In a staggering display of arrogance, INEOS have bypassed local councils in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, heading straight to their pro-fracking government pals in order to gain permission to frack at two sites.
INEOS has lodged an appeal for a public inquiry to take place, with a government planning inspector or Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, making the final decision. We can speculate just how that inquiry will go, remembering back to Cuadrilla’s genuflection to the government in Lancashire over refused the company’s planning consent at their Preston New Road and Roseacre exploratory hydraulic fracturing sites.
INEOS claim that the applications at Marsh Lane in Derbyshire and Harthill in South Yorkshire have not been decided within a “reasonable time”. One can only presume they expected the planning applications to be given a cursory wave-through without proper scrutiny, but councillors have a duty of care to their constituents, not a pushy industry who are intent on bullying their way onto land and communities.
The council are tasked with reading and evaluating thousands of documents and reports within INEOS’s planning submission. INEOS submitted additional paperwork arriving as late as October 2017. It is only right and proper that full consideration and weighting must be given to a planning application of this magnitude, which will affect each and every resident in the area.
Local representatives for groups opposing the applications have slammed INEOS’s undemocratic appeal as “disingenuous in the extreme”, backing the council in its diligence and care taken in consideration of these colossal planning applications.
The leader of Derbyshire County Council, Councillor Barry Lewis, was unimpressed with the effective neutering of the locally-elected council, stating:
“Our planning process is a democratic process. It would have been wrong of us to deny local people and statutory consultees the opportunity to comment on the additional information – which was not included in INEOS’ original planning application.”
Take the National Trust for instance. Only last month, INEOS issued an intimidating threat of legal action if the Trust didn’t allow them a free pass to conduct seismic testing on land within the historic country park at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire.
INEOS stated: “The National Trust’s position is overly and overtly political and throughout this process, they have refused to engage with us or the science.” They also claimed that the Trust had “behaved unreasonably,” and that “it is firmly in the national interest and a court order would back our position”.
The National Trust hit back with a frank letter to the local paper:
The Conservative government have now firmly isolated themselves as the only party to be supporting shale gas extraction. They’re beginning to look very lonely in their backwards views on fracking, alongside the climate change deniers and greedy fossil fuel investors.
The greasy revolving door between the government and the oil and gas industry constantly spinning. Over the summer, Greg Clark’s former political aide and special advisor, Meg Powell-Chandler, has quietly sloped from Westminster to Burson-Marsteller – a major lobbyist for the oil and gas industry, and INEOS in particular.
Another example of the Westminster-to-industry job-swaps is the ousted MP, Natascha Engel. She is currently lobbying for INEOS. Engel lost her seat for North East Derbyshire in the 2017 General Election, being usurped by Conservative, Lee Rowley, who opposes fracking in the area. The constituency is within six PEDL areas, all awarded to INEOS.
Engel has being tasked with “writing a booklet” for the community who effectively sacked her, but her transfer to the dark side has been greeted with shock from former constituents and party members
North East Derbyshire Constituency Labour Party’s Chairman, Michael Gordon, and Secretary, Steve Pickering, wrote an open letter to the Derbyshire Times today, stating
“North-East Derbyshire Labour Party is shocked to discover that the ex-MP [Natascha Engel] is working for INEOS and wishes to distance itself from her actions.”
They went on to say:
“We wish to reassure the people of Marsh Lane, Eckington, Dronfield and North East Derbyshire that we will continue to support their opposition to fracking. We look forward to campaigning for cleaner, alternative energy.
“We would like the Labour Party’s position to be made public in response to the position expressed by the former MP of North-East Derbyshire.”
INEOS’s recent behaviour is akin to a petulant child spitting out its dummy during a tantrum. The barefaced disregard for democracy by circumventing local councils and threatening injunctions on ‘persons unknown’ is dangerously leaning towards an Orwellian parallel: Big Brother social media surveillance, as seen in court submissions by INEOS; public manipulation, threats of legal action if land access is not granted and a general sense of elite entitlement.
Intimidation and bully-boy antics will not go unchallenged and INEOS should prepare themselves for some serious fracking opposition in 2018.