Friday, August 24, 2018

Tactics To Undermine Fully Fledged Fracking

The Planning Inspector's decision to allow a vertical hydrocarbon core-well to be established at Bramleymoor Lane, near Marsh Lane in North East Derbyshire was made on 16 August and can be found here. The Inspectors photo from the enquiry itself appears below.
 Image result for Elizabeth Hill Planning Inspector

For those of us who are strongly opposed to this development, much of our attention now needs to be directed towards how we can seek to block a likely consequential move by INEOS to obtain permission for horizontal underground fracking operations from the same (or a neighbouring) site.  I raise what I hope is some food for thought.

Whilst I appreciate that the Planning Inspector's decision would still have gone against us, I feel that the Derbyshire County Council made an error at the enquiry in not going far enough with its own reasons for rejecting the initial planning application for use of the site. For it only raised three main objections to INEOS's proposals. These were restricted to (1) green belt concerns, (2) night time noise problems and (3) highway and transport matters.

Whilst these were key concerns, many more matters were raised by anti-fracking sources at the County's own public enquiry which was held at Matlock. These included (a) the seismic effects of drilling, (b) concern about dangers from past coal mining operations in the area, (c) problems concerning the operation of the Coal Aston airstrip, (d) landscape problems, (e) air quality dangers, (f) ecology issues, (g) the use of agricultural land and (h) problems with surface water. As it was not the County Council who raised such points, they were all rather briefly dismissed by the Planning Inspector. Yet the County's objections received much deeper answers from the Inspector and numbers of conditions were laid down by her for their agreed operation. These points included (1) that the drilling period should be limited to 5 months, (2) repairs should be made to any otherwise lasting damages, (3) a noise monitoring system should be operated and (4) a vehicle-reversing warning system will be required.

These may be minor points in the overall picture of what will happen, but if the Derbyshire County Council had widened its objections some extra (yet minor) concessions might have emerged. But every little helps.

And although the "protective factors" provided by the Inspector are limited and could have been much greater, they can now be used to try to undermine the eventual full application for horizontal fracking powers in the area.

A key avenue to pursue is with the Coal Authority. Why did it raise no problems nor seek any conditions for the coming INEOS operations at Bramleymoor Lane ?  For they hold clear and substantial records of former mine workings in the area. Then their current "Coal Authority Annual Report and Accounts, 2017-18 (House of Commons 1168)" states on page 101 that "The Coal Authority has obligations under the 1994 Act and Subsidence Act 1991 to investigate and settle claims in respect of coal mining damage arising outside designated areas of responsibility associated with licences granted to coal mining operators. Surface hazards provisions relate to the costs of treating ground collapses, shaft collapses and other hazards relating to former coal mining activities. The Coal Authority has obligations under the 1994 Act and Subsidence Act 1991 to investigate and treat hazards arising from coal and to have regard for public safety".

The Coal Authority also has a new Chief Executive in Lisa Pinney - see her photo below. It is hoped that if pushed, a new broom will sweep clean. Furthermore, the Coal Authority operates from Mansfield. So it is easy for nearby local MPs and Councils to seek meetings with her and to otherwise push for the rejection of fully fledged fracking measures.

The Coal Authority Interactive Map reveals masses of problems in the Bramleymoor Lane and related areas, which need the fullest consideration. The work on this matter which has been undertaken by the Coal Authority is substantial and of great importance. What we need is for them to pursue the very problems which are in front of their eyes, thanks to their own work in the past - which is still continuing. They should not be nobbled by Jim Ratcliffe who owns 60% of INEOS, just because he is the richest person in the country, has access to 10 Downing Street and last month obtained a knighthood from the Queen - who only holds a 57th of Jim's wealth. Especially, when he is moving to tax-free Monaco to avoid UK taxes to protect those aspects of his wealth which aren't already hidden away in tax-havens.
Image result for Lisa Pinney MBE

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