Earlier today, Lancashire County Council planners recommended refusal of Cuadrilla’s application to frack at Roseacre Wood in the Fylde. Drill Or Drop has been looking at the planners’ report to find out how they came up with this recommendation. The report will be discussed by councillors who will make a final decision next week.
Application details Application LCC/2014/0101 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: Refusal because the increase in traffic, particularly heavy goods vehicles, would have an unacceptable impact on rural roads, other road users and highway safety, contravening Policy DM2 of the Joint Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan.
Previous recommendation: In January 2015, planners recommended for refusal on noise and traffic grounds. Cuadrilla provided further information on site sound-proofing and an alternative route for lorries. The decision was deferred, followed by a further consultation.
Related application: For the installation of 80 boreholes of seismic and water quality monitoring, which has been recommended for approval.
The site: Almost 1.5km from the M55 and 3km from Wesham and Kirkham. Roseacre Hall and village are 180m to the north and Wharles 465m to the south. The closest properties are 270m away. Roseacre Road, a minor road, runs along one side of the site. The nearest A-road is 2.8km away. The total surface area of the works is 6.4ha. The underground work covers 562ha, in a quadrant shape, from Elswick Leys in the north, to DHFCS Inskip in the east, White Carr Farm in the south and Medlar Wood in the west.
Objections: Preston City Council, Fylde Borough Council, parish councils of Medlar with Wesham, Newton-with-Clifton, Treales, Roseacre and Wharles, Inskip with Sowerby and Broughton, Kirkham Town Council, Woodland and Wildlife Trusts, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, RSPB, Friends of the Earth, Roseacre Awareness Group and CPRE. Lancashire County Council Highways was unable to support the application.
Public objections: 13,448 objections received up to the end of May 2015. Six petitions with a total of 32,581 signatures
Reasons for objection: Noise and general disturbance to neighbouring homes; impact on house prices; contrary to local planning policies; health concerns; earth tremors; air, water and light pollution; increased traffic; concerns about future development; lorry route unsuitable and unsafe for road users and pedestrians; industrial scale development; alternative sites not adequately assessed; need for mineral extraction not adequately demonstrated; cumulative impact of two fracking sites not adequately assessed; unsustainable location; risks to environment, the public, wildlife and protected areas; concerns that Cuadrilla’s assumptions on flowback volumes were inaccurate; weak regulatory framework; Water Framework Directive; impact on landscape; contribution to climate change; the applicant; LCC decision-making process; waste management; not a temporary application.
Lancashire County Council Highways opinion The amended traffic proposals “do not provide any certainty that a comprehensive package can/will be delivered that also ensures that the (highway) network can be safely managed without detriment to existing users during the whole project. It is considered that the increase in traffic, particularly HGV movements would be severe, there would be a material impact on existing road users, particularly vulnerable road users and overall highway safety of which the potential is considered severe.”
No objections from: Health and Safety Executive, Environment Agency, Highways Agency, National Air Traffic Services, Civil Aviation Authority, Blackpool Airport, National Grid Gas, United Utilities, Police Emergency Planning, Natural England, LCC Emergency Planning, Highways lighting and Ecology Department.
Support: 205 letters of support, including North and Western Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Commerce East Lancashire and resident of Old Orchard Farm. 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. But the impacts on existing road users were unacceptable and contrary to Policy DM2 of the Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan and so could not be supported.
Air quality: The project 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 effects from two fracking sites: There would be no cumulative effects associated with the two sites operating in tandem. The separation distance between the sites was enough to prevent cumulative effects on air quality, heritage, hydrogeology, seismic impacts, water resources, noise, visual and general disturbance.
Greenhouse gas emissions: The project will generate some greenhouse gas emissions. But providing the operational practices are adhered to and regulated by the EA, the emissions would not cause unacceptable impacts. The carbon footprint would be 118,418-124,367 tonnes of CO2. Annual emissions would be 22,618 or 0.18% of Lancashire’s annual emissions.
Ecology With mitigation, no unacceptable impact on biodiversity.
Groundwater The Environment Agency (EA) was satisfied that the potential risks to groundwater had been adequately identified and addressed through mitigation measures in the permit. The EA assessed proposed fracture fluid as non-hazardous and has granted environmental permits with conditions. The EA said pollution of shallow groundwater and surface water due to fracking operations was “not credible” and the suggestion that fracking was unsafe because there were faults in the vicinity are “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 the mitigation measures proposed it could be made acceptable. The impacts were not sufficient to justify refusal. It would not be appropriate to require blackout blinds in properties most likely to be affected.
Noise: The planners said: “By proposing additional noise mitigation measures to reduce the migration of noise from the site, including limiting the height of the drilling rig and enclosing the site and particular pieces of plant and equipment, Cuadrilla has reduced the predicted levels of noise to a level that falls below national guidance and WHO to a level that could be found acceptable when experienced at the closest residential properties”.
Public health: Noise and air quality assessments indicated that the potential risks to public health were low if the operations are properly run and regulated.
Resources and waste: The proposal “could be acceptably controlled by other regulatory regimes and would not have any unacceptable impacts”.
Seismicity: Planners acknowledged concerns but said LCC could assume that development would be carried out to meet 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.
Traffic: Following the recommendation of refusal in January, Cuadrilla proposed a one-way route to and from the site. This brought vehicles in via Woodplumpton and Broughton from the A6. Cuadrilla said this would avoid two HGVs meeting on narrow sections of the route. The county highways department said the impact of increased traffic would be severe and could compromise the road network. There would be a severe impact at the Broughton crossroads, leading to traffic disruption, highway safety and air pollution. This would have a material impact on road users and overall highway safety and would be contrary to Policy DM2 of the Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan.
Water resources: The proposal would have no adverse effect on drinking water supply and would not be an unacceptable use of it. Flow back water would be reused so smaller amounts of water would be needed. Water would be supplied by pipe, reducing the number of HGVs travelling to and from the site.