The public inquiry decison into IGas plans to test the flow of its well
at Ellesmere Port has been delayed, the Planning Inspectorate has confirmed.
The inquiry, which ran for 12 days from January to March, was the first
of its kind to consider the impact of onshore oil and gas on climate
change.
A date had been scheduled for the decision, but the Planning
Inspectorate (PINS) said that this had been withdrawn following the
publication of greenhouse gas reduction targets by the government’s
advisor on climate change. The Committee on Climate Change said on 2nd
May the UK should phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This net
zero target should be put into law as soon as possible, the report said.
A spokesperson for PINs said: “The decision on the Ellesmere Port
inquiry had to be postponed to seek comments/representations following
the government’s Committee on Climate Change net zero report published
in May. These comments will now be considered by the inspector and a
revised date for issuing the decision will be made as soon as possible”.
The Ellesmere Port inquiry had already been extended beyond the original
scheduled six hearing days. On what was due to be the final day, the
High Court ruled that national planning policy on the benefits of shale
gas was unlawful. On 24th May, the communities secretary, James
Brokenshire, acknowledged that the policy in paragraph 209a of the
National Planning Policy Framework had been quashed by the courts.
Inspector Brian Cook kept the inquiry open so that Cheshire West and
Chester Council, Frack Free Ellesmere Port and Upton, and IGas could
make legal submissions on the relevance of the ruling. Mr Cook had
originally said he would need at least a month to make his decision.
Frack Free Upton and Ellesmere Port said the inspector could no longer
safely give any weight to the government’s policy support for shale gas
for energy security and as a transition fuel to a low carbon future.
In a separate issue, the inspector also said he was required to contact
Natural England about whether a habitats assessment was needed. The
site, on Portside North, was close to the protected Mersey Estuary
wildlife site.
IGas has said it would take no further action in its exploration
licences in the Cheshire West and Chester Council area until the outcome
of the Ellesmere Port appeal. This included initial fracking plans at
Ince Marshes.