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Nottinghamshire County Council approves potential fracking site

Nottinghamshire County Council has given an energy company permission to explore for shale gas near the village of Misson, opening the possibility that the site may be fracked in the future.

The council approved a planning application by iGas to drill two wells at the site by a majority vote of seven to four.

The shale gas industry will view the decision as a boost, as it marks the UK’s third site this year to be approved for exploration.

Stephen Bowler, CEO of iGas, said: “I am pleased that the committee has made this positive determination following the recommendation by the planning officer. It has been a long process and everyone has been extremely thorough.

“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.”

The decision was also welcomed by the industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), saying that there was “positive momentum” in efforts to explore the potential of shale gas in the UK.

However the approval was sharply criticised by environmentalists and anti-fracking campaigners, who held a demonstration outside Nottinghamshire County Hall, where the council considered the application.

The council’s decision had previously been delayed by Friends of the Earth who argued that the sensitive nature of the site, next to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), would make approval illegal.

Despite this, planning officials successfully persuaded councillors today to approve the application on the basis that the SSSI was not material to the planning process.

Chris Crean, Friends of the Earth’s campaigner in the West Midlands, 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 SSSI.”

Crean argued that the decision to extract more fossil fuels from the ground was “completely wrong” considering the Paris climate change agreement, which came into force a few weeks ago.

In contrast with other fracking sites approved in Lancashire and Yorkshire earlier this year, iGas must make an additional planning application if it intends to use fracking – the nickname for hydraulic fracturing – to recover shale gas at the site. Labour and the Liberal Democrats back a ban on the practice.

The government is expected to decide before the end of the year whether four shale gas wells may be drilled at the Roseacre Wood site in Lancashire, with the company concerned, Cuadrilla, needing to address traffic concerns.

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