A DECISION on fracking firm Ineos’ planning appeal for drilling in Woodsetts has been delayed - until 2020.
The final call on the plans has already been taken out of the hands of the inspector who heard the six-day inquiry.
The decision on the test well, which could lead to fracking, currently lies with local government secretary Robert Jenrick.
And it has been confirmed that inspector Katie Peerless, who presided over the appeal, has been given until January 13 next year to submit her report to his office.
Appeal decisions for similar wells at Harthill and Marsh Lane in Derbyshire were both made inside two months by the inquiry inspector.
But the Woodsetts delay has given some protesters cause for cautious optimism.
Woodsetts Against Fracking spokesman Richard Scholey said the group had been surprised and “a little perplexed” by the longer-than-expected timescale.
“Ultimately, we view it as a positive outcome,” he added. “Current messages from the Government on shale gas are confusing.
“It advises significant weight should be given to fracking applications in the planning process despite its declaration of a climate emergency in May this year.
“Then the secretary of state called in the application, citing its national importance, so the implication seemed to be that a decision would probably come quickly and likely be in support of the application.
“This delay suggests there may be something else going on, but whatever it is, WAF have always believed that time is our friend.”
The group believes it provided ample evidence for a third refusal of the exploratory well, which was rejected by Rotherham Borough Council planners on two occasions.
Mr Scholey said: “In the mean time, a delay in reaching a decision gives time for either a change of government policy or a change of government, both of which could result in a ban on fracking.”
Ineos has not commented on the decision date.