The report by planning officers on Cuadrilla’s testing plans for its exploratory well at Grange Road, Singleton, has been strongly criticised by a local councillor.
John Hodson, a Labour member of West Lancashire Borough Council, accused the report of failing the residents of Lancashire. He said it lacked transparency and did not take the robust approach needed for detailing with oil and gas applications.
The report will be considered tomorrow (20/5/2015) by Lancashire County Council’s development control committee when it finalises a decision on Cuadrilla’s planning application. Members voted narrowly in February that they were minded to refuse the application.
The company has applied for a three-year permission to use a previously drilled exploratory borehole for pressure testing and seismic monitoring. The site would then be abandoned and restored.
The committee’s vote in February against the application overturned the advice of officers, who had recommended approval. The revised report, to be discussed tomorrow, recommends refusal.
Cllr Hodson, who has served on West Lancashire’s planning committee, is particularly critical of the way the report has dealt with well abandonment and how it has applied planning policy.
He said the abandonment process had not been addressed adequately. He said there was a lack of detail on ongoing monitoring and enforcement. This, he said, “only emphasises the lack of transparency and failure to reassure the wider public by not clearly outlining which Agency has responsibility and jurisdiction for which part of the process. “
“The failure to reflect this within the reports cannot be considered acceptable by the Development Committee, let alone the public, whom the Committee are charged with representing.”
In the report, planning officers said the application breached local planning policy and would adversely affect the landscape character of the area.
Specifically, they said the plans were contrary to:
- Lancashire Minerals and Waste Development Framework Core Strategy, policies CS5, which deals with managing resources
- Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan, Policy DM2, which deals with site allocation
- Fylde Borough Local Plan, Policy SP2, which deals with development in countryside areas.
Cllr Hodson said there were gaps in the way the report dealt with these core strategies. He was particularly critical of what he called “salami-slicing” when considering oil and gas applications, where planners do not consider the cumulative effect of applications.
The officers’ report said the application should be supported if it could be demonstrated that the application made a positive contribution to issues including the local and wider economy, the historic environment, biodiversity and landscape character, residential amenity and reduction of carbon emissions.
The report adds that the “retention of the site would not generate social, economic or environmental impacts that could not be eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels”
Cllr Hodson said this statement raised important issues.
“If the Officers have had sight of information which demonstrates the veracity of the above statement, why has this not been reflected within the report?
“If the Development Control Committee members have not had access to this information then how can they make an informed decision?
“If the reason for the omission of said information is that the requirements do not relate to this application then surely this confirms the inadequacy of the current approach to this industrial activity known as ‘salami-slicing’?”
He said the approach adopted by the council “lacks the robust approach needed” to ensure applications follow policy. It, therefore, failed the residents of Lancashire, he said.