By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
A Nottinghamshire site earmarked for future fracking will be restored to its natural condition after planners refused an application to extend its use.
The Misson Springs site, in Bassetlaw, was subject to shale gas tests until 2019 after Nottinghamshire County Council approved plans in 2016.
The initial application was for exploration work only, giving permission for a hydrocarbon well-site and for up to two boreholes to be drilled – one vertically and one horizontally.
Work began in November 2017 under four phases, with the first two phases completed in 2019.
The horizontal borehole was not drilled during the work.
The site was then ‘mothballed’, meaning equipment was removed and the site left unused but kept in a good condition ahead of future phases.
However, the original planning conditions set on the application meant its use for that purpose expired in November 2020.
No tests have taken place on the site since May 2019, when applicants Island Gas Ltd (IGAS) confirmed it had found a “world-class gas resource”.
The applicant had hoped it would be able to press forward with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the future.
But a Government moratorium issued in November 2019 ruled out giving consent for fracking until the industry provides “compelling new evidence” of its benefits.
That decision followed a 2.9 magnitude earthquake at a Lancashire fracking site in August 2019.
IGas submitted plans to extend the site’s use and delay restoration works until November 2023, hoping for a reversal of the Government moratorium.
The application was recommended for approval by council officials.
But today Nottinghamshire County Council’s planning and rights of way committee opted to refuse the application, ordering the site to be restored.
Councillor Richard Butler (Con) is chairman of the committee.
He said: “Given the present uncertainty surrounding the Government moratorium on fracking, the proposed application would lead to the retention of the site in its present condition until November 2023.
“[This is] considered to be an unacceptable length of time, adversely impacting on the amenity of the local community and the local environment.
“These impacts are considered to outweigh the benefits of retaining the site in its present condition for this period of time.”
The meeting heard concerns from Misson Parish Council, Frack Free Misson, the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and Councillor Tracey Taylor (Con), who represents the Misterton area.
Councillors on the committee also spoke in favour of refusing the application.
Among concerns was the future prospect of fracking on-site, with Dennis May, of Frack Free Misson, stating the application was “only delaying the inevitable”.
Cllr Taylor told the committee that the site’s mothballed state was a “daily reminder to residents” over its potential future fracking use.
The committee’s decision does not rule out fracking on the site but means the applicant must now restore the Springs Road land to its former condition.
If the Government reverses its moratorium on fracking, IGas would be entitled to apply for permission to begin on-site drilling again.
This application would again be decided by the council’s planning committee “based on information put forward”.
Supporters of fracking say it could bring jobs and investment and provide a new source of energy.
But those opposed say the process damages the environment and other new sources of energy should be sought.