Fracking – next steps

On 4th November 2019, the Government announced a significant change to its fracking policy through the introduction of an immediate moratorium on further fracking within England. The details of this policy announcement can be found here:

Fracking has been one of the biggest issues in North East Derbyshire for the entire time I have been a Member of Parliament. The proposal to drill at Bramleymoor Lane has cast a long shadow over our area and the overwhelming majority of people both close to the proposed site, and across the constituency as a whole, remain opposed to it. Back in 2017 when I became your MP, I promised I would campaign against the application and seek to stop it happening. Since then, I have done just that and have also been one of the MPs who has led the wider fight against fracking in the last Parliamentary session. This has included organising debates, meeting with Ministers, submitting dozens of questions, establishing a new Parliamentary group to monitor the impact of fracking, inviting experts to Parliament to discuss the matter, convincing an independent watchdog to investigate, introducing new legislation to stop earthquakes and speaking against the Bramleymoor Lane application on multiple occasions.

I strongly welcomed the decision by the Government to change policy in November. As I have said to residents over many months whilst we fought this battle, getting any Government to change key elements of their policy is difficult and akin to turning around a supertanker in mid-flow – it takes time, patience and a need to properly engage with the arguments to win people around. I always thought it would be a challenge but the weight of evidence, to me, seemed to point to fracking not being realistic or practical within the United Kingdom and I thought, over time, we could make a strong case. I am very glad to see the policy change.

More than that, I think the wording in the written ministerial statement is very helpful to those of us who have opposed fracking. Whilst the Government has been clear it will be led by the evidence, it has also stated explicitly that the attempts to frack last year in Lancashire, and the consequences of that attempt, were “clearly unacceptable” and that the moratorium will be maintained unless and until new evidence is presented. It also completely abandons the plans to loosen the planning rules around fracking, or determine fracking applications centrally, which was another key part of our campaigns last year.

During the General Election campaign, fracking was discussed extensively, including at many of the hustings that we held around the constituency. As will happen in an election campaign, there was a significant amount of political knockabout and fracking was caught in the crossfire of political point scoring. At a time when we had largely achieved our objective to stop fracking, new litmus tests were created by those seeking to differentiate their positions. That, I guess, is inevitable in politics! Notwithstanding that, my position has always been and will remain the same: that I oppose Bramleymoor Lane (and will fight it) and that I do not think fracking works for the UK as a whole (and I will fight it).

A number of residents have been in touch since the election to ask about what happens now with fracking. Well, from my perspective – and for what it is worth – I think the Government is absolutely genuine about the moratorium and about changing policy. I know that some concerns were raised during the election campaign about whether the moratorium might prove to be temporary and that it may return soon after. As someone who has campaigned extensively in Parliament on this, I absolutely do not think that is the case. Of course, there are a range of opinions down in Westminster on fracking. Some, like me, think it is a bad idea. Others are willing to try it. There is nothing inherently wrong with that latter position, although I strongly disagree with it. Whether they conceptually think it is a good idea or not, most people now, however, realise that fracking is not a policy which seems practical and are supportive of the moratorium. I would expect and hope that energy policy discussions move on to other issues rather than trying to unpick the moratorium in the future.

So, in this new Parliamentary term, I wanted to set out my view on where we are and where we go next. Firstly, I take the Government at its word that it has stopped fracking in the United Kingdom and it will not change that policy without compelling new evidence. I think the argument against fracking has been won and that the many thousands of residents and campaigners who have fought to change policy have really achieved something here. As a result, we need to move the campaign from one of activism to vigilance – that we have largely achieved our aims and that we now need to keep watching this issue to make sure that there are no problems in the future and that the current moratorium is strong enough not to be circumvented.

In North East Derbyshire, therefore, I will continue to work with our local anti-fracking groups to support them in areas where we can work together. I am also continuing to monitor the current planning application for Bramleymoor Lane with Derbyshire County Council until the permissions to explore run out on the 16th of August 2021.

And down in Parliament, I will re-constitute the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Impact of Shale Gas so that it is ready and available in case there are any issues in the future (which I hope there won’t be). We will hold an Annual General Meeting in the coming months and then will organise meetings as needed.

I also think there are a couple of points to pick up on the moratorium which need further focus. The announcement back in November said that the Oil and Gas Authority, the body charged with reviewing this area by Government, would continue to put together evidence on how fracking works. I want to understand what additional evidence is being put together by interested parties like the OGA. I am currently in correspondence with them and will come back shortly. And, secondly, we need to make sure that it is clear that, given there is no future for fracking, there is no point in exploratory drilling. That is something I am working on at the moment and, again, will report back when I have further information.

All told, I want to tie up any loose ends and make sure that fracking has permanently and absolutely gone away. Ultimately, the proof on that will be time and little else – so we will be vigilant in the coming months as the moratorium beds in and the policy recedes, hopefully, into the distance.

Finally, I just also wanted to address one other point that a small number of residents have been in touch about – that of a ban. I know that there are some in the anti-fracking community who are unwilling to stop the campaign until a ban is put in place. I respect their positions and their desire to continue but, from my perspective, I am unsure that is a good use of time or, practically, changes anything on a day-to-day basis even if it did come into practice. Most campaigners have accepted that the decisions by other Governments, such as the Scottish Government, to stop fracking are the end of the matter – and they were moratoriums not bans. If it is sufficient in Scotland, I think it is sufficient in England. Whilst I wish those who want to pursue a ban well, I think my focus is best maintained on the points I have raised above.

Of course, if there was any likelihood of fracking coming back (which I hope and expect there won’t be), then, as I said in the hustings during the election campaign, I would do whatever was necessary to try to stop that including a ban if necessary. For the moment, however, a ban would not change anything on the ground and my preference is to work on ensuring the moratorium framework is strong.

We’ve made extraordinary progress over the past few years on fracking. Eighteen months ago, the Government were pushing ahead with fracking across the country and were planning on loosening planning rules to help it achieve that. Fast forward to January 2020 and we are now in a place where the policy has been reversed, the Government have a presumption against fracking, a moratorium stops fracking happening anywhere in England and the plans to loosen the planning rules have been abandoned. That is huge progress and thank you again for all of your support and help in getting us to that place. We have really achieved something here – and the campaign now moves into a different phase. I will continue to be vigilant to ensure fracking does not return and to work on the outstanding points described above.

Together, we have achieved a big win here. Thank you again for everything you did. North East Derbyshire said it didn’t want fracking. And now, thanks to everyone’s efforts, it won’t happen.

Stagecoach Bus Services: Outcome of Consultation

As many residents are aware, Stagecoach recently consulted on some proposed changes to their bus services across North East Derbyshire, which will come into effect on 26 January 2020. Thank you to everyone who got in touch with Stagecoach as part of that consultation and who raised their concerns, issues and comments.

Like so many changes to bus services in recent years, the majority of the proposals are sadly for service reductions as a result of continuing decline in demand in bus usage across Derbyshire (and which is happening in most places across the country also).

During the period of the consultation, and since it closed in November, I have been in regular communication with Stagecoach to highlight the community’s concerns about these proposed changes. This included meeting with Stagecoach along with a number of local Councillors from Killamarsh and Eckington, liaising with them to highlight residents’ concerns, monitoring the status of the proposals and, just in the last few days, raising further concerns about the proposals that they have come forward with, particularly on the Killamarsh service.

Stagecoach have now published their intended changes and, as is expected (and is extremely disappointing), there are a number of changes which will negatively impact on local communities in North East Derbyshire.

Firstly, there is a little bit of good news, with a couple of the proposed changes now being dropped. The proposal to reduce the frequency of the 51 service will not go ahead. Likewise, the proposed change to the 43 service to extend to Newbold in Chesterfield has also been dropped which will not elongate the time to get from Chesterfield to Dronfield. These are positive wins and ones which are welcome for all of the communities who were going to be impacted.

Unfortunately, the remainder of the proposed changes are happening which is extremely disappointing. Whilst I am grateful that we’ve had a couple of small wins on this, I am disappointed as a whole with Stagecoach’s decision to go ahead with most of the reductions. The proposed changes to the 70, 70A, 71 and 72 services have received a particularly large amount of concern from residents in Killamarsh and Eckington. I have queried Stagecoach’s reasoning for these changes and have been informed that both services have lost around 10% usage over the last two years alone.

In the last few days, when the changes were announced, I went back to Stagecoach and asked them to reconsider on the drop off points in Sheffield too for the Killamarsh and Eckington services. Unfortunately, they have already registered the new service changes, so further changes are not now possible.

Bus services have also been a difficult subject and there is no easy answer on the matter. Bus companies like Stagecoach are clear that the networks are not sustainable in their previous forms because demand for the services continues to decline. On the other side, reductions in services mean that large villages and towns across North East Derbyshire are left with no, or minimal, services. And there is a ‘chicken and egg’ element to this which often creates a spiral – if there isn’t a functioning bus service throughout the day then that encourages more and more people to get cars or change how they get about, reducing demand for buses further. Whilst we have been able to get some wins on stopping reductions over the last couple of years – we had success in Holymoorside earlier in the year and Stagecoach’s abandonment of the proposals to reduce the 51 are very positive – we still see service reductions on a fairly regular basis.

As a community, we are going to have to think more about how we try and improve the situation here. Stopping service reductions like Holymoorside or the 51 are small and very important wins but the wider, and likely continuing, challenge regarding demand decline needs more thought. I would be keen to hear from residents with interests in this who want to get together to talk more about what we do in the future. As an MP I don’t have the power to direct companies to run services (nor is it sustainable for local authorities to simply throw lots of money at services where demand is low) but I will keep trying to find a way through this and, along with your local Councillors, to get involved where I am able.

In the meantime, I encourage residents to take a look at the information below to browse the new timetables for specifics, available here:

Thank you North East Derbyshire!

It is a privilege to be re-elected as the Member of Parliament for North East Derbyshire and thank you to everyone who voted in the election a few weeks ago.  It is great to be able to get back to work and to continue to try to make our area better.

As ever, if you need any help or assistance, or just want to highlight your views on an issue, just drop me a line at 439222 or

General Election 2019

On 12th December, the United Kingdom will go to the polls to elect a new Parliament in a General Election.  I will be standing in that General Election as the Conservative Party candidate and hope to be re-elected to continue the work that I have done since 2017 on behalf of North East Derbyshire.

In accordance with guidance issued by the House of Commons, during the period between 6th November and 12th December Parliament is formally dissolved and there are no MPs.  As such, former MPs are requested not to use websites which suggest they may still be in post.  Consequently, this blog ( will be frozen for that period.  If I am re-elected, I will continue to post here in the future.

Instead, you can find out more about what I am doing elsewhere on the web:


Stagecoach Proposed Bus Changes – Consultation Open

A couple of weeks ago, Stagecoach announced that they are consulting on proposed changes to some local bus services across North Derbyshire. If you use the buses in or around Killamarsh, Eckington, Renishaw, Dronfield, Unstone, Clay Cross, Danesmoor, Tupton, Wingerworth, Staveley or Mastin Moor, please do take a look at the proposed changes below to see if they will affect you. The proposals are in their early stages so specific timetable information hasn’t been released yet but we do know what services Stagecoach are proposing to reduce, merge or amend.

Since the announcement, I have met with Stagecoach to talk through the proposals and raise concerns that I have already received from local residents. Like many people, I am disappointed in Stagecoach’s proposals and I would prefer that they didn’t implement them.

I do accept that bus usage is changing and services will not stay the same forever but it is regrettable that a large number of services could be changing in our area.

Some services could see significant reductions in frequencies or changes to routes, whilst others will revert to previous frequencies for services from a few years ago.  With that in mind, if you are affected by the proposals below it is important that you make your voice heard in the consultation.  The consultation closes on 1st November so please do make sure you have your say soon.

You can find the consultation and more information below or by visiting the Stagecoach website here:

Changes affecting Killamarsh, Eckington, Renishaw, Mastin Moor and Staveley

Service 70
Changes: Stagecoach is proposing to remove this service which currently runs from Chesterfield to Killamarsh via Staveley, Eckington and Renishaw. This service currently runs every hour.
Areas affected: Killamarsh, Eckington, Renishaw, Mastin Moor, Staveley
Alternative routes: The newly proposed 80 service (see below) would connect Killamarsh, Renishaw, Mastin Moor and Staveley with Chesterfield, Sheffield and the Chesterfield Royal Hospital, providing new links. The route in Sheffield City Centre is revised to provide better access to shopping and employment areas.  A newly proposed hourly 74a service will connect Chesterfield and Mastin Moor, maintaining the current two buses an hour between Mastin Moor and Chesterfield.  The 50, 50a, 50b services will still run between Chesterfield and Sheffield via Eckington.  The 53 service will still link Eckington and Renishaw at a frequency of approximately one service every two hours.

Service 72
Changes: The current 72 service which connects Chesterfield and Sheffield via Killamarsh, Renishaw, Mastin Moor and Staveley will be replaced with an extended 80 service route.  The new 80 service route will connect Chesterfield and Sheffield via Chesterfield Royal Hospital, Brimington, Staveley, Mastin Moor, Renishaw, Killamarsh and Crystal Peaks, providing new links. The new 80 service will run once an hour for Killamarsh, Eckington, Renishaw, Mastin Moor, Staveley.
Areas affected: Killamarsh, Eckington, Renishaw, Mastin Moor, Staveley
Alternative routes: The 53 service will still run between Mansfield and Sheffield via Eckington and Renishaw at a frequency of approximately every two hours.

Service 80
Changes: The 80 service currently runs from Chesterfield to Brimington via Chesterfield Royal Hospital, approximately twice an hour. Stagecoach is proposing to extend one of the hourly 80 service routes to Sheffield via Staveley, Mastin Moor, Renishaw, Killamarsh and Crystal Peaks, providing new links, in place of the current 72 service.
Areas affected: Killamarsh, Eckington, Renishaw, Mastin Moor, Staveley

Service 74
Changes: The 74 service currently runs from Chesterfield to Duckmanton via Staveley twice an hour. The new proposals would reduce the service between Staveley to Duckmanton to hourly. But, a new 74a service from Chesterfield to Mastin Moor would be introduced, thus maintaining two buses an hour between Chesterfield and Staveley via Inkersall.
Areas affected: Staveley, Mastin Moor

Changes affecting Dronfield, Dronfield Woodhouse, Gosforth Valley and Unstone

Service 43
Changes: The current 43 service runs from Sheffield to Chesterfield via Dronfield, Dronfield Woodhouse, Gosforth Valley and Unstone. Stagecoach want to reroute a small section of the 43 route to serve residents in Newbold rather than Sheffield Road in Chesterfield.  The service will still begin and end at Chesterfield, New Beetwell Street. Residents in Dronfield, Dronfield Woodhouse, Gosforth Valley and Unstone will still be able to use the 43 to travel to and from central Chesterfield.  Timetable information has not yet been released but the 43 will run twice an hour during Monday to Saturday daytime over the full route, with an extra bus per hour between Dronfield and Sheffield on Mondays to Fridays. When combined with service 44, there will be a bus every 15 minutes (every 20 minutes on Saturdays) between Meadowhead, Woodseats and Sheffield.
Areas affected: Dronfield, Dronfield Woodhouse, Gosforth Valley, Unstone
Alternative routes: For some Dronfield and Unstone residents, the 44 service (Chesterfield to Sheffield) will still provide a link with Sheffield Road in Chesterfield.

Service 44
Changes: A revised timetable will be introduced to coordinate with the new 43 service but will still run every hour during the daytime.
Areas affected: Coal Aston, Dronfield, Unstone
Alternative routes: Dronfield and Unstone residents will still be able to use the 44 service to travel to Sheffield and Chesterfield.

Changes affecting Clay Cross, Danesmoor, Tupton, Old Tupton, Wingerworth and Derby Road residents

Service 51
Changes: The 51 service from Danesmoor to Chesterfield via Tupton will be reduced from three to two buses per hour. They will also no longer call at Chesterfield rail station.
Areas affected: Danesmoor, Clay Cross, Old Tupton, Tupton, Wingerworth, Derby Road
Alternative routes: Hourly service X1 Chesterfield – Clay Cross – Alfreton – East Midlands Outlet – Nottingham provides an hourly service between Clay Cross and Chesterfield along the A61.

Sometimes we have successes with bus consultations. I worked with a local councillor and residents in Holymoorside to protect a local bus service from being reduced this year. Of course, we can’t ensure the same outcome for these new proposals but this just highlights how important it is to complete the consultation – so have your say if these changes affect you!

The consultation closes on 1st November so please do make sure you complete the consultation soon. If you would like to discuss these changes with my office, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01246 439222 or email

You can find the consultation and more information here:

Voting for a new leader

This morning I voted in the first round of the Conservative Party leadership contest just before getting on the train to come home. This is the first leadership ballot that I have participated in since becoming your MP and I wanted to set out my thoughts on the choice I have made.

Firstly, thank you to everyone who has been in touch over the last few days to let me know their views on this issue and who they think best equipped to take the country forward. We have had hundreds and hundreds of messages and I have managed to respond to about half so far – everyone else will get a response in the coming days!

It’s fair to say that the views of the constituency have been the full range – from “don’t vote for anyone” all the way to suggestions of colleagues who aren’t standing, along with all of the candidates in between. Throughout all of the emails remains a constant thread; that politics has not worked in recent months, that people want politicians to do as they promised and, for the majority, that they want us to get on with leaving the European Union. Given the range of diverse opinions, I know I cannot satisfy everyone with my choice (!) – but all of your feedback has been invaluable nonetheless.

On a broader level, I remain sad that it has come to this at all. Although my differences with the Prime Minister have been known for a number of months, on a personal level there is no doubt that she has tried very hard under very difficult circumstances. In another world, we might be in a different place – not least we might have left the EU. On balance and with regret, I do think the country needed a fresh start and so I think the Prime Minister has done the right thing in stepping down. Whatever our own views on the last few months, however, we should respect and thank Mrs May for her service to the United Kingdom.

The convention in contests like this is that MPs declare their preferred candidate early on. I chose not to do that and I did not immediately jump to support a particular candidate when the leadership contest first began. I wanted to hear what residents were saying and, bluntly, I wanted to see how the contest unfolded. I also tried to meet almost all the candidates themselves (sometimes several times) so I could understand their platforms better, to ask them questions and to see if they were the right person to improve both North East Derbyshire and the country. I’m grateful to them all for being willing to take the time to talk to me. One of the issues last time, in 2016, was that the party came to a decision very abruptly and, in my view, we need to go through this contest and ‘road test’ those who are seeking to be the Prime Minister to the best extent.

Part of the decision I have made on this subject has been the situation (or mess) we are in. As residents know, I support Brexit and have consistently voted for it to happen – with an acceptable deal (if one could be found – which it hasn’t yet) or without one. It was my judgement, therefore, that the best choice of leader needed to be someone who was committed to both Brexit and to holding firm on the 31st October deadline.

However, whilst we need to find a leader who can take us forward on Brexit we also need to realise that there are a whole suite of other policies which we need to do better on. North East Derbyshire is interested in Brexit but it is more interested in jobs, schools, hospitals and roads – and I want us to rebalance the conversation back on to policies which improve the day-to-day lives of everyone working hard in places like Dronfield or Clay Cross.

Having read all of the messages from residents in recent days, I made my decision yesterday and, accordingly, voted for Boris Johnson today as the positive choice for taking our country forward. I hope he is successful in the coming weeks.

Now, I know some people will very much like the decision I have made and some will not. Boris is someone who elicits strong emotions in people and that was reflected in the feedback I received from the constituency. Overall, however, the clear message from those in the constituency who got in touch was to vote for Boris. It is fair to say I have been on a journey myself to get to today. Yet, for what it is worth, in multiple conversations with Boris in recent weeks, I have seen someone who is serious, prepared and wants to do the right thing for the country. He isn’t perfect (and he would accept that) and he knows that he has a job to do to convince some people. But, as he has convinced me over time, I hope he can convince you in the coming weeks too.

The United Kingdom has got itself into a hole in the last year. We are an outward-looking, modern, tolerant, successful and brilliant place to live. We have much going for us and are, still, looked up to around the world. We should be proud of what we have achieved and we have a great future ahead, whatever happens. Yet, Brexit and the difficulties of the last few years, have weighed heavily on us and created tensions in our communities. Getting out of this hole is going to be very difficult – indeed, there is a chance we may struggle to do that in the next few months – but we have to try. And, in my view, the best person to do that is someone with a vision, someone who can convince the country to go forward and who make a fresh start after the difficulties of the last year. For me, that man is Boris.

Brexit: Thoughts on where we are

The last few weeks in Westminster have been extremely challenging and ones which, rightly, hundreds of residents have been in touch about. Just before we break for the Christmas period, I wanted to set out in more detail where I see the issue right now and some of the reasons for the decisions I have made recently.

As many constituents are aware, I have had profound concerns about the direction of Government policy on Brexit since the Chequers proposals came out in July. At the election I made a commitment to leave the European Union, leave the single market and leave the customs union – and I remain committed to doing all of those. Just as importantly, the manifesto also said “We believe the UK must seize the unique opportunities it has to forge a new set of trade and investment relationships around the world, building a global, outward-looking Britain” (page 28). For me, and however you voted, I have always wanted to approach Brexit as an opportunity to forge a new path and to take advantage of future global growth – 95%+ of which will be outside the European Union in the coming decades. If we are to do that, the decisions we make now must put us in a position to take up some of those opportunities. And that was my issue with Chequers; it was proposing tying us in to an overly prescriptive trade and legal arrangement which would proscribe our long-term flexibility. I wrote an article in the Telegraph at the time outlining my concerns ( and I have included a copy of it below.

In November, the Government concluded a deal with the European Union and presented it to the Houses of Parliament and the country. 585 pages of legal text were dropped on all of us with just a few days’ notice and, having studied it closely along with other colleagues, it soon became clear that we were repeating many of the mistakes from Chequers. Whilst there are elements of the deal which appear acceptable (including, for example, on immigration), there are a number of fundamental problems which mean I cannot support it. I strongly believe it will not allow the UK to take advantage of the opportunities we have in the coming decades and will not prepare us for the challenges we are likely to face in the future. The Prime Minister is effectively proposing a deal which will retain many of the frustrations that we have had with the EU for 40 years and give us few of the benefits we hoped for with Brexit. The country I want to see is one where we have the flexibility and ability to really thrive in the coming decades for our children and grandchildren.

So, what are my issues with the deal?

  • Trade: If we are to truly thrive in the coming years, we need the ability to strike meaningful trade deals with the rest of the world. It is the word “meaningful” that is key here. The Prime Minister is right that trade deals can technically be struck in the future if we accept her proposals. Yet, it is whether they will properly open up new markets and give us new opportunities which are the real questions. In my view, there is no meaningful possibility of an independent trade policy if we consent to this deal. For example, the deal means that if we wish to trade with New Zealand, Australia or any country outside of the European Union, we must trade on the rules set by the EU – even though the goods that we exchange will likely never go anywhere near Europe. It is not for the EU to set the standards and regulations on the terms of our trade with other countries forever – we are quite capable of doing that ourselves. These proposals are both fundamentally unnecessary and will mean that we outsource future decisions on standards and regulations to the EU; reducing our ability to strike agreements with others.
  • The Irish backstop: this is the issue that many people are currently focusing upon. The Prime Minister has described the Irish backstop as an insurance policy – something we shouldn’t have to use but there in case we can’t agree a future relationship with the EU after we leave. Yet, the backstop itself is a horrible insurance policy; guaranteeing, in the event we can’t agree a future relationship, that the UK will remain in a customs union and that a constituent part of the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) will remain aligned to the rules of the EU single market – effectively separating Ulster from the rest of the UK from a policy perspective. It also is an insurance policy without a time-limit; if the future relationship never gets agreed, then we stay in the backstop forever – and we have no way of independently deciding to leave. I just cannot agree to this – the UK must have control over its own destiny. The Prime Minister tells us that we shouldn’t be too concerned about the backstop – that the intention is for it not to be used and no-one wants us to do so. Well, for me, that isn’t good enough; we can’t make policy on the basis that we cross our fingers and hope it won’t happen. Secondly, consent to the backstop takes away all of our leverage in the discussion about the future relationship; the EU know that they don’t need to agree to any of the things we as a country want because, in the event we don’t come to agreement, the UK will fall into the backstop anyway. Thirdly, and most frustratingly, many commentators have highlighted how the core issue which created the need for a backstop (the need to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland) can be solved via other means. We already have different VAT regimes between Northern Ireland and the Republic – and no need for a hard border. We can do the same with different customs regimes in the future. A combination of spot checks, assessments at source or destination, trusted trader and technology can all manage flow of goods across the border without infrastructure. The backstop is, quite simply, a terrible, sub-standard solution to a problem which doesn’t really exist.
  • The money: To top it all, we pay a huge sum to the EU and we are given nothing but an assurance we can talk about a future partnership with no firm confirmation of what that will look like. I absolutely recognise that we have obligations and I support paying them. However, the important thing we need to resolve with the European Union is how we are going to work with them in the future. Whilst this deal forces us to sign up to many things which we don’t like, the key part of the discussion about our future relationship is deferred to a future date. We are signing away our leverage and negotiating position for the promise of a future discussion rather than real, concrete outcomes which will benefit our country.

Over the course of the last year, I have supported the Government and the Prime Minister for many months recognising the difficulty and the problems that she has in trying to find a way forward on this. Yet, the UK is allowing the EU’s intransigence to force us to accept a sub-standard deal which will be damaging to us in the long-run. That can’t be right. We must aim higher than this. Along with six other colleagues, I outlined my concerns in more detail a few weeks ago in this article: and then wrote an individual piece a few days after ( I have reprinted them both below.

Some residents have been in touch over the last week to raise other points. Some tell me they just want to get Brexit done. Others that we simply must compromise. Still more tell me that the Prime Minister’s deal is probably the right one because she has worked so hard on it over recent months. I completely understand all of these sentiments but I wanted just to say a couple of things on each.

Firstly on those who want to get Brexit done: I completely agree – and I want to do the same. We have so much more that we need to move onto and so many domestic issues which need greater attention. Yet, I fear I may say something disappointing; it is becoming increasingly clear that Brexit won’t get “done” in the next few months. We are going to be grappling with it for a number of years – not because we want to but because we need to. Secondly, the one way, in my view, to store up pain is to agree the deal in its current form. We do have to start moving on from Brexit – but the deal won’t do that.

Secondly, on compromise: again, I agree. Of course, I want to compromise and I will happily do that. It cannot be any compromise, however; splitting the difference is not an end in itself. And having studied the 600 pages of this document, this is the wrong compromise and I genuinely believe that it is not in the interest of the United Kingdom to agree this deal. Nor do I think it is viable to allow the deal to go ahead and then work for changes in future – we are about to codify these proposals in an international treaty which are notoriously difficult to change. Worse than that, we are agreeing an international treaty which looks as though it will have no meaningful mechanism for exit. We are locked in forever – and material changes won’t be possible. In all good conscience, I simply can’t support the deal in its current form.

Finally, people have said how much they respect and admire the Prime Minister for all the work that she has done. I do too. I have always, and will continue to, have great admiration for the Prime Minister’s resilience and resolve. She has shown great strength in dealing with the last two years and picking up an incredibly difficult situation. My respect for her, on a personal level, remains undiminished – and I told her that a few days ago. It is my job, however, to separate the detail of the deal from the obvious hard work and commitment that has gone into getting to where we are. And the deal itself doesn’t work – and I cannot consent to it because someone, however laudably, has worked extremely hard on it. We have to get this deal right.

Obviously, events have moved quickly in recent days including a leadership contest and, belatedly (and after several weeks of insisting that nothing could be changed), the Prime Minister saying she will go back to Brussels to try to do something on the backstop. For me, it was a tragedy that it came to a contest last week – it shouldn’t have been necessary and many of us, including myself, had hoped it could be avoided. Yet, we had been telling the Government for months that the deal wouldn’t work and no-one had been listening. I fully understand that people may not agree with my decision around a confidence vote – but I took it on policy, not personal, grounds. If the policy doesn’t work, and the person ties themselves so closely to that policy that they won’t change it, then there becomes little alternative to get a change of strategy.

So, where are we as Christmas arrives? Arguably, not particularly further forward than we were a few weeks ago. I still think the Government was wrong to not allow a vote on the Brexit deal a few days ago. I still think the Brexit deal is extremely flawed. And I am unconvinced that the Government is having the right conversations to try to fix many of the issues within it.

Nonetheless, I realise that we are where we are. Following the last few days, the Prime Minister has committed to going back to Brussels to try to improve the deal. I welcome that and I think it is right to give the Prime Minister some space on this. I still have grave reservations about where we are going on Brexit, and cannot support it in its current form, but we must see what she returns with. If it doesn’t address at least the backstop and trade, however, I will still be unable to support it.

Throughout all of this extremely complicated and charged debate, I try to go back to a few core principles. We must leave the European Union. We must honour the result of the referendum. We must stay true to the commitments we gave on Europe at the election. And, most vitally, we must leave the EU in a way that allows us to take advantage of the opportunities we will have as a country in the future. If we honour those, we can be hugely successful in the future. If we don’t, we risk a catastrophic loss of trust in the democratic system as a way to change things. However you voted in 2016 and whatever you think now, the key issues are one of trust and opportunity. Get those right and we have a great future ahead of us. Get them wrong and we are going to store up problems in the coming decades.

I have no time for vitriol and games in politics and I have tried to avoid doing any of that since my election. Yet, I will say no to something if I think it is wrong. And this deal won’t work unless it has substantial change. And there are times, whatever criticism is levelled at you, when you have to do what you think is right. I felt we were heading in a direction which was going to be extremely problematic and I felt I had a duty to stand up, respectfully, and say that I couldn’t support a course of action which is wrong. I don’t regret it and, although I hope I don’t have to, I will do it again in January if the deal isn’t changed.

For the first time in years, Brexit has given people hope. If it fails they won’t forgive us, Daily Telegraph, 18 August 2018
“Harold Wilson once said a week was a long-time in politics. At the moment, weeks feel like eternities. Since early July, I appear to have morphed, against my will and without actually changing my views, from a moderate member of my party on Brexit, to a rebel. From a supporter of the Government’s approach to one who now has real concerns about its direction. All in a few short weeks.

If we are honest, for politicians, a week shouldn’t be that important at all. Nor should a month and even, to some extent, a year. The key conversation we should be having – one that has really been absent for too long – is what the next fifteen or twenty years looks like; what we actually should do now, beyond the platitudinous mush, to ensure our children have a better life than we have. And Brexit is the omnipresent, raging fog obscuring that vital discussion.

Deep down, all politicians know that there is something amiss in the body politic today. Populations are restless. People feel left out and ignored. The traditional levers to improve the world are malfunctioning; slower growth, foreign policy chaos and domestic budgetary stricture. The status quo appears brittle and worn. And yet there is no clarity about what to replace it with. The world is turning and, for many, it appears to be turning away from them.

Underneath that sense of foreboding are two existential issues. The first is technology. In my lifetime alone, I have seen the advent of the home computer, the internet and the mobile phone. What is now ubiquitous as I enter middle age was not even an idea in the first flush of my youth. Millions of jobs have been created by a medium which was invisible a generation ago and which, most likely, will have changed beyond recognition in another one.

Yet, even in normal times, politicians’ answer to technology is to either ignore it or grandstand on it. Take the tech giants, for example, and their questionable data practices. The elite have gone to town on them in recent months. Outrage is the order of the day. CEOs have been chastened. Companies run warm adverts saying “we’ve changed” without a proper public consideration of what, over the long-term, we all need to change to. Our focus on Brexit has meant we’ve missed the underlying, hard questions. Are they platforms or publishers? Are they monopolists or innovators? How do individual nation states regulate cross-border activity?

Brexit is, quite simply, the ultimate political distraction technique. The amount of time we spend in legislatures debating the philosophical, economic and social impacts of artificial intelligence, big data and the loss of privacy is inversely proportional to their coming impacts. I am a huge evangelist about technology and its ability to change lives. Yet, we have to ready citizens to take advantage of those opportunities through skills, flexibility and attitude. But why should we do that when we can trot along to yet another debate about the merits of the EEA? We must do better. And, frustratingly, with Chequers destabilising the European debate, our fixation on the short-term will remain as the long-term continues to cry out for proper attention.

The second existential issue of our time is trust. Out there beyond the M25, people feel ignored and patronised, particularly those who have borne the brunt of some of the changes of the last thirty years. Globalisation continues to re-shape our communities and, whatever we think of it, we need to find a way to show people they have security in their lives. The last thirty years have been hard for many and have undermined faith in the system at its core. And then a toxic cacophony of expenses scandals, dodgy dossiers, spin and the obscuring of hard choices has left people feeling that the system is not just untrustworthy but fundamentally rotten too.

Against that imposing backdrop, Brexit was an opportunity to restore that trust with a large section of society. “The Government will implement what you decide” said the booklet dropped through every household letterbox. The decision was close but clear: people voted to leave the European Union. The definition of that result was distilled last year, by both parties, into departure from the single market and the customs union. Eighty-five percent of people agreed.

In the months since Brexit, I have seen a tentative change on the doorstep of the people who I proudly represent. Distrust and disengagement was replaced by curiosity. People tentatively dared to hope that the political class were actually going to do something they requested. Perhaps the duck house could finally fade from a deeply suspicious collective memory.

And then along came Chequers. At a stroke, that emerging engagement with politics has been scrambled. The Government spin proclaims that we are taking back control. The reality is that we are ceding it, at least on trade, in perpetuity. The document is a clever, legalistic, splitting-the-difference tome; the product of a process driven by a civil service never fully reconciled to leaving and, ultimately, not wanting to grasp the nettle.

Whatever you think about the referendum, and whatever your own personal view on Chequers is, the key measure is one of trust. Does this proposal properly embody the decision of the British people in 2016? Can you sell it to the disengaged of Dronfield or the exasperated of Eckington? And, when this offer is inevitably salami-sliced away into irrelevance by the EU, what should we tell our electors then? That we gave it our best effort but came up short? That Brussels is right? That our masters know best?

We are privileged to live in a time when we see the world going through one of the biggest transformations ever. We should be optimistic about those changes. Yet, shadows stalk our landscape. Technology will only be tamed by a proper legislative focus on the long-term. Trust will only be restored by delivering what we promised. The political elite decided it was going to hang its credibility on the question of Brexit in 2014 and the people gave them their orders two years later. And now we need to deliver them.

I became an MP last year, for my home area, and the truth is that I ran for Parliament for a much wider set of reasons than Brexit. I am not madly obsessed by the intricate nuances of the acquis or think everything that comes out of Europe is bad. And I’m willing to compromise on money and timelines if necessary. Yet, my bottom line is this: I need to be able to go back to my constituents – the people who I grew up with and call my friends – and say we did what they asked us to do.

So, my message to the Government is this: you have a decision to make. Chequers is about to undermine the underlying mission I thought we were all trying to deliver – restoring the belief that the disengaged had in democracy to deliver. And, in doing so, it will create an anger out there, and an angst so great in Westminster, that there is no chance we can give existential issues like technology the focus they deserve. Drop Chequers and deliver what the people voted for. “

Brexit is a moment of tremendous opportunity and Britain deserves better than the PM’s deal, Daily Telegraph (with Julia Lopez MP, Suella Braverman MP, Simon Clarke MP, Ranil Jayawardena MP, Ross Thomson MP, Ben Bradley MP), 30 November 2018
“Brexit presents a profound and complex challenge for our country and our politics. Yet seeing parliament reduce it (at best) to a problem to be mitigated and (at worst) to an existential threat that needs to be blocked, has been frustrating and dispiriting in equal measure. That is precisely the wrong outlook to take at this time. For all the policy conundrums it presents, Brexit is a moment of tremendous creative opportunity and renewal for our United Kingdom – an opportunity we do not want to miss.

As younger Conservative MPs, we are ambitious for our constituencies and the country we serve. Anchored by our faith in Conservatism as a force for good, we believe in hard work, individual responsibility, empathy, the power of people and a hand up where it is needed. We want to build a nation that is at ease with itself, whose pride comes from our values and achievements as a dynamic, twenty-first century democracy that is underpinned by a rich history, not defined by faded glory. None of us entered politics to obsess about Brexit. But we also understand the once-in-a-generation chance it gives us to fulfil the hopes we have for our nation, to reshape politics and to rebuild faith in the system that is at such a dangerously low ebb.

The Prime Minister is absolutely right when she says that we all want to move on from divisive Brexiteer and Remainer labels and start focusing on the broader challenges facing our nation. However, we have come together in our belief that the Withdrawal Agreement will not help us do that. Instead, we fear we are poised to sign up to a deal that leaves us with many of the frustrations of 40 years of EU membership and few of the gains from the bold decision that the British people took at the ballot box.

Compromise is an important part of any negotiation. We empathise with the instinct towards caution and continuity. But we are concerned that the continuity presented by the Withdrawal Agreement is illusory and comes at the cost of meaningful change. Entreaties to “just get on with it” ring hollow given the challenges that will be stored up for our nation from being placed into a state of indefinite limbo. Parliamentarians have a difficult choice to make in the next two weeks. We must be careful not to block off the opportunities of tomorrow because we are scared of the decisions of today.

We are not challenging many of the sensible provisions and details in the Withdrawal Agreement that seek to give citizens certainty and confidence in their daily lives. We believe in close cooperation with our European partners, and see a valued and close relationship with them as vital to building a global future. But this deal will store up new animosities, and create fresh frustrations from the limits it places upon our country and our future.

First, it will constrain our flexibility in a world that demands faster responses to global challenges. We will not meaningfully be able to set our trade policies or our laws, nor build a society and country which responds better to the needs and aspirations of its citizens.

Second, it reduces our control. Most obviously, we run the risk of being trapped in the European Union’s regulatory system for years without the chance to influence it or the unilateral ability to leave. We risk treating one part of our United Kingdom differently from another, and leaving one part of our nation behind the rest. And, fundamentally, for millions of people at the referendum, Brexit was seen as an opportunity to take more control over our country’s future. If that doesn’t happen, we risk a catastrophic loss of trust by the communities we represent in the power of democracy to change things.

Finally, this deal does not give us closure. We will be caught in an interminable, reductive debate about Brexit if we give up all of our leverage before we have nailed down a future relationship that really works for our United Kingdom. If there is one thing that the most fervent Brexiteer and Remainer can agree on, it is the need to start a new chapter as quickly as possible. This deal prevents us from doing so.

Over a series of articles in the lead-up to the vote we will outline how our future prosperity requires us to reject this deal and demand more from us all as a political class. We will then write in more detail about why the deal does not work for our future ambitions on trade, security, the union, the economy, jobs, our communities and the environment.

Put simply, our national debate over Brexit must be about more than simply getting us over the line in March 2019. It must be about the country and continent we are trying to build for March 2029 and beyond. Our future is too important to give away now in haste and pay the price later.

We all want to get back to debating our vision for the UK beyond Brexit – but we can only do that if we make the right decision in the next fourteen days.”

Brexit is an economic prize for the taking if MPs reject this deal and go for independence. Daily Telegraph, 4 December 2018
“It was John Maynard Keynes who once said that economics is a “very dangerous science.” After the life-sapping economic debate on Brexit in recent months, perhaps we should add that it is also a very circular one too. Headlines scream calamity. Economic ruin is promised. GDP estimates have become an unverifiable currency, traded with abandon by those with rabid agendas to pursue.

The economic impact of Brexit should be one of the most important debates to have. Instead it has become one of the most artificial, polarising and facile. It shouldn’t be like this. Reasonable people on both sides can see that Brexit presents both economic opportunities and challenges – both immediately and then, more importantly, for the long-term and the next generation.

To take advantage of those opportunities, we could start by cutting through the current rancid (social) media fog. Economics is not a science. Estimates are not facts. Statistics need to be contextualised. Assumptions need to be understood. The last time economists tried to guess what would happen with Brexit, just before the vote, they weren’t hugely successful. Whilst we should absolutely take heed of what experts are saying, they are not Gods. This is no way to debate leaving the European Union.

Similarly, someone should remind those throwing the statistics around like confetti that economics doesn’t exist in a vacuum. For those who suggest that leaving the EU will wipe huge swathes off our GDP, perhaps they could outline how much our GDP has already been held back by the centralised European regulation of the last twenty years? Or tell us, looking ahead, on what basis they are assuming the EU will approach the few decades to make their claims with such certainty? The idea that the status quo will sustain (one, which by the way, still delivers 35% youth unemployment in Greece) is for the birds. Another twenty years of prioritising the European political project above people’s lives is not a ticket to economic paradise.

And, in Britain, at the same time as preparing properly for the change that is coming in 2019 and 2020, we need to also focus on our vision for 2029 and 2030. If done properly, Brexit is a huge opportunity to pivot our approach, turbo-charge our economy and bring new wealth and prosperity to our communities. The ability to open up new markets around the world mustn’t be lost amongst the noise. The new possibilities emanating from closer collaboration with the global tigers could be transformative for our manufacturing communities. And, taking a new approach to regulation, could see significant productivity and economic gains if we pursue them.

First, we have the opportunity to break free of an economic model which, whilst successful, has constrained our growth and competitiveness. Estimates have put the cost of EU regulation at billions of pounds a year. Our country pays for the CFP and the CAP to inflate cost of living for its citizens. There is a huge opportunity to get to work on these structural issues and strip away forty years of policy which doesn’t work for the UK. That doesn’t mean some kind of unregulated dystopia as those who want to frustrate Brexit would have us believe. It simply means we regain control; control to change regulation over the long-term, to respond to innovation, to reform subsidies that don’t work and to have a reasonable debate in our country about where we are going. Even obtaining a fraction of the benefits quoted is a prize worth aiming for.

Second, the gains that come with being flexible and nimble could be huge. The vast majority of growth in the next twenty years is going to come from outside Europe. We should be desperate to get a share of that. Our independence will give us the opportunity to sign bilateral trade deals around the world quickly. Australia and the US signed one within a couple of years. By contrast, the EU is ten years into negotiations with India and nearly twenty with parts of South America. Every year where tariffs or barriers are lower between the United Kingdom and other countries is a year when more trade is generated and more jobs are created. We should be chomping at the bit to get going.

Third, we have the opportunity of making our money stretch further. We pay billions of pounds to the European Union every year. Taking back control of some of that money is a huge opportunity for our country. Better outcomes for public services. Upfront money for reform and improvement. A further reduction in the deficit. Perhaps even some tax cuts. Spreadsheet Phil, or whoever follows him, might never have had it so good.

So, enough with the Project Fear scare stories on economics. Most people know there are careful considerations needed in the short-term to steer the UK through the next couple of years. If the Government was focusing properly on Brexit, instead of this doomed deal, they would be looking at that. But let’s also look to the future; our future prosperity is in our hands not the European Union. Let’s take it.”

Response to North East Derbyshire’s latest Local Plan consultation

As many residents will know, North East Derbyshire District Council have recently closed the latest consultation on their draft Local Plan (2014 – 2034) – the document which outlines how our area should change and develop in the coming decade.  This is a hugely important document which covers housebuilding, commercial & businesses and the regeneration and improvement of our towns.

I have had serious concerns about this plan since being elected last year – it is years late, ill-thought through and has seriously over-estimated the number of houses needing to be built in North East Derbyshire.  We do need new houses to be built – but North East Derbyshire have failed to justify the sheer scale of building that they are proposing over the next fifteen years.

Along with many other residents, I have objected to the plans put forward by the Council.  You can find a copy of my objection here: Local Plan response – 05042018

Bramleymoor Lane: Response to Officer Report

Last Friday, Derbyshire County Council officers published their assessment of the application for exploratory drilling and their recommendation to Councillors who, on Monday 5th February, will decide the County Council’s position on this application.  Hugely disappointingly, Council officers did not recommend refusal of this application despite the clear planning reasons for doing so.

Along with many hundreds of other residents, I will be attending the County Council’s meeting today where they make their decision.  I will also be speaking to urge County Councillors to reject this application.

In anticipation of the meeting, I have sent the Committee a letter outlining my concerns regarding the report published.  Please find a copy of it below.

“Dear Councillors,

Last Friday, Derbyshire County Council planning officers published their assessment of the application by Ineos Upstream to drill on an exploratory basis at Bramleymoor Lane, Marsh Lane, Derbyshire.  I write in advance of your meeting on Monday to highlight a number of points for your consideration and to draw your attention to a number of concerns regarding the report published.

I am on record as strongly opposing this application and I have previously written to the County Council outlining my substantial objections.  I have enclosed a copy of this objection in case it is helpful.

I know much effort has been required on the part of County Council officers to review Ineos’s proposal and the many thousands of comments that have been generated by it.   I share the disappointment of the Council that the applicant has not entrusted the final decision with you, particularly given the fact that they were feeding additional information to your officers only a few weeks before they declared non-determination.  Hugely important decisions like this one should be taken locally.

Nonetheless, having reviewed officer’s comments, I am extremely concerned that the weighting proposed by them does not accurately reflect the reality on the ground.  Only a few days ago in Rotherham, similar planning and highways experts recommended refusal for a very similar application from Ineos – confirming that there is a clear basis for refusal in our area too.  Whilst I respect the officer’s assessment, you know that planning decisions are ones which require balance and judgement.

In our system, the ultimate decision (so long as it is not removed from them by the applicant declaring non-determination) rests not with experts but with elected representative such as yourselves.  Officer advice is to be respected and carefully considered but, ultimately, you have the choice as to whether to accept or reject it.  I hope, after weighing the evidence and the planning frameworks in place in North East Derbyshire, that you will conclude as I, and thousands of other people have, that this application does not conform with the planning policies in place.

I am particularly concerned about the following aspects of the report:

  • The Council’s assessment of the cumulative impact of activity on or near to this site;
  • The assessment and weighting placed on certain planning matters by Council officers, and;
  • The continued omission of a number of pieces of important data which I believe would be required in the event that the Council was minded to approve this application.

Assessment of cumulative impact

Whilst the report considers the impact of other (non-fracking) mining extractions nearby and other exploratory drilling proposals, it takes the clear position that “there are no potential cumulative impacts in relation to hydraulic fracturing, or further phases of shale gas development generally, to consider.” [1]

Divorcing the exploration for shale gas with its eventual production, as the officers propose, is an entirely artificial and arbitrary distinction to make.  Ineos is a company which, according to its own website, is committed to the production of shale gas.  The permissions of the licences that Ineos hold to undertake this work do not stop at simply exploration; indeed they are entitled “Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences.”  The eventual exploitation and extraction of shale gas underneath Bramleymoor Lane is the objective of this activity.  The application before you must be considered on that basis.

The officer report appears to make this arbitrary distinction as a result of placing great weight on paragraph 147 of the National Planning Policy Framework.  In my view, this is incorrect for the following reasons:

  1. As the officer’s report outlines, NPPF paragraph 147 provides only “limited guidance”;
  2. The NPPF guidance elsewhere requires local authorities to undertake a number of other activities with regards to their minerals policy (including defining Minerals Safeguarding Areas); states that you should take into account “the cumulative impact of multiple impacts from individual sites”; and states that “cumulative landscape and visual impacts” should be considered – meaning that the document needs to considered in the round, rather than placing excessive weight on a single paragraph;
  3. The Derbyshire Minerals Local Plan, which needs to be considered alongside the NPPF, states clearly that “proposals for mineral development will not be permitted … in particular where: development would result in an unacceptable cumulative impact on the environment of an area”, and;
  4. The Minister responsible for fracking (the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), during a debate in Parliament on the very subject of Bramleymoor Lane on 22 November 2017 made the following statement: “the cumulative effect of shale developments need to be taken into account.”

Having made the statement that future phases of fracking should not be considered hen deciding on this application, the report also appears inconsistent on this very point in a number of places:

  • Planning officers refer to the Government’s Annual Energy Statement and suggest that there is support for the type of development in question “as a means of securing indigenous energy supplies” – meaning, ultimately, that Bramleymoor Lane would have to be fracked[2];
  • Planning officers reference a High Court appeal decision which states that exploratory drilling should be treated as part of “mineral extraction” for the purposes of assessing whether it would be appropriate in the Green Belt[3];
  • Planning officers accept that exploratory drilling is a first step in assessing whether reserves are “worth exploiting[4], and;
  • Whole chunks of the report itself are dedicated to consideration of what happens beyond exploratory drilling (pages 47 – 49 assessment of the National Energy Policy, pages 49 – 50 discussion of regulatory regimes covering extraction).

Moreover, and most importantly, at least one phase of this application in front of you tomorrow is not actually for exploratory drilling but is instead requesting permission for the use of this site for activities on the assumption that fracking is taking place elsewhere.  You are being asked to give permission for Bramleymoor Lane to be used as a “listening well”.  Listening wells, by the reports own admission, would relate to “hydraulic fracturing from any well elsewhere[5].”

On that basis, it is fundamentally contradictory to suggest that you, as Councillors, must not consider the cumulative impacts of future phases of fracking at this or nearby locations whilst, at the same time, requesting that you give permission for this site to be used as a support location for such future fracking.  If you are being asked to give consent for a listening well which supports full-scale fracking elsewhere, then you must be able to consider the cumulative impact of that fracking.  And, if that is the case, you must therefore consider the potential for either exploratory drilling or fracking sites every few kilometres across the county from Bolsover and Killamarsh to Alfreton and Ripley, from Long Eaton to Ilkeston; something which is quite clearly contrary to all planning advice regarding greenbelt and landscape and visual intrusion.

For all of the above reasons, I believe that the treatment of cumulative in the report is erroneous and believe that you, as the ultimate deciders of Derbyshire County Council’s position on the matter, must take into account the more broad, cumulative impact of what might result from this exploratory drilling proposed.

Assessment and weighting within the report

I am also concerned about a number of conclusions that the report makes in proposing that the application should be not be rejected:


The report itself acknowledges the following:

  1. That the proposed location is within the greenbelt;
  2. That the Government attaches great importance to greenbelts;
  3. That this particularly location is a “strategically important area of Green Belt”;
  4. That there is a general presumption against development in the Green Belt;
  5. That the NPPF advises that inappropriate development is harmful to the Green Belt;
  6. That substantial weight should be given to any harm to the Green Belt;
  7. That applications should only be approved in “very special circumstances”;
  8. That mineral extraction should only be permitted where it preserves the openness of the Green Belt, and;
  9. That the proposal “would conflict with one essential characteristic, openness and one of the purposes of the Green Belt” [6]

Yet, inexplicably, all of these accepted issues with the application are then dismissed by officers on the basis that the application will be “temporary”[7].  The report does not acknowledge policy GS8 in the North East Derbyshire Local Plan that temporary planning proposals “will be subject to the same planning, amenity and highway considerations applied to permanent uses.”[8]  On that basis, the multitude of issues that this application has with its greenbelt location – all of which are acknowledged by officers – simply cannot be dismissed on the basis of their temporary nature and, as a result, this application clearly contravenes policy relating to the greenbelt and should be rejected on that basis alone

Landscape and visual impacts

The report acknowledges that the visual impact of the application is likely to be greater than Ineos have initially suggested.  Despite this, officers conclude that the impact would not “be significant overall” outside of the use of a 60m rig during the initial stages and that any visual impact could be “softened through detailed design”.  According, however, to the applicant’s own documentation, the following industrial equipment and machinery would be on site during a period where officers consider there to be no significant impact:

  1. A perimeter 2.0m high fence;
  2. An additional 4.8m high combination of bunding and further fencing;
  3. 2 – 3 cabins of up to 3.0m height;
  4. Acoustic screening of up to 5.0m height;
  5. Up to 4 security cameras of up to 5.5m height;
  6. A lighting rig of up to 9.0m high;
  7. A 2.9m high power generator;
  8. 2 water tanks of up to 3.0m height;
  9. A 10m high emergency vent;
  10. A 4.5m high Kooney pressure control, and;
  11. A 4.0m high blow out preventor and skid and choke manifold.

All of this equipment would be placed on the brow of a hill within a valley at a location that can be seen from a number of positions from miles around and just a few hundred metres from the village of Marsh Lane.  It is simply not plausible to suggest, for example, that vents up to 10m high in a rural location are not significant. On that basis, it is my view that the weighting applied to visual and landscape impact is insufficient and the application should be rejected on this basis.

Omission of data

Whilst the officer’s report is comprehensive and detailed, it both (i) highlights a number of areas where it acknowledges that Ineos have not provided information and (ii) has not adequately dealt with a number of questions raised by objectors.

Areas of concern include:

  1. Assessments of HGV movements: Multiple objectors have highlighted the apparent inconsistency in the submissions by the applicant regarding whether the number of HGVs caused by exploratory drilling would exceed the 30% increase which would trigger further analysis and more detailed assessment. The officer report does not deal with this issue and therefore the report is inadequate in dealing with whether MP1 of the Minerals Plan has been contravened.
  2. Traffic impact: the report states that the development would not be “unacceptable in terms of traffic and highway safety”[9] yet does not deal with the issue that the Department for Transport would likely classify the impact of this application as high given that there are at least 200 houses on or close by to the roads in Coal Aston which is on the chosen route to access the site.
  3. Greenbelt: the report suggests the only one purpose of the greenbelt is transgressed by this application (the safeguarding of the countryside from encroachment). At least one other purpose, however, (the greenbelt should be protected in order to assist in urban regeneration through the recycling of derelict and other urban land) is not sufficiently assessed.  The officers accept that “the applicant has not provided any specific details on any alternative sites that were considered or reasons why they may have been discounted, for example no details on alternative sites outside of the Green Belt have been provided.”[10]  On this basis, it is technically impossible to assess whether this additional purpose of the greenbelt is contravened.
  4. Economic impact model: the report states that officers are of “the view that there would be some minor economic benefit from proposal.[11] No economic impact modelling has been supplied by the appellant, however. There is insufficient information provided to judge the economic impact of the proposal. No accurate assessment of economic impacts can be made until a model is released by Ineos.
  5. Impact upon birds: The Planning Officer agrees that the absence of records for lapwing and skylark should not be taken to infer their absence from the site. It also cannot be inferred that the imposing of conditions would be able to mitigate any issue here given that we simply do not know if there is an issue to be addressed. Further assessment must be undertaken to clarify this issue.
  6. Impact upon bats: Ineos suggest that no further surveys need to be taken as they have concluded that there is low or negligible likelihood of bat roosts. However, the Bat Conservation Trust advise that “photographs and detailed descriptions should be provided to the client as evidence that an adequate survey has been carried out and the conclusions are reasonable.”[12] Ineos have not provided this to my knowledge. I also share concerns that the bat survey was conducted during months when bats are in hibernation and not active. Ineos, in their response dated 12 September 2017, quote from the Bat Conservation Trust Guidelines (2016, 6.3.7): “PRF surveys can be carried out at any time of the year.[13]  However, the appellant chose to not draw attention to the second half of the sentence from the BCT which stated that “although the likelihood of discovering evidence of bats at different times should be considered.”
  7. Archaeology: The report itself acknowledges that the applicant’s assessment of the archaeological and cultural heritage of the site is defective given that it missed the potential existence of a colliery on the application site in the mid-19th century.[14] Further information is therefore needed to confirm the position on archaeology.

The outstanding nature of these questions means that the evidence base before you is not sufficiently comprehensive in the event that you decide, as I strongly hope you will not, to make a positive decision on this application.  There is, however, already a multitude of reasons, through the clear contravention of key parts of the planning frameworks, to reject this application tomorrow.

As a former Councillor and member of a planning committee dealing with large applications, I know the seriousness that you will be taking your responsibilities with regards to this proposal.  I also know the challenges of weighing up large volumes of evidence and competing interests.

The prospect of exploratory drilling at Bramleymoor Lane has caused, as you can imagine, an extraordinary amount of concern, anxiety and worry for residents living in North East Derbyshire and, particularly, close to the site itself.  Tomorrow’s application, if passed, would be the first step in the wholesale industrialisation of a rural area which has never been seen in any of our lifetimes in Derbyshire.  The sheer volume of representations received on this application demonstrates this concern.

At the planning committee, you are being asked to decide whether this application adheres to the Minerals Local Plan, the North East Derbyshire Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework.  In my view, it clearly does not.  Your colleagues in Rotherham came to a similar conclusion just a few days go for a very similar application.  I strongly urge you to reject this application on the planning grounds mentioned in this correspondence and my original objection.

Thank you for reading this additional letter at such short notice.  I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

Yours sincerely,

Lee Rowley, Member of Parliament for North East Derbyshire”