Llandow Appeal Decision


Appeal Decision

Inquiry held on 22&23/05/12
Site visit made on 11/06/12

By Emyr Jones BSc(Hons) CEng MICE
An Inspector appointed by the Welsh Ministers
Date: 06/07/12

Appeal Ref: APP/Z6950/A/11/2167112
Site address: Unit 1 Llandow Industrial Estate, Cowbridge CF71 7PF

The Welsh Ministers have transferred the authority to decide this appeal to me as the
Appointed Inspector.

The appeal is made under section 78 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against a
Refusal to grant planning permission.

The appeal is made by Coastal Oil and Gas Limited against the decision of The Vale of
Glamorgan Council.

The application Ref 2011/00812/FUL, dated 13 August 2011, was refused by notice dated 21
October 2011.

The development proposed is to drill and test the insitu lower limestone and associated strata
For the presence of gas.


The appeal is allowed and planning permission is granted to drill and test the insitu
Lower limestone and associated strata for the presence of gas at Unit 1 Llandow
Industrial Estate, Cowbridge in accordance with the terms of the application, Ref
2011/00812/FUL, dated 13 August 2011, and the plans submitted with it, subject to
The following conditions:
1) The development hereby permitted shall begin not later than five years from the
Date of this decision.
2) No operations authorised by this permission, with the exception of the site
Restoration works set out in Section 7.10 of the supporting statement submitted
With the application, shall take place after a period of 10 weeks following the
Commencement of drilling operations on the site, unless otherwise agreed in
Writing with the local planning authority.
3) The drill rig and all other items of plant and equipment to be used in the drilling
Operations hereby approved shall each have a typical noise level at 1 metre not
Exceeding 74 dB(A).
4) No operations authorised by this permission shall take place until details of a
Scheme to mitigate noise impacts at the nearest residential and commercial
Properties, as well as the bat roost to the west of the site, has been submitted
To and approved in writing by the local planning authority. All operations shall
Subsequently be carried out in accordance with the approved details.
5) Notwithstanding the submitted documents, prior to any drilling taking place, a
Detailed working method statement for the drilling operation, to include methods


Appeal Decision APP/Z6950/A/11/2167112

To minimise the risk of the loss of drilling fluid to ground water resources during
The drilling process and monitoring for any loss of drilling fluid, as well as
Measures for the collection and disposal of spilt drilling fluid, shall be submitted
To and approved in writing by the local planning authority. All operations shall
Thereafter be carried out in accordance with the approved details.

Monitoring and assessment of vibration from the operations shall be carried out
In accordance with the vibration methodology below unless otherwise agreed in
Writing with the local planning authority.

An acceptable datum level of vibration will be agreed with the local planning
Authority prior to drilling commencing.

The inherent vibration of the drill rig will be monitored before transporting
To site.

Normal prevailing vibration over the drilling area will be measured at the
Nearest residential and commercial properties before drilling commences.

From the commencement of the drilling operation, vibration will initially be
Continuously monitored without interruption; at times when the drill is both
In use and not in use. Monitoring will take place at both the nearest
Residential and commercial properties. The duration of continuous
Monitoring will be agreed with the local planning authority once
Representative vibration data has been compiled and assessed.

Once the recorded vibration level approaches 10% below the agreed datum
Level, drilling will cease.

Any facilities for the storage of oils, fuels and chemicals shall be sited on
Impervious bases and surrounded by impervious bund walls. The size of the
Bunded compound shall be at least equivalent to the capacity of the tank plus
10%. If there is multiple tankage, the compound shall be at least equivalent to
The capacity of the largest tank plus 10%. All filling points, vents and sight
Glasses shall be located within the bund. There shall be no drain through the
Bund floor or walls.

Full details of a scheme for the disposal of foul and surface water drainage shall
be submitted to and approved in writing by the local planning authority and the
approved scheme shall be fully implemented prior to any drilling operations or
site preparation taking place. The submitted scheme shall include proposals for
the treatment and disposal of suspended solids from surface water runoff and
shall include emergency procedures to be implemented where any failure results
in the pollution of controlled waters.

Within three months of the completion of drilling and testing operations, all
plant, machinery, buildings and the bund compound shall be removed from the
site and the site shall be restored in accordance with the details set out in
Section 7.10 of the statement entitled Accompanying information submitted with
the application or any alternative scheme that may first be agreed in writing
with the local planning authority.

The works to prepare the site for drilling, construct and dismantle the drill and
equipment, and restore the site shall not take place outside the hours of 08:00
to 18:00.

Any lighting shall be in accordance with details previously submitted to and
approved in writing by the local planning authority.

Any drilling shall only be carried out between the months of October to March



Appeal Decision APP/Z6950/A/11/2167112

Application for costs

At the Inquiry an application for costs was made by Coastal Oil and Gas Limited
against The Vale of Glamorgan Council. This application is the subject of a separate
Main Issue

I consider the main issue in this case to be the effect of the proposal on the quantity
and quality of groundwater supplies in the vicinity of the site.
Preliminary matters

A significant number of objectors raise concerns as to possible future proposals for gas
extraction and the process known as hydraulic fracturing in particular. Whilst I
understand these concerns, the proposal before me does not include extraction,
whether by hydraulic fracturing or otherwise. Any extraction proposals would require
a further application and the Vale of Glamorgan Unitary Development Plan (UDP)
makes it clear that the grant of planning permission for mineral exploration will not
indicate a presumption in favour of future exploitation of any minerals found. I
cannot, therefore, take these concerns into account in my determination of the appeal.
It was suggested that UDP mineral policies do not apply to gas as no reference is
made to it. However, the UDP notes that surveys for hydrocarbon resources were
carried out over much of the western Vale in the early 1990s and one of its objectives
is to encourage the best and most efficient use of all available resources. It
acknowledges that, in the event of renewed exploration activity, it will clearly be
necessary to address the policy issues raised in a review of the plan. In the
meantime, it recognises that the existing policies will provide an adequate framework
for decision-making.
The UDP safeguards land at the Llandow Trading Estate for uses falling within Use
Classes B1, B2 and B8. Nonetheless, the proposal relates to a temporary
development lasting no more than 10 weeks, including contingencies, such that there
would be no real conflict with the underlying objective of securing adequate provision
of employment land. Interested persons draw attention to lease clauses which may
preclude exploratory drilling on the site, but this is essentially a private matter
between the appellants and the landlord.
Some objectors questioned the need to explore for gas reserves at all. Nevertheless,
the Welsh Governments Energy Wales: A Low Carbon Transition states that gas will
be a key transitional fuel because green house gas emissions from gas are
significantly less than coal subject to the method of extraction. It goes on to note that
gas is a flexible, responsive and reliable source of energy which can play a key role in
the transition to a genuinely low carbon energy system. Likewise, the Department of
Energy and Climate Changes Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy EN-1
indicates that fossil fuel power stations will continue to play an important role in our
energy mix as the UK makes the transition to a low carbon economy.
It has also been suggested that the proposal should have been subject to
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), but it was screened by the Council and it
was determined that EIA was not required. The proposal does not fall within any of
the descriptions given in Schedule 1 of The Town and Country Planning
(Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999, as
amended. Whilst Schedule 2 of the same regulations includes deep drillings, the site
is not in a sensitive area and the applicable thresholds and criteria refer to the area of
the works exceeding 1 hectare which would not be the case here.


Appeal Decision APP/Z6950/A/11/2167112

Schedule 3 of the Regulations refers to the need to consider the characteristics of the
development having regard in particular to, amongst others, the cumulation with other
development. However, it is only when development meets the threshold within
Schedule 2 that one should go on to consider Schedule 3. The assessment of whether
an application relates to a Schedule 2 application or not is to be decided by reference
to the application for development consent applied for and not any development
contemplated beyond that. I, therefore, conclude that the proposal is not EIA


10. The application was refused planning permission on the basis of Dwr Cymru/Welsh
Waters (DCWW) belief at the time that there would be a very small risk of
contamination of their reserve groundwater sites in the Vale of Glamorgan from the
proposed exploratory drilling. They also indicated that, if there was an excessive loss
of drilling fluid to the aquifer during the drilling procedure due to unforeseen
geological features being met, then this level of risk would increase. However, DCWW
have subsequently confirmed that they did not object to the planning application and,
following further discussions with the appellants, now believe that there would be an
insignificant risk of pollution of their sources given the nature of the drilling operation.
11. It is also of particular significance that DCWW indicated that they would expect the
Environment Agency (EA) to consider the vulnerability of their groundwater sources
and wider impact upon the water environment as part of the permitting process. The
EA is the relevant regulatory authority insofar as groundwater pollution is concerned.
The supporting text to UDP policy ENV 29 notes that advice will be sought from the
relevant regulatory authorities, including the EA, and Minerals Planning Policy Wales
emphasises the need to consult the EA. In this particular case, the EA did not object
to the proposals, subject to the imposition of appropriate planning conditions.
12. The abstraction points for the reserve groundwater resource are some 7.8km and
8.6km from the appeal site and the nearest point of the resources catchment is
located over 3.7km away. Over this distance, the geology generally dips to the south
(away from the resource) and then up and over a large anticline. Any drilling fluid lost
would have to rise over the anticline, flow against the hydraulic gradient, and cross a
series of faults with throws of at least 20-30m and around 1.5m of broken material
between the fault planes, to reach the reserve groundwater resource. The most
significant aquifer in the resource is the carboniferous limestone. This is known to
have a low primary porosity with the flow being dominated by fracture/fissure flow
and, because of overburden pressure, only the uppermost 100m or so is likely to be
effective in transmitting water. As a result, I am satisfied that the risk of drilling fluid
being transported towards the reserve groundwater sources, should there by any
losses, would be negligible.
13. Furthermore, the risk of drilling fluid being lost to the formation in the first place
would be minimised by using fluid of an appropriate density/viscosity and steel casing
cemented in place in the carboniferous limestone forming the main aquifer. The use
of a closed loop system would facilitate monitoring for any loss of drilling fluid through
observation of the levels in the tanks, with excessive losses being addressed by the
addition of materials that would swell and block the fractures where water was being


Appeal Decision APP/Z6950/A/11/2167112

14. The anticipated drilling fluid is a proprietary product known as Pure-Bore.
This is a
biopolymer which biodegrades naturally within 8 to 52 weeks and is commonly used to
drill water wells without contamination problems arising. It has been accredited by
the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (part of DEFRA) for use
in the marine environment.
15. I have no reason to believe that bacteria, which would treat the product as a food
source, are not found in the aquifer, particularly the uppermost layer which is likely to
be effective in transmitting water. In any event, the manufacturer reports that it is
still capable of breaking down in connate water (water trapped in sediment or rock at
the time of deposition). Assessment using juvenile Daphnia Magna shows a minimal
toxicity indistinguishable from the degree of error involved in the test at a 1:10,000
dilution. Whilst 42% of the organisms were immobile after 48 hours at a 1:1,000
dilution, this is likely to be due to the products oxygen demand rather than any
chemical toxicity.
16. Although not recorded on any public registers, there are private boreholes much
nearer the site than DCWWs which are used to extract drinking water for consumption
by humans and farm animals. Nevertheless, the process would be comparable to that
used in the drilling of an additional water abstraction borehole. The monitoring would
ensure that, if any fluid were to be lost, its volume would be extremely limited with
high rates of dilution taking place within a limited radius of the borehole such that the
risk to private water supplies would be minimal.
17. The site has a long history of military aviation and industrial use such that it is
possible that some of the land is contaminated. Nevertheless, the top section of the
borehole would be sealed after a day or so and before drilling progressed into the
underlying limestone thereby preventing any contaminated groundwater near the
surface from migrating downwards. I note that the concrete slab on the site is broken
in places such that additional measures may be required to ensure that spilled drilling
fluid can be collected and disposed of. Nonetheless, that is a matter of detail which
could be adequately addressed by modifying the agreed condition relating to a
detailed working method statement for the drilling operation.
18. The borehole would be sealed in accordance with guidelines published by the EA in
Decommissioning Redundant Boreholes and Wells and I have no reason to believe that
this would pose a threat to groundwater supplies. The density of the drilling fluid and
the blow out preventer required to satisfy HSE guidance would provide adequate
safeguards against gas escaping to the surface.
19. For the above reasons, I conclude that the proposal would not harm the quantity and
quality of groundwater supplies in the vicinity of the site.
Other matters

Noise and vibration

20. The application proposes 24 hour working during the drilling, testing and restoration
phases, but no justification was given for this. At the Inquiry, the appellants
geologist explained that the need arose from the significant extension in drilling time
that would result from having to carry out additional operations at the start and end of
each shift and the need not to compromise the structural integrity of the borehole.
21. The application was accompanied by a Noise Assessment which shows that the night
time background noise level at the nearest dwelling (Six Wells Cottage) approximately


Appeal Decision APP/Z6950/A/11/2167112

260m away is 20 dB(A)L90. This is well below the level at which it would be
appropriate to use BS4142:1997 Method for Rating Industrial Noise Affecting Mixed
Residential and Industrial Areas for assessment purposes. It also predicts that,
taking account of distance and screening losses, the noise at Six Wells Cottage from
the drilling rig would have an equivalent continuous level of 25 dB(A)LAeq and, taking
account of the characteristic features of the noise, a rating level of 30 dB(A)LAr,Tr.
Allowing for a 15dB loss through a partially open window, noise levels would,
therefore, be well below the 30 dB(A) LAeq,8hr limit for sleep disturbance given in World
Health Organisation (WHO) Guidelines for Community Noise 1999.

22. However, the Noise Assessment only considers the drilling rig whilst the operation
would also require such items as a shaker screen, pump and generator. Nonetheless,
I have no reason to doubt the evidence of the appellants geologist that the drilling rig
is by far the noisiest item of equipment. The drill rig used in the assessment
generates a typical noise level of 74 dB(A) at 1m and an unshielded 30Kva generator
has a rating of around 65 dB(A). Even if the shaker screen and pump were
individually as noisy as the rig, overall noise levels at the site would only be a few
dB(A)s higher, and could be controlled by the good practice suggested in the
assessment. Given that the predicted levels from the rig inside bedrooms with
windows partially open are well below the WHO guidance figure for sleep disturbance,
I am satisfied that the overall level would also be below the limit such that residential
living conditions would not be materially harmed.
23. The nearest offices are around 60m away and the appellants noise consultants predict
that the noise from the drilling rig would be some 48 dB(A) outside the nearest office,
with a 15dB reduction through a partially open window giving 33 dB(A) inside. This
can be compared with the 40-50 dB(A) quoted for offices in BS8233 Sound Insulation
and Noise Reduction for Buildings. For the same reasons as given for Six Wells
Cottage above, I consider that overall levels would also be below the lowest figure
quoted in BS8233 and there would not be an unacceptable impact on businesses on
the business park/industrial estate. It has been suggested that some businesses
would relocate if the appeal was allowed but, given that I have not identified an
unacceptable impact, there would be no reason for such action.
24. I recognise that tents and caravans would not achieve the 15dB reduction through a
partially open window previously referred to and that customers are attracted to the
neighbouring Caravan Park by the relatively quiet night time environment.
Nevertheless, the Caravan Park is in the region of 800m away with the Noise
Assessment predicting an equivalent continuous level of 15 dB(A)LAeq (which is lower
than the minimum consistent LA90 background noise levels measured) and a rating
level of 20 dB(A)LAr,Tr. Even allowing for a slight increase to reflect the contribution
from other plant and equipment, overall levels would still be relatively low such that
there would be no material impact on the Caravan Park or tourism in general.
25. An interested person raised the issue of noise impacts on persons with brain and
central nervous system conditions. Although they may well be more susceptible to
noise, I have no evidence that would lead me to conclude that the noise generated
would be sufficient to significantly harm the living conditions of any such persons
living in the immediate vicinity of the site. I also note that the Councils
Environmental Health Officer offered no objection on noise grounds.
26. Concerns were also raised as to vibration, but the appellants geologist has never
experienced any problems in that regard. In view of the intention to use rotary rather
than percussive drilling methods and the existence of up to 5m of made ground and


Appeal Decision APP/Z6950/A/11/2167112

glacial till which would absorb surface vibrations, I have no reason to believe that
vibration levels would pose any particular problems. The agreed condition would
provide further safeguards in this respect.

Protected species

27. The Countryside Council for Wales notes that the site is within 800m of a known lesser
horseshoe bat maternity roost site and in an area where great crested newts are
known to occur. It indicates that the nature of the proposals and resultant effects
such as noise, vibration and lighting have the potential to affect both species. The
appellants Ecological Assessment demonstrates that the site has negligible potential
as dispersal, foraging and hibernating grounds for great crested newts, and offers very
low potential for supporting commuting and foraging bats – as confirmed by the
results of the single nights survey undertaken. It is also noted that the high level of
existing lighting on the industrial park is a contraindicative factor for foraging and
commuting lesser horseshoe bats.
28. It states that the effect of noise on bats is very complicated and difficult to predict
with numerous studies showing that noise levels decrease foraging efficiency and in
some situations even very low changes in noise levels can lead to roost abandonment.
Conversely, provided background levels are consistent, lesser horseshoe bats have
been found roosting in large numbers beneath motorway bridges and in the middle of
industrial complexes. There does not appear to be any published literature suggesting
that great crested newts are particularly sensitive to increased noise levels and there
is very limited published information documenting vibration impacts on bats or great
crested newts.
29. The Noise Assessment predicts an equivalent continuous level of 15 dB(A)LAeq (which
is lower than the minimum consistent LA90 background noise levels measured) and a
rating level of 20 dB(A)LAr,Tr from the rig at the lesser horseshoe bat roost and great
crested newt ponds. Even allowing for a slight increase to reflect the contribution
from other plant and equipment, noise impacts would still be low, and vibration levels
at these locations would not be significantly higher than background levels.
30. On the basis of the evidence before me, I am satisfied that the proposal would not
harm protected species.
Traffic, visual impact, and dust

31. Interested persons are concerned as to the volume of traffic that would be generated.
However, the site is on a business park/industrial estate which is likely to generate a
substantial volume of traffic including HGVs, which would be further increased if all the
plots/units were occupied. In contrast, the proposal would involve around 18 HGV
movements to bring plant and equipment to the site at the start, a similar number to
take them away at the end, together with around 8 regular HGV servicing movements
per week. This is unlikely to be significant in the context of overall HGV movements
to the business park/industrial estate.
32. The site is in relatively poor condition and is largely surrounded by
industrial/commercial buildings. In such circumstances, the temporary siting of a 12m
high rig and associated equipment would not have an unacceptable visual impact.
Given the intention to use a drilling fluid, I have no reason to doubt the Councils view
that there are no objections to the scheme on the basis of dust.


Appeal Decision APP/Z6950/A/11/2167112


33. The Statement of Common Ground includes a list of conditions with reasons agreed
between the Council and appellants. Subject to the specific matters addressed below
and minor modifications in the interests of clarity and precision; I am satisfied that
these are necessary and should be imposed for the reasons given.
34. Minerals Planning Guidance Note: The Control of Noise at Surface Mineral Workings
(MPG 11) advocates setting limits at noise sensitive properties. However, given the
very discrete area of the proposed operations, as compared to most mineral extraction
sites, the Councils Environmental Health Officer favours setting limits on individual
items of plant in this case. I accept his reasoning and agree that the limit should be
set at that of the drilling rig used in the Noise Assessment.
35. I have already referred to good practice recommended in the Noise Assessment and
adherence thereto, as well as measures such as acoustic enclosures, could be secured
by an additional condition requiring a noise mitigation scheme to be subject to prior
approval and thereafter complied with. I have also referred to the need to modify the
agreed condition requiring the detailed working method statement for the drilling
operation to incorporate measures to collect and dispose of spilt drilling fluid.
36. The agreed condition on transporting the rig, drill pipes, cabins and other equipment
to the site conflicts with guidance in Circular 35/95 on The Use of Conditions in
Planning Permissions to the effect that planning conditions are not an appropriate
means of controlling the right of passage over public highways. Furthermore, the
business park/industrial estate is likely to attract a substantial number of HGV
movements throughout the day. Those associated with the proposal would be unlikely
to result in a significant increase such that I see no reason to restrict these
movements to night time.
37. The submitted Ecological Assessment includes a number of recommendations to
mitigate the potential impacts on protected species. Those relating to lighting could
be addressed by requiring lighting to be subject to prior approval, which would also
control light pollution in general. Limiting drilling operations to the period between
October and March to coincide with the period of lowest bat activity should be
conditioned. This would also ensure that drilling operations would not coincide with
the holding of the National Eisteddfod in the vicinity during August of this year and
that they would take place when there is less likelihood of bedroom windows being left
open at night and the Caravan Park being at its busiest. The six recommendations on
operational procedures could be covered by the noise mitigation scheme previously
referred to.
38. The suggested monitoring at the bat roost would require the agreement of the
appropriate landowner and there is no guarantee that this could be obtained. In any
event, the predictions are that noise levels at the bat roost would be very low with
vibration not being significantly above background levels. Subject to limiting drilling
to certain months and the noise mitigation scheme, monitoring is not necessary.
39. Because the proposed drilling fluid is a standard one accredited by DERFRA, the EA
sees no need for it to be subject to an ecological assessment. As spent drilling fluid is
to be treated as controlled waste and disposed of accordingly, the EA does not
consider it necessary for it to be tested to see if mobilisation of hazardous substances
from underlying strata has taken place. I accept the advice of the Agency and will not
impose conditions relating to these matters.


Appeal Decision APP/Z6950/A/11/2167112

Overall conclusion

40. For the reasons given above, I conclude that the proposal does not conflict with UDP
policies MIN 1 and ENV 29 and that the appeal should be allowed.
E Jones




Appeal Decision APP/Z6950/A/11/2167112



Mr G Davies, Solicitor The Vale of Glamorgan Council
He called
Mrs Hayley I Kemp The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Miss T Osmund-Smith, of Instructed by Mr G Roberts, Acuity Legal
She called
Mr Cliff Patten MRTPI Cliff Patten Planning Services
Mr Oliver Taylor BSc Oliver Taylor Geological Consultancy
Mr A Cairns MP Member of Parliament for The Vale of Glamorgan
Cllr G John Ward member for Llantwit Major
Cllr R Thomas Ward member for Llandow/Ewenny
Mr A Chyba The Vale Says No! and Bridgend Green Party
Dr C A Pearce Cowbridge and Llanblethian Residents Group
Mr G Clubb Friends of the Earth Cymru
Mr K Stockdale Barry & Vale Friends of the Earth
Mr I Benjuya Anderson Associates (S.W.) Ltd.
Miss L Evans Local resident/business
Capt. P M Bowers Local resident
Mrs K Gray Local resident
Mrs N Thomas Local resident/business
Mr M Hancock Local resident



Appeal Decision APP/Z6950/A/11/2167112


1 Councils notification of Inquiry and list of those notified
2a-c Bundle of 3 late representations received by the Council
3 Councils Response to Appellants Costs Application
4a-b E-mail trails re. submission of Messrs Patten & Taylors Statements of
5 E-mail from Hunter Acoustics re. noise at closest offices
6 Noise Impact Assessment, Revision 1
7 Ecological Assessment
8 E-mail re. Pure-Bore Drilling Fluid
9 Appellants Costs Application
10 Letter from Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Housing,
submitted by Mr Cairns
11 Three Nooks Farm Timeline, submitted by Mr Chyba
12 Executive Summary of Review of requirement for sealing investigation
boreholes by Prof. Robert Chaplow of R Chaplow Associates Ltd.,
submitted by Mr Chyba
13 Extract from The Wall Street Journal, submitted by Dr Pearce
14 Mr Clubbs further submission
15 Barry & Vale Friends of the Earths Statement
16 Mr Benjuyas further statement
17 Mrs Thomas Statement
18a-c Appellants Inquiry Bundles 1-3

Documents 4 to 9 and 18a-c were submitted by the appellants



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