The called-in proposals included exploratory drilling and sinking of four wells in each area and provided for subsequent land restoration. Exploration operations would be carried out using above and below-ground seismic monitoring equipment across a four-kilometre radius. The proposals had raised wide-ranging objections from Friends of the Earth and local residents.
The secretary of state agreed with the inspector that the first phase of exploration and monitoring was safe and sustainable and was supported by evolving government policy, as set out in a Commons written statement on shale gas and oil policy by the secretary of state for energy and climate change on 16 September 2015. The national need for shale gas exploration was a factor of great weight in favour of the development, he held.
He allowed exploration to go ahead from one site. He was minded to allow the other proposal subject to resolution of unresolved highway concerns focusing on estimates of the level of use the preferred heavy lorry route identified in the appellants’ traffic management plan by pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.
Under the terms of a condition, the approved drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations have to be completed within a period of 30 months from the date of commencement of the drilling of the first well, although the overall programme will take more than six years overall.
Inspector: Wendy McKay; Inquiry