Earlier today, Lancashire County Council planners recommended approval of Cuadrilla’s application to frack at Preston New Road in the Fylde. Drill Or Drop has been looking at the planners’ report to find out how they came up with this recommendation and what conditions they think should be imposed on the company. The report will be discussed by councillors who will make a final decision next week.
Application details LCC/2014/0096 to construct and operate a site for drilling up to four exploration wells, hydraulic fracturing the wells, testing for hydrocarbons in the Bowland shale, abandonment of wells and restoration. The application includes access road, security fencing, lighting, pipeline and connection to the gas grid. Permission sought for six years.
Recommendation: Approval with conditions
Conditions: 48 conditions covering time limits, working programme, restriction on permitted development rights, highways, soil management, hours of working, water, noise, dust, lighting, security, ecology, archaeology, landscaping, restoration and aftercare. See details at the end of this post.
Previously recommendation: In January 2015, planners recommended refusal on noise grounds. Cuadrilla provided further information on sound-proofing and the decision was deferred, followed by another consultation.
Related application: For the installation of 80 boreholes of seismic and water quality monitoring also submitted and recommended for approval.
The site: 1km from the M55. Little Plumpton is 500m to east. Great Plumpton is 900m to the north east. Preston New Road (A583) is a single carriageway road with a pavement. The tTotal surface area of works is 7.34ha. Of this, 2.65ha would be well pad and access track and 4.69ha would be flow test pipeline and gas grid connection. Lateral wells would extend up to 3km from the centre of the well pad. The underground work would cover the area from Wildings Wood north of Junction 4 of the M55, to Little Plumpton in the east, Humber Wood in the south west and Whitehill Road, Blackpool in the west.
Objections: Fylde Borough Council, Parish Councils of Westby-with Plumptons and Medlar-with-Wesham, Friends of the Earth, CPRE, Wildlife Trust, Preston New Road Action Group, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.
Public objections: 18,022 excluding duplicates received to the end of May 2015. Five petitions with a total of 32,559 signatures
Reasons for objection: Questions over the need for the application; climate change; energy alternatives; environmental impact; weak regulation; safety; geology/seismicity; pollution; wildlife and protected areas; landscape; visual impact; site expansion; economy; traffic; health; community; property values; structural damage; abandonment; the applicant; government policy; LCC decision making; noise and general disturbance to neighbouring homes; contrary to planning policies; industrial development in a rural setting; traffic access; impact on drainage; inconvenience of anti-fracking protesters; Water Framework Directive, cumulative impacts; waste disposal; well integrity and hydrogeology.
No objections: Ministry of Defence, Blackpool Borough Council, Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive, National Air Traffic Services, Civil Aviation Authority, Blackpool Airport, National Grid Gas, United Utilities, Police Emergency Planning, Natural England, Lancashire Highways. Lancashire Emergency Planning, ecology, archaeology
Support: 217 letters of support. A letter from North West Energy Task Force signed by 120 business people
Reasons for support: Energy security, economic benefits, minimal environmental risks, robust regulatory framework.
National planning policy: The National Planning Policy Framework states that “minerals are essential to support sustainable economic growth and our quality of life. It is therefore important that there is a sufficient supply of material to provide the infrastructure, buildings, energy and goods that the country needs.” The NPPF therefore requires that in determining planning applications, that great weight is given to the benefits of mineral extraction, including to the economy but that proposals should also be considered against a range of criteria including impacts on human health, impacts of noise at nearby properties and effects on the natural and historic environment.
National Planning Policy Guidance states that: “Proposals which meet the definition of sustainable development and which comply with the policies of the development plan should be approved without delay”. And that: “the economic benefits of mineral extraction are important considerations but must be balanced against local environmental impacts”.
Responsibilities of other regulators Paragraph 122 of the NPPF requires that planning authorities should not seek to control processes or emissions where these are subject to approval under separate pollution control regimes and that Local Planning Authorities should assume that these regimes will operate effectively. But Paragraph 112 of Planning Policy Guidance on minerals notes that before granting permission the local planning authority should be satisfied that the issues dealt with under other regimes can be adequately addressed by taking advice from the relevant regulatory body. The County Council has consulted with the EA and HSE, neither of which has objected.
Local planning policy: The application complies with 13 policies of the local development plan. It does not comply with two policies of the Fylde Borough Local plan because it is industrial development in the countryside. The planners did say, however, that it was temporary and would not have long-term impacts.
Air quality: The scheme would generate some emissions to air. But providing the operational practices are adhered to and regulated by the EA, the emissions would not cause unacceptable impacts.
Cumulative and combination effects: There would be no cumulative effects associated with the two sites operating in tandem.
Ecology: With mitigation, no unacceptable impact on biodiversity
Greenhouse gas emissions: The scheme would generate some greenhouse gas emissions. But planners said “providing the operational practices are adhered to and regulated by the EA, the emissions would not cause unacceptable impacts.”
Groundwater The Environment Agency was satisfied that the potential risks to groundwater had been adequately identified and addressed in the environmental permit conditions. EA assessed proposed fracture fluid as non-hazardous. It said pollution of shallow groundwater and surface water due to fracking operations was “not credible” and the suggestion that proposal is unsafe because there were faults nearby was “unfounded”
Land use: Impact on land use planning “would not be significant”.
Landscape and visual amenity: There would be unavoidable significant localised landscape and visual impacts in the short term. But they would be temporary and not contrary to planning policy.
Lighting: There would be significant night-time light pollution in places for extended period of time but with mitigation this could be made acceptable. The impacts were not great enough to justify refusal. It would not be appropriate to require blackout blinds in properties most likely to be affected.
Noise: The planners accepted Cuadrilla’s noise modelling and considered the noise reduction measures (screens around the site and equipment) as acceptable. The predicted noise level of 37dB was considered “in accordance” with Planning Practice Guidance, which sets level of 42dB(A) for night-time noise. No tonal noise was expected.
Public health: The planners said: “Public Health England is satisfied the currently available evidence indicates that the potential risks to public health from exposure to the emissions associated with such extraction are low if the operations are properly run and regulated”.
Resources and waste: Volumes of inert waste were not considered to have a significant effect. Treatment of waste water would result in a significant effect and mitigation to reduce this is proposed, to include recycling of flowback water and the staging of operations.
Seismicity: Planners acknowledged concerns but said the council could assume that development would be carried out to meet the requirements of Department of Energy and Climate Change and EA
Social/economic: “Whilst there would be some localised impact on residents in the community at the nearest properties, the project would not have a significant effect on wider communities or socio-economic factors, particularly in groups with protected characteristics”, the planners said.
Traffic: There would be some localised loss of amenity from increased lorry movements but this would be for a temporary period and not sufficient to constitute a reason for refusal.
Water resources: To be provided by pipe from United Utilities water main. This would avoid road transport of water. Estimated daily water use during fracking has been reduced from 765m3 to 600m3 per day by reducing the proposed number of fracking stages and reusing flowback water. Considered to have no adverse effect on potable (drinking) water supply and the site would not be at risk of flooding.
Timing Development begins within 3 years of date of permission. It should be completed, including restoration, within 75 months of the start of development
Written notification To be provided within 7 days of the start of each stage of work. No work shall start until schemes have been agreed on site access, wheel cleaning facilities, traffic management, construction method, monitoring of background highway conditions.
Soil No movement of soil between 1st October and 30th April without written consent of LCC. Top and subsoil shall be stripped from access road, compound and interconnections to the national gas and water grids, stored on site and not exported. All mounds of soil to be graded and seeded within 1 month of construction
Working hours: 7.30am-6.30pm Monday-Friday (except public holidays) and 8.30am-12noon on Saturdays. No work shall take place on Sundays or public holidays. Drilling, pumping and essential repairs are exempt. Hydraulic fracturing allowed only from 8.30am-6pm Monday to Friday. No fracking allowed on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
Water No development allowed until scheme agreed to dispose of surface water from the access road and between the drill pad and Carr Bridge Brook. All surface water run-off retained on site that cannot be disposed to Carr Bridge Brook shall be taken off site in tankers.
All foul drainage shall be discharged to public sewer or sealed tank. 2m buffer zones shall be maintained between perimeter mounds or edge of drilling compound and the site perimeter ditches. All chemical, oil and fuel storage containers shall be sited on an impervious surface with bund walls.
Noise Before work can begin Lancashire County Council (LCC) must approve a noise management plan, along with noise monitoring methodology and equipment. The developer must provide details of a noise monitoring organisation and continuous monitoring must be carried out.
From 7am-9pm noise levels must not exceed 55dB Laeq(1 hour) when measured from the Staining Wood Cottages. The noise shall be free from prominent tones and impulses.
Between 9pm and 7am, noise shall not exceed 39dB Ladq(1 hour) and be free from tones and impulses. If noise levels exceed agreed levels mitigation must be implemented in 48 hours. Vehicles shall use only white noise/broadband alarms, rather than single tone alarms. All plant, equipment and machinery shall be equipped with effective silencing or sound proofing equipment.
Air quality and dust: Before work begins the developer must provide details of a qualified organisation that will monitor dust and LCC must approve a dusty management plan.
Lighting: No work can begin before LCC agrees a lighting plan
Buildings and plant Colours of external cladding of buildings, fencing, floodlighting columns, machinery, equipment and noise screens must be approved before work can start. The drill rig shall not exceed 35m.
Ecology A method statement for the protection of wildlife must be agreed before work starts. An ecological survey will be conducted no later than one year before decommissioning of the site. No trees or hedges shall be removed between 1st March and 31st July unless previously agreed.
Landscaping A landscaping scheme will be agreed before work starts. No boundary trees or hedges will be removed.
Restoration All buildings and equipment shall be removed and soil replaced. Access shall be reduced to a single agricultural access and the hedgerow on Preston New Road replanted.
Aftercare Within 3 months of completion of restoration, Cuadrilla must submit a 5-year programme for aftercare to promote use of the site by agriculture.