FRACKING firm Ineos was labelled “desperate” after making last-minute changes to its Harthill drilling proposals.
The planning inquiry began this morning (Tuesday) at Riverside House and is expected to sit for eight days.
Protesters gathered outside (below) and were joined by former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.
Ineos altered the plans to include nine extra passing places on country lanes near the site.
As a result, Rotherham Borough Council’s highways department announced it was withdrawing its objection.
Senior highways officer Ian Ferguson said: “My assessment is based on the worst case scenario of 70 vehicles movements per day.
“With this package of measures, there’s unlikely to be a road safety problem.”
Ineos’ alterations include an extra seven passing places on Packman Lane and two on Common Road.
The firm also said it would have stop/go signs being operated while the drilling rig was built.
Council development manager Chris Wilkins said: “Highways feel that the additional information does overcome the concerns.”
Harthill Against Fracking spokeswoman Deborah Gibson said: “I’m listening to the objections being bowled over one by one.
“The changes make no difference whatsoever to the quality of life, the usability of the roads.
“Patience is not necessarily a driver quality. People live in this village. People actually use these roads.
“Can you imagine a horse rider or group of cyclists being corralled into one of these passing points? I really don’t think so.”
Wales ward member Cllr Dominic Beck called it a desperate attempt to win favour by Ineos but added: “It doesn’t change a thing.
“This apparent mitigation actually exacerbates the other grounds for objection, ecology, because of the depletion of habitats and openness and natural beauty of the area.”
The council’s planning board decided to maintain its highways objection at a meeting last Thursday, with a vote of eight to four. The board also objects on ecology grounds.