable delay from Derbyshire County Council. Sadly, I must disagree, as my team have found that at every turn in the planning process, our applications are taking longer than they should. I would remind you that we first applied for planning permission on May 8. It is now November 30. It is nearly seven months since submission and my team feel that we are still no closer to a decision being taken.”
She added that the firm had an obligation to the Government to undertake exploratory and technical work on the licences they were awarded within agreed timelines.