Fracking – Nottinghamshire County Council & The Misson Springs Decision
1st Nov 2016
In a recent article I mentioned that the Nottinghamshire County Council Planning and Licensing Committee had on 5 October 2016 adjourned its decision on the application by IGas for the development of a temporary well site at Misson Springs in Bassetlaw. The development site is former MOD land around two miles north-east of Misson, close to the Nottinghamshire, Doncaster and North Lincolnshire local government boundary. The development would involve the vertical and horizontal drilling of two exploratory shale gas wells to explore the rock geology below the ground to find out if it is likely to contain shale gas.
The purpose of the adjournment was to allow the Committee to receive legal advice on the effect of a land covenant brought to the Committee’s attention by Friends of the Earth during the 5 October meeting. When the adjourned meeting took place on 15 November 2016, it appears that the Committee concluded that the covenant had no material impact on its decision and by seven votes to four proceeded to grant permission for the application subject to an appropriate section 106 agreement (concerning HGV operation) and no less than 37 conditions. Three controls, added at the 15 November meeting, require IGas to put up a restoration bond, that a community liaison group should continue, and that additional air quality, noise and water level testing should be undertaken throughout the period of development. The effect of a restoration bond would be that the energy company has to put in place financial arrangements for the purpose of restoring the land to its original condition once the works are completed. It is to be hoped that those arrangements are sufficient.
Two comments may be made about the Committee’s decision. First, it confirms that in this instance private law matters between neighbouring landowners had no effect on the outcome of the planning process. In principle, there was never any obvious reason why they should; and it may be that councillors and officers need be aware of the point so that the determination of future applications is not delayed for such reasons.
Second, the large number of conditions represents the outcome of a lengthy consultation process between the local authority, the energy company, environmental and other groups, the parish council and local residents. This seems a sensible way of proceeding and should be a model for other local authorities to follow.
The granting of this application is a major step towards satisfying the necessary planning pre-conditions for fracking. The Council has made clear on its website that fracking itself cannot be undertaken as part of the permission. Before fracking can happen, further applications will be needed.
What remains to be seen is whether the party or parties in whose favour the land covenant operates will seek to oppose the permitted activities through legal action and the courts. If so, that dispute will involve IGas but not the local authority.
Paul Stafford Call 1987