Councillors refuse Roseacre Wood fracking application but approve seismic monitoring scheme

Lancashire councillors voted unanimously to refuse Cuadrilla’s planning application to frack up to four wells at Roseacre Wood. But they approved the company’s scheme for 88 seismic monitoring stations and three monitoring boreholes around Roseacre.

The results were received in silence in the council chamber at county hall in Preston. Afterwards both supporters and opponents said they were disappointed with the result.

Elaine Smith, who spoke against the application, said the committee had turned down one site and approved 91 others. Lee Petts, managing director of Remsol, said the refusal of the fracking application would mean shale gas development would be “somewhat diminished”.

Council planners had recommended refusal of the fracking application. They said the increase in traffic, particular heavy goods vehicles, would have an unacceptable impact on local roads and the safety of road users. The planners recommended approval of the monitoring scheme.

At 4.50 this afternoon, the committee voted unanimously to follow the officers’ advice on the fracking application. But when they then turned to the monitoring scheme, it looked as if they might consider refusing that one too. The deputy chair of the development control committee, Kevin Ellard, questioned whether the monitoring array was still needed. He said “If you turned down an application for a battleship you wouldn’t then pass the application for a dry dock.”

Opponents of the scheme had argued that the 91 monitoring sites could be used in future for drilling, would lead to a loss of agricultural land and would contribute to the industrialisation of the countryside.

Councillors were told the application for the monitoring stations had to be considered on its merits. The planning officer, Stuart Perigo, said the seismic monitoring stations could not be used for drilling without planning permission. The size of each station, at 20m by 20m, was, he said, “not a big area”. They would also be temporary, he said.

In a vote the monitoring application was approved by nine in favour and four against with one abstention.

After the meeting, Ken Cronin, of the industry body, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said the result of the fracking application was “disappointing but expected”. He said “the refusal was on very local issues.”

In a statement, Cuadrilla also said it was disappointed. “We will now take time to consider our options, including our right to appeal”. The company stood by its lorry route and said its environmental impact assessments “demonstrate beyond question that the operations can and will be conducted safely and without damage to people’s health or their environment”.

Ian Roberts, of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking, doubted that Cuadrilla would be disappointed by the result. “I think the Roseacre Wood [fracking] application was a non-starter. There was no way you would get a planning permission if you knew the area. All they [Cuadrilla] wanted was the seismic monitoring scheme. If you watched their reaction, they were smiling and shaking hands. I think they got what they wanted.”

Anne Broughton, another opponent of the applications, criticised the committee for discussing the monitoring scheme in the last half hour. She also questioned why it was needed.

Friends of the Earth’s north west campaigner Furqan Naeem, welcomed the refusal of the Roseacre Wood fracking application. But added: “The fracking threat still hangs ominously over the community near Preston New Road”.

Discussion on that application has been adjourned until 10am on Monday (June 29th)..

Mr Naeen said “Poll after poll shows people want renewables, not fracking – and the clean energy and long term jobs they would provide. Lancashire councillors must put local people and our environment first and reject Cuadrilla’s controversial application when they meet next Monday.”

More detail coming soon of what the supporters and opponents said at the meeting.

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