At 9am Lancashire County Council released the recommendation of its planners to refuse planning permission for Cuadrilla’s two applications to drill, frack and test for shale gas.
The company is seeking permission to develop exploratory shale gas sites at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road in the Fylde. The council’s planning committee will decide on the applications next week.
The planners’ 684-page report concluded both applications should be refused because
- Night-time background noise at the proposed operations at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road would have adverse effects on the health and quality of life on nearby residents
- Increased traffic generated by the proposal at Roseacre Wood would have a severe impact on existing road users and road safety
- For these reasons the applications were contrary to national and local planning guidance.
Drilling would take place 24-hours a day at both sites for 14 months. The first phase would be for five months. Three other phases, each of three months, would follow. Fracking would last for two months and would be for two months for three hours a day. At both sites, the planners raised concerns about the difference between low background noise levels and the predicted noise if the sites operated.
On the Roseacre Wood proposals, the report found:
The proposed development in this location would lead to a significant increase in night time background noise levels and consequently it is likely that this would have significant adverse effects on the health and quality of life and lead to an unacceptable loss of residential amenity to those residents at Old Orchard Farm and potentially beyond.
On the Preston New Road, the report found:
There has not been clear demonstration that noise impacts would be reduced to an acceptable level given the low background levels in the area. Therefore it is concluded that noise from the proposed operations would be above the significant observed adverse effect level (SOAEL) as defined in the Noise Policy Statement for England.
The planners concluded that both applications breached national and local planning guidance:
Such effects and loss would be contrary to the National Planning Policy Guidance on noise, Policy DM2 of the Joint Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan – Site Allocation and Development Management Policies – Part One (LMWLP) and Policy EP27 of the Fylde Borough Local Plan. Consequently and for this reason it is considered that on balance the proposal would be unacceptable and should be refused.
Both applications predicted the maximum traffic generated by the developments would be 50 two-way HGV movements a day (100 journeys) for one week on eight occasions. The proposed site at Roseacre Wood is served by minor and unclassified roads. The application suggested creating five passing places to allow two HGV lorries to pass.
But the planners concluded that for Roseacre Wood:
The impact of the increase in traffic, particularly HGV movements would be severe and … would result in a material impact on existing road users, particularly vulnerable road users and overall highway safety of which the potential is considered severe. Consequently it is considered that the application cannot be supported. In these circumstances, it is considered that the development would give rise to unacceptable impacts on existing road users that would be contrary to Policy DM2 of the Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan.
Fylde Borough Council, Medlar with Wesham Parish Council, Wildlife Trust, Wildfowl and Wetland Trust and Friends of the Earth objected to both applications.
RSPB objected to the Roseacre Wood application, along with Newton with Clifton Parish Council, Kirkham Town Council, Woodland Trust and Roseacre Awareness Group. Westby with Plumptons Parish Council, Kirkham Town Council and Preston New Road Action Group objected to the Preston New Road application.
Up to the end of December, 8,924 individual objections were made to the Roseacre Wood development. Of these 1,242 were from within Fylde district representing 2% of the adult population. 80 objections were from within 2km of the site. 5,495 were from outside Lancashire. More than 8,000 of the objections were template letters.
Up to the end of December, 11,127 objections were made to the Preston New Road proposal. Of these, 1,490 were from within the Fylde, representing 2.4% of the adult population. 118 objections were from within 2km of the site. 6,038 were from outside Lancashire. More than 10,000 objections were template letters.
The issues raised in the objections included: the need for the Development, climate change, industrialisation of the countryside, energy alternatives, environmental impacts, regulation, safety, geology and seismicity, air pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, soil and groundwater contamination, waste disposal, water resource sustainability, landscape impact, ecology, local economy, traffic, health and wellbeing, community, impact on property, damage and compensation, abandonment of the area, the calibre of the applicant and application, government policy, Lancashire County Council decision making.
There were submissions of support for both applications from the North and Western Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce of East Lancashire.
173 letters supported the Roseacre Wood application and 200 supported the proposals for Preston New Road. The main issues raised in support were: energy security, economic benefits, minimal environmental risks and a robust regulatory framework.
What else the planners considered (in alphabetical order)
Air quality The report concluded that the proposed developments would generate some emissions to the atmosphere but, if regulated, this would not be unacceptable.
Architecture and cultural heritage The planners said there would be significant effects from both proposals and recommended a survey when the sites were being prepared.
Community and local economy Both proposals could potentially effect local people and the economy, the report said. It identified negative impacts such as increased traffic, protests, impacts on tourism, as well as advantages including community benefit payments, job opportunities and increased income for landowners from leasing fields. The planners concluded there were no statistics to support either case but the impact on communities would not be significant.
Cumulative and combination effects The two applications would not have cumulative effects on air quality, heritage, hydrogeological, seismic, water resources noise, visual or general disturbance, the report concluded.
Greenhouse gases Both proposals would generate greenhouse gas emissions but the planners considered the level to be acceptable. Ghg emissions from Roseacre Wood would be 22,613 tonnes of carbon equivalent a year, or 3% of Fylde borough’s annual emissions. The Preston New Road site would generate a total of 118,418-124,367 tonnes of CO2e, 3% of Fylde borough’s annual emissions.
Health The report acknowledged there was limited data on the effects on fracking on health. It quoted Public Health England as saying there had been very few epidemiological studies (as opposed to statistical associations) and those that have been carried out generally lack robust exposure assessments. (See also the assessment by the Director of Public Health – our report)
Hydrogeology Provided the proposals were controlled by regulations, the report concluded there would be no unacceptable impacts on hydrology or surface water.
Landscape The planners considered there would be significant localised impacts on the landscape at both proposed sites. However they concluded: “Whilst the duration is over an extended period of time, it would still be temporary”
Landuse The impact was regarded as not significant
Lighting The report said there would be light pollution at night but this could be controlled and the impacts would not be bad enough to justify refusing the applications.
Need for development The report concluded that both applications complied in principle with local policy that mineral operations would be supported.
Seismicity The report assumed that the proposed operations would meet government requirements
Waste The report concluded: “It is considered that the proposal could be acceptably controlled by other regulatory regimes and would not have any unacceptable impacts”.
Water resources The proposed developments would not have a significant effect on surface water run-off, drainage or water supplies, the planners said.
Wildlife At both sites, the report found there would be no unacceptable impact if conditions were imposed and the company was required by legal agreement to carry out mitigation. At Roseacre Wood, the planners said Cuadrilla had not provided information on protected species that had been requested. The application for that site could not be granted until it measures to protect great crested newts had been provided. At Preston New Road the likely impacts included change in bat behaviour because of the heat from the flare and accidental injury or deaths to brown hares.
Proposed site details
Roseacre Wood The proposed site is 180m from Roseacre village and 465m from Wharles. The M55 is about 1.5km away. The above ground development would cover a total area of 6.54ha. The maximum extent of work underground would be 562ha, including the area covered by Roseacre village and several local farms.
Preston New Road The proposed site is between Wesham and Kirkham. Little Plumpton is 500m to the east and 1.2km away are two residential mobile home sites. The above ground development would cover 7.54ha. The maximum extent of work underground would be 562ha, including the area covered by part of the M55, Preston New Road and the village of Little Plumpton.