Ineos has been granted planning permission on appeal for exploratory shale gas drilling in the Green Belt, near Rotherham.

In May 2017, petrochemical firm Ineos sought temporary permission for a period of five years for a shale gas well, access track and ancillary facilities at Common Lane, Harthill near Rotherham. Ineos claims that the site has been chosen because it is within an area of interest based on existing seismic data.

Ineos intends to dig a 2.8km (1.7 mile) exploratory well to extract rock samples in order to test the viability of shale gas extraction.

Ineos lodged an appeal in December 2017 after Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council failed to determine the application within the statutory determination period. The Council then refused the application in January 2018, primarily over concerns regarding the impact on the local highway network and insufficient submission of ecological details.

However, permission was granted on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate in June 2018.

The Planning Inspector considered the main issues in the case to be whether the proposal represented inappropriate development in the Green Belt and its impact on local highways.

On these issues, the Inspector found that the proposal would not necessarily have an unacceptable impact on local highways and that the extent and temporary nature of the development would ensure that the proposal would neither represent inappropriate development nor would not be harmful to the Green Belt.

While he acknowledged that the development could have negative impacts on biodiversity, the landscape and visual character of the surrounding area, he concluded that these would not outweigh the benefits from the investigation proposed in terms of future energy supplies to which he gave greater weight.

Through the imposition of suitable conditions, he considered that the development would be environmentally acceptable and that it would constitute safe and sustainable development in light of the National Planning Policy Framework.

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