Shale gas explorer Cuadrilla has said it will appeal against Lancashire council’s decision to reject its proposals to frack in the county. The company sought planning permission to frack at two sites, Preston New Road and Roseacre, but saw both thrown out by councillors last month – despite the council’s planning officer recommending Preston New Road be given the go-ahead.
The decisions came as a major setback for the Government’s hopes of kick-starting a shale gas industry in the UK. No fracking has taken place since Cuadrilla caused earthquakes attempting the process near Blackpool in 2011. The appeals are highly likely to result in public inquiries and could easily take a year to reach decisions, pushing any prospect of fracking at the Lancashire sites back to 2017 at the earliest. [Why no public inquiries in Canada?]
The Roseacre site was rejected unanimously after being recommended for refusal by the council planning officer due to concerns about the impact of traffic. However the officer said there would be no “sustainable” reason to refuse the Preston New Road site.
Legal advice obtained by the council ahead of the decision on the site warned councillors they were likely to lose at appeal and incur financial penalties, as well as having to represent themselves in person. However councillors eventually voted by 9 to 3 to reject the plan, with two abstentions, following rival legal advice provided by Friends of the Earth that suggested there were legitimate grounds for refusal.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla chief executive, said: “We have given careful consideration to appeal the planning decisions taken by Lancashire County Council. This is a natural step in the democratic process for deciding any planning application.”
He acknowledged that “some people would prefer that we did not appeal” but said he was “confident that we will demonstrate to Lancashire and the UK that shale gas exploration and fracking is not only safe but represents a very real opportunity to create jobs, fuel businesses, heat UK homes and stimulate significant local economic growth”.
Cuadrilla is backed by Centrica, which bought a stake in the company’s exploration licences in 2013. [Emphasis added]
Cuadrilla battle now personal by Lancashire Evening Post, July 23, 2015
The matter will now go before a planning inspector who will decide whether the original decisions should be upheld or overturned
… “We urge the County Council to work with Cuadrilla to ensure that they can find the lowest cost option for Lancashire’s taxpayers.”
Friends of the Earth’s North West campaigner Furqan Naeem said: “Cuadrilla’s decision to appeal Lancashire’s Council’s resounding no to controversial fracking shows a blatant disregard for the views of local people and local democracy.
“Lancashire councillors and residents have rejected fracking and the Government’s recent report revealing potential negative impacts on everything from the health of residents, to house prices, to climate change shows they were right to do so.
“An appeal will put further pressure on residents who have been fighting to keep their community free from this filthy industry for four years now. Cuadrilla bullied their way into a second chance to make the case for fracking in January, they don’t need a third.
“David Cameron must stick to his commitment that fracking decisions belong with local councils and not allow Lancashire’s decisions to be overturned.”
Lee Petts, chief executive of the Onshore Energy Services Group, welcomed the announcement: “Whilst empathising with residents living nearest to the two sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood that will doubtless be disappointed by this latest development, job creating small companies in Lancashire and beyond – that depend on this sector to varying degrees – will be pleased that there is still hope a shale gas industry could develop here in the future.
… Preston New Road Community Group said: “We are fully committed to joining the Council in resisting any appeal, and we have strong reasons to believe an appeal would be unsuccessful.
“We believe that the Council’s grounds for refusal were sound, valid in planning and legal terms, and upholdable at appeal. The barrister we instructed, Dr Ashley Bowes, confirmed that view not only to us in private, but in his presentation to the Development Control Committee on the 18th June and in his released comment on the legal position of the committee, on the 26th June. Our belief is strengthened by lawyers instructed by Friends of the Earth, by advice from barrister Estelle Dehon on the 18th June, and from Richard Harwood OBE QC on the 26th June.
“As Dr Bowes confirmed in his note of the 26th June, PNR Action Group would seek Rule 6 status in any appeal. We shall present our case with the utmost vigour. We shall assist the Council on the two reasons for refusal with evidence from independent noise experts, planning experts and a legal team. In turn we will be supported in any appeal by the contribution of many local and national groups who have helped and motivated us in the past, and by the many thousands of individuals who have likewise given us their goodwill, support and encouragement.
“It is a travesty for Francis Egan to claim this is the next stage in the democratic process. The local community has spoken. The Parish Council, the Borough Council and the Lancashire County Council have spoken. This is the true meaning of democracy which Mr Egan fails to understand.
“Mr Egan has now made this battle personal. The local community has suffered seventeen months of distress awaiting the outcome of the County Council’s decision. Now Mr Egan is wanting to renew the daily cycle of worry and sleepless nights. If this is his idea of democratic process then we can only pity his understanding of what his company’s actions really mean for our community.
“We shall be considering our action as to how the appeal should be handled and whether we shall be calling for a full public enquiry. We shall certainly be calling on our MP Mark Menzies to stand with us to oppose the appeal against the local democratic decision, as he has promised on numerous occasions”.
Roseacre Awareness Group said it was appalled that Cuadrilla was appealing against the decision by LCC to refuse permission to site a large scale fracking operation in the centre of the Fylde at Roseacre Wood.
“Not only have planners been warning Cuadrilla since it first submitted the application last year that the location is wholly unsuited to an operation on this scale but Cuadrilla boss, Francis Egan, championed the democratic process, ie the planning hearing, in the face of New York State’s letter to councillors urging them to refuse permission. In June Mr Egan urged New York to let Lancashire decide; in July he’s adding “but only if we get what we want”.
Mr Egan is happy to quote planners’ advice if he feels it is to his advantage, but to question it when it argued against the application, as at Roseacre Wood. This level of flexibility might be convenient but is hardly honourable. In fact, RAG believes planners have bent over backwards to assist Cuadrilla. Questions are being asked about whether the Report to councillors strayed (some say galloped) away from professional objective advice towards subjective and prejudicial posturing. Groups across the country are dissecting it, as are legal experts.
In the meantime, it is staggering that the elected members of our county council, who sat through hours of evidence and pored over a massive quantity of material should be subject to the industry’s bullying.
A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “We are aware of Cuadrilla’s announcement and will await formal confirmation of the appeals from the Planning Inspectorate.” [Emphasis added]
Fracking to be allowed in protected wildlife areas after Government u-turn, Ministers say it would be “impractical” to introduce a complete ban on fracking in Sites of Special Scientific Interest [as in every frac field, government and regulator promises to regulate fracing to make it safe, deregulate]
[Refer also to:
Lancashire’s fracking victory was even greater than we knew: it overcame not just Cuadrilla, but a morass of pro-fracking bias and legal and scientific misrepresentation from those meant to be providing impartial advice ]