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Plans for exploratory drilling near Eckington are still on hold- Here's why

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019 5:28pm

By Eddie Bisknell- Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

Anti-Fracking Protesters outside last year's public inquiry into INEOS' application for drilling at Marsh Lane

Plans for exploratory mining which could pave the way for Derbyshire’s first fracking site are still on hold following approval at a heated public inquiry last year.

Last August, INEOS won permission to begin exploratory mining in land off Bramley Moor Lane, near the village of Marsh Lane, in north Derbyshire.

This followed a rejection from Derbyshire County Council, an appeal to central government from the petrochemical giant, and a testy eight-day public inquiry led by independent inspector Elizabeth Hill.

There is as of yet still no proposed date for when work could start.

INEOS’ approved plans will allow the firm to build a 60-metre-high mining rig and listening well, to drill several kilometres into the ground in search of shale gas.

Avid protesters have campaigned against the plans every step of the way, with Eckington Against Fracking forming a major part of the inquiry.

The group and its many associated supporters sought to call attention to the potential impact on the environment and local residents – including pupils at Marsh Lane Primary School – from the development.

The chairman of the group, David Kesteven, said the aim was to “protect our little piece of paradise”.

One year on, INEOS is still wrapped up in discussions with the county council to meet the many planning conditions agreed on through the inquiry.

An INEOS spokesperson said: “The council has set out a number of conditions that need to be considered before any work can commence on site.

“This takes time and we currently have no operational timescales for when work will start.

“Once we do we will keep the council and local residents updated.”

If INEOS finds shale gas during its exploratory mining, it seeks to mine it through the controversial process of fracking, which involves the use of millions of gallons of high-pressure water.

This creates small cracks – fractures – in rock which release the gas and directs it up the well to be collected on the surface.

In his closing statement last summer, INEOS barrister Gordon Steele said: “The opposition is clearly for fracking, which is not the focus of this case. The yellow t-shirts [worn by Eckington Against Fracking supporters] may have their day but it is not today.”

Initial exploration of the north Derbyshire site would last for three months, consistently generating a noise similar in volume to an idling fridge or freezer.

The company has applied to stay on the site for up to five years.

The overall cost of the project, it was revealed during the inquiry, would be £6 million.

Contaminated water would be transported to a treatment site, which could be in Ecclesfield or Rotherham, north of Sheffield.

INEOS had lodged an appeal with central government before the county council had made a decision on the application, claiming that the delay was unreasonable.

The authority later ruled against the application, prior to the inquiry.

In August last year, Ms Hill released her decision, stating that the appeal had gone in favour of INEOS due to the benefits of shale gas for the country’s energy industry and despite the impact the proposal could have on residents.

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