UPDATE: Council in U-turn as public speaking 'ban' at key fracking meeting lifted
Members of the public will be able to have their say at a key fracking meeting next week after a U-turn by Derbyshire County Council.
The authority had sent out a letter stating that no one outside the council would be able to speak at the planning committee meeting on Monday to discuss plans by chemical firm Ineos to carry out fracking tests on land off Bramley Moor Lane, Marsh Lane, near Eckington.
But the county council has confirmed this afternoon that people attending will be able to give their views.
It is expected that the county council will view the plans as "acceptable" as long as "strict planning controls" are put in place.
The final decision will be made by the Planning Inspectorate in June.
Mike Ashworth, Derbyshire County Council’s strategic director for economy, transport and environment, said: “We’re aware of the depth of feeling about this planning application and have reviewed our approach to the meeting next week so that the committee has a chance to hear views from relevant parties speaking for and against the proposal.
“Our planning committee considers each item on its individual merits and is impartial. Each planning decision is based on objective analysis of evidence, taking into account local and national planning policies and relevant comments of the public and official consultees such as parish councils.”
Ineos wants to drill 2,400 metres into the ground to test the suitability of the rock for fracking on land just off Bramley Moor Lane in the north east Derbyshire village.
The proposals – which are to carry out underground investigations only, not fracking – are already set to be considered by a planning inspector at a public inquiry on June 19 as part of an appeal. The appeal was started by Ineos in December because it was not prepared to allow more time for the council to make a decision on its planning application.
Comments made during two public consultation exercises carried out last year by the county council as part of its processing of the planning application have been passed to the Planning Inspectorate for the appeal.
Once the committee has decided on the council’s position it will be sent to the Planning Inspector to be taken into account when deciding whether or not to grant planning permission for the development.
The meeting next week follows a decision by the planning committee on Monday (January 29) not to deal with a repeat application from INEOS for the same development.
The firm submitted the second application for identical development – a process known as “twin-tracking” – soon after it made an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
Mr Ashworth added: “Processing the first application has already cost the public purse around Â£100,000 compared to the nationally set fee of Â£8,000 paid by Ineos. Processing the second application would also have been expensive with no guarantees that we would have been in a position to decide on the application before the public inquiry is concluded. We would need to ask the public to comment again and there’s every chance that any decision taken by the committee could be appealed and subject to a further public inquiry.
“The public will have the chance to speak at the public inquiry and have until Friday (2 February 2018) to make their feelings known to the planning inspector.”
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