Apologies for the length of this article, but we are encouraged by the SDNPA's response to the inadequacies of the original application submitted by Celtique.
This is what the SDNPA has asked for:
Request for Further Information under Regulation 22 of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011. Application number:SDNP/13/05896/CM
The South Downs National Park Authority considers that Further Information is necessary to complete the Environmental Statement (ES). This is in order to give full and proper consideration to the likely environmental effects of the proposed hydrocarbon development here within the South Downs National Park. It is important to note that the planning application is not invalid because of lack of information contained within the accompanying ES. However, if Celtique Energie Weald Ltd fails to provide sufficient information to complete the ES, as specified below, the application can be determined only by refusal, with the reason being lack of information and an incomplete ES.
The ES should consider all aspects of a project over its lifetime to ensure that full consideration of potential environmental impacts has been taken. In this instance, it should consider the whole exploration process and if hydraulic fracturing is a necessary requirement of exploration, then it should be considered by the ES and as part of the application. Paragraph 118 (ref ID:27-118-20140306) of the Planning Practice Guidance for Onshore Oil and Gas (July 2013) which states that ‘as far as it is practical to do so, any application for exploratory drilling should cover as much of the exploratory activity as possible, including the likely number of wellheads and extent of drilling, to avoid further planning applications at a later date.
Likelihood of hydraulic fracturing:
The application (paragraph 4.2 of the ES) states that “For the avoidance of doubt, the planning application is for a conventional exploration well and does not seek permission for, or require the use of, hydraulic fracturing”. This is in line with the pre-application advice provided by the Authority in July 2013. To provide certainty the following information is required:
• A full and detailed explanation, backed up by evidence that the current application and ES considers the whole exploration phase and not just part of it, particularly where any part of exploration may indeed require hydraulic fracturing.
• Evidence to confirm whether hydraulic fracturing is necessarily an inevitable requirement at the exploratory stage for shale gas/oil.
Consideration of Alternatives and demonstration of ‘Exceptional Circumstances’:
The site search methodology is flawed as the determining factors are the geology and landownership issues and not environmental considerations and at least half of the sites considered are ruled out on this basis. The areas that remained in the assessment were those only available following discussions with landowners and would be deliverable on that basis. It also fails to consider alternatives outside the designated area, which is a requirement of para 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
The application as it currently stands does not give sufficient consideration towards the statutory purposes and duty of the South Downs National Park, (particularly in relation to the LVIA). Paragraph 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that exceptional circumstances must be demonstrated for major development proposed in National Parks.
Therefore, a revised site assessment is required which should, in order to demonstrate the cost of, and scope for developing outside the designated area, or meeting the need for it in some other way:
• Include consideration of alternative sites outside the South Downs National Park, including other areas which are not subject to a national landscape designation (this should not necessarily be restricted to license areas or the Weald Basin);
• Provide evidence as to how the alternative sites identified above have been evaluated in terms of suitability for oil and gas exploration;
• Provide evidence of any comparative evaluation that has been carried out in respect of those alternative locations; and
• Use environmental factors as the main determinate of site suitability.
• The application also needs to include consideration of saved Policy 12 of the West Sussex Minerals Local Plan 2003 and demonstrate how the tests established by the policy can be met.
The Environment Agency (EA) has provided a consultation response to the planning application suggesting three pre-commencement conditions relating to site drainage, construction methods and a groundwater risk assessment. The Authority feels it would be more expedient however to require such issues to be addressed prior to the determination of the planning application. This approach has been agreed by the EA. The following information is therefore requested:
• A scheme to dispose of foul and surface water on the site and access road.
Construction Method Statement;
• A Construction Method Statement that would be adhered to throughout the construction period detailing:
• The storage of plant and materials used in constructing the development
• The storage of oils and chemicals;
• A scheme for recycling/disposing of waste water resulting from construction works, including storage;
• Details of the construction of the engineered site to prevent pollution; and
• Details of the drilling fluids, how they are used and stored on site.
• All of the above must include detailed pollution prevention assessments and mitigation methods to prevent pollution to the water environment.
The water environment:
• A Qualitative Risk Assessment is required considering:
• A detailed Conceptual Site Model of the risks to the water environment;
• Drilling operations including well drilling, well casing and testing;
• Detailed information on the proposed integrity of the borehole;
• Drilling Mud Management Plan; and
• An overall assessment of the impacts to groundwater from the drilling operation and use of drilling additives.
The following are preliminary comments. Additional detail may be required and if this is the case, this will be set out in a subsequent letter.
• The proposed development is temporary in nature, however the exceptional height and nature of the drilling rig located in a rural, undeveloped landscape and the extent of the surrounding public right of way network makes it imperative that the following issues are addressed:
• Given the protected nature of the landscape, the complex topography in which the site sits and the undeveloped nature of the landscape, a Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV) is considered to be best practice and therefore it is requested that this piece of work is submitted;
• Upon the production of such a ZTV, it is likely that further analysis and assessment work will be necessary, that goes beyond the 3km envelope that the current Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment application relies upon;
• The landscape character assessment should be updated to reflect increased human activity, industrial activity and movements and impacts of vehicular movements;o An assessment of effects upon the Special Qualities of the National Park;
• Clarification is sought on identified anomalies on the way users of the PROW and road network have been identified and awarded sensitivity. Cyclists, walkers, riders and motorised users have not been separated and there is no indication of bridleways and footpaths.
• Clarification is sought as to why ‘Phase4a-significance of effect/residual effects’ been crossed out in Appendix 8.1?
• Clarification is sought as to why saved Policy RE4 from the Chichester District Council Local Plan 1999 has not been referred to.
Traffic and access
The Local Highway Authority has requested further information as per their consultation response to the application (dated 11th February 2014). Reference to the full response should be made by the Applicant. The following summarised information is required:
• Speed data should be collected on the eastbound and westbound approaches, in accordance with the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) standards, to determine the stopping sight distance and justify the visibility splays.
• The splay should be drawn to the nearside edge of the carriageway as opposed to the far side as shown on the western splay. The splays should be provided within land that is either under the control of the Applicant or within the public highway to ensure that it can remain free of obstruction.
• A Stage 1 Road Safety Audit has been undertaken, however this should be accompanied by a ‘Designers Response’ to the problems raised as well as an ‘Exception Report’ if it is demonstrated that it is required.
• Vehicle tracking of the largest vehicle to access the site should be provided and access arrangements reviewed accordingly.
• Given the presence of existing HGV movements on the access route, consideration should be given to the management of any potential conflict between HGVs along Vann Road;
• Information is required in support of the Traffic Assessment, especially with regards to themethodology used to estimate the anticipated trip generation. Evidence is needed to justify construction and operational movements and a breakdown of each type of vehicle being used during each phase of the development should be provided, including length, width and height;
• Provision of further detail on the vehicle counts in the Traffic Assessment. The data collected through the submitted traffic counts should provide more of a detailed analysis of vehicular class and type. The submitted vehicle count does not reflect the Highway Authority’s ‘auto-count’ data.
• Rig dismantling and removal and vehicle movements associated with it are not referenced, therefore further detail is requested for this; and
• The submission of a draft Construction Management Plan which outlines the expected traffic management measures required. This could address:o Issues raised by the Highway Authority in relation to the RSA1
• Restrictions to working hours;
• Maintaining safety of other highway users;
• Managing internal site conflict (including any existing vehicular access requirements);
• Emergency management( i.e. if access route becomes impassible);
• Any traffic management proposals that may be required such as temporary waiting restrictions; and
• Should permission be granted, the Construction Management Plan should also make a commitment to enter into a Section 59 Agreement in order to make good any damage caused to the local road network.
The socio-economics chapter refers at paragraph 14.17 to the South Downs Management Plan 2008- 2013. This document is out of date and was produced by the South Downs Joint Committee and not the South Downs National Park Authority. The South Downs Partnership Management Plan (PMP) has now been adopted by the SDNPA and will be considered in the determination of planning applications as a material consideration. Therefore the Planning Statement and Environmental Statement should consider the application against the policies within the PMP.
Matters for Further Clarification (not requested under Regulation 22):
Additional clarification is also sought on the following matters:
• The application indicates that loads of up to 50 tonnes are expected to transport drill equipment. The access route crosses a road bridge; clarification is sought to ensure that the Applicant has assessed that the bridge can bear the weight of vehicles weighing up to 50 tonnes. Evidence/data to demonstrate that this assessment has be carried out should be submitted;
The SDNPA are still in the process of reviewing the noise, geological/hydrogeological and borehole engineering elements of the Environmental Statement, and awaiting advice following an independent review. Any further information required following this review will be set out in a subsequent letter and formal submission of the requested further information should be after the subsequent letter is received. Further, more detailed issues requiring clarification will also be included in the subsequent letter.
The current target date for the determination of this planning application is 2 April 2014. The further information hereby requested will require further publicising and consultation and the determination is suspended until after the period of 21 days following the publication of a notice in a local newspaper, therefore an extension in time to determine the planning application will be necessary. I would therefore also like to request confirmation, in writing, from Celtique Energie Weald Ltd that an extension in time is acceptable. I would be grateful if you could confirm that a new determination date of 14th August 2014 is both reasonable and acceptable to you.
In order to achieve this determination date, we would be grateful if you could submit the requested information by 25th April 2014.