CAMPAIGNERS were enraged to learn local government secretary James Brokenshire decide Ineos’ Woodsetts drilling plan.
The case for an exploratory well — rejected twice by RMBC — was heard at a six-day inquiry by planning inspector Katie Peerless.
But the planning inspectorate has confirmed that the final verdict will be left to Mr Brokenshire, who is also to decide on an IGas appeal in Cheshire.
Woodsetts Against Fracking has been extremely suspicious of the potential political pressures behind the change.
Spokesman Richard Scholey said: “We’re very disappointed. As a community we raised tens of thousands of pounds to defend our community, at the inquiry we had an independent inspector listen to all the evidence and then we have all that taken away by the secretary of state, who wasn’t even there to hear it.
“You think: ‘What was the point of us investing so much time and money?’ It’s been all-consuming for some of us for the best part of two years.
“We already had concerns about the process but now it’s gone a step further. Where does the local voice come into it? It’s really, really worrying.”
The inquiry — held at Riverside House from June 11 — finished a day early and closing statements were not heard but asked for in written form.
A planning inspectorate letter — revealed by fracking website Drill Or Drop — said: “The secretary of state considers that he should determine it himself.
“The reason for this direction is that the appeal involves proposals for exploring and developing shale gas which amount to proposals for development of major importance having more than local significance.”
A date for the decision has not been published.