Nottinghamshire county council has given its approval for a company to begin exploratory work in preparation for potential hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.
This makes the Mission Springs site, in the North of the county, the third this year to have received similar approval, joining one in Yorkshire and one in Lancashire.
The move has drawn criticism from environmental protesters but the council has made it clear that the decision by no means represents a free pass. A total of 37 separate planning conditions, as well as a broad legal agreement, are to be imposed on IGas, the company taking on the work, and the green light is, at least for the time being, not for actual fracking.
IGas chief executive Stephen Bowler unsurprisingly praised the decision, saying that it represented an important step in supporting a fledgling British industry that should, ultimately, help both energy security and energy independence. He said: “We are at a critical juncture in the future of our energy mix and supply as we move away from coal towards lower carbon energy sources. We rely significantly on gas in the UK, not just for electricity but also in heating eight out of 10 homes and as a raw material in the manufacture of many everyday products, including plastics and clothing.
“We believe the future of the area is as important as its rich history and with the demise of coal mining in the area, see an important role for shale development in the creation of future jobs and prosperity.”
Critics at Friends of the Earth have been particularly vocal, given that they had early success in appealing to the council to delay the decision initially due to a Site of Special Scientific Interest nearby the proposed spot for drilling.
However, ultimately, the council was advised by planning officials that special consideration that is generally required to be given near SSSIs should not apply here given the concessions to the local environment that the drilling company was prepared to make.
Back in September, planning manager Sally Gill said: “Island Gas has been able to demonstrate how they intend to make sure that the effects of the drilling can be effectively managed to make sure they do not become unacceptable to the local area and local community.”
Nonetheless, Friends of the Earth members protested as the decision was being made, and following its announcement, campaigner Chris Crean said: “This is a very disappointing decision from the county council. This proposal failed to comply with many requirements and should have been refused for the negative impacts it would have on the local environment, including the protected wildlife site, the Misson training area Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
“Just a couple of weeks after the Paris climate change agreement came into force, pursuing extreme methods to get more fossil fuels out of the ground like this is completely wrong.”