Guest column: Shale gas application was a complex call for everyone

Sally Gill, planning group manager at Nottinghamshire County Council
Sally Gill, planning group manager at Nottinghamshire County Council
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As you may be aware, the county council’s planning and licensing committee this week approved plans for an exploratory shale gas well on land off the A634 between Barnby Moor and Blyth.

The plans do not include ‘fracking’.

This followed a six-hour meeting this week and, prior to that, months of work from planning officers in collating responses from more than 40 organisations and more than 900 representations.

The application has been determined in line with the relevant national, and local, policies and guidance.

During the meeting itself, councillors heard from five organisations who presented their views on the planning application – Blyth Parish Council, Torworth Parish Council, Tinker Lane Community Group, United Kingdom Onshore Oil and the applicant, Dart Energy.

Approving the application was an extremely complex and difficult decision, so I thought it would be useful to explain some of the background to the role of the council in determining shale gas-related applications.

Councillors were required to follow national planning policies set by Government and be satisfied that the proposal is an acceptable use of the land in planning terms.

Any planning application for shale gas development is considered against a wide range of issues including:

The existing land use.

Working hours, dust, noise and lighting.

Transport and access routes to get to the site.

Wildlife and flora including any important habitats/protected species that might be disturbed.

The impact on water resources and potential flood risks.

Ultimately, councillors agreed to grant planning permission subject to 52 planning conditions to control the development and a separate legal agreement to secure:

The lorry route from the site to the A1.

A driver code of conduct.

A financial bond from Dart Energy which would be used to restore the site once works have been completed in the event that Dart Energy is unable to fulfil restoration requirements

The continuation of the existing community liaison group for the lifespan of the development.

Councillors agreed to extend restrictions on HGVs accessing and leaving the site by an additional 30 minutes to avoid drop-off and pick-up times for St Mary and St Martin Primary School in Blyth.

This change means that HGVs from the site will be prevented from driving past the school from 7.30am to 9am and from 3pm to 4.30pm during weekdays.

Shale gas development is tightly regulated in the UK and requires planning permission from the county council, together with approvals, checks and permits from the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority. 

Full details about the issues the council can take into account when determining the application are available at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/shalegas