More than 15,600 people objected to Cuadrilla’s application to frack at Roseacre Wood and signatories to petitions against the plans totalled more than 91,000.
Nearly 30 people gave evidence against the scheme at the planning meeting. Many were concerned about the impact of Cuadrilla’s fracking plans on their health, particularly their mental well-being.
Councillors later refused the application unanimously. But they were told by the council’s planning officer that the only reason they could use for refusal was the impact of traffic generated by the scheme on local roads.
Here is a selection of the arguments presented by people who spoke against the application.
“I shudder at the thought of those tankers full of fracking fluid”
Rebecca Crowe, of Wharles, described how she had moved to the Roseacre area so that her children could “experience dark nights and quiet days, to go to school, to play in safe surroundings, to grow up strong and healthy, everything that planning officers are supposed to safeguard.”
Her comments were read by Anne Broughton because she was too ill to attend the meeting. Her testimony continued: “I value their [her children’s] health even more than most mothers because of my struggle with cancer. … I shudder at the thought of those tankers full of fracking fluid, the noise day and night the dust the dangerous emissions the traffic so dangerous on our rural roads.”
She asked: “Why try and mitigate the un-mitigatable? Nowhere in Fylde could be less suitable, bring a greater impact on people who live close by or fly in the face of every planning policy.
“The more I have researched, the more frightened I have become”
Heather Speake, a Fylde Borough Councillor for the area including Roseacre Wood, said: “Since February last year, our lives have been total dominated and overshadowed by these applications.” She said: “The more I have researched, the more frightened I have become. … The risks to our health and our wellbeing and the stress and anxiety and the uncertainty that this industry will bring will lead to poor mental health. It is happening now. It has happened to me. The people of Lancashire and future generations have a right to live a stable and secure and health life. If that is your view you should be refusing this application.”
“Co-existing with Cuadrilla’s plan would be devastating”
Jackie Sylvester has lived in Roseacre village for 47 years and been a parish councillor for over 12. She lives less than 200m from the proposed site. “This is unacceptable and we’re not having it”, she said. “We know this proposal has not been proved safe and conflicts with the planning policy because the impacts on us cannot be eliminated or made acceptable because it is too close to us. … Coexisting with Cuadrilla’s plan would be devastating.” She said the application was not temporary, as claimed. “For some people six years is the rest of their lives”, she said. “We do not wish to accept this poisoned chalice. Cuadrilla says the noise will be like a quiet library but we don’t believe them or their conflicting data. They have failed to allay our worries and our stress”.
“These plans to extract gas are terrifying”
16-year-old Lucy Cookson, born and brought up in Thrales, said the Fylde had changed since Cuadrilla announced its plans: “People are afraid and worried about the treat of fracking and the damage it could cause to our health and environment. These plans to extract gas are terrifying.” She said “Mr Egan [Cuadrilla’s chief executive] has said he plans to make the Fylde the biggest gas field in western Europe. How can that help without destroying our communities, our wildlife, the air that we breathe.” To applause she urged councillors: “Don’t let the next generations suffer from this generation’s corporate greed”.
Dr Luisa Sanz, a former consultant psychiatrist in the Fylde, recommended the committee reject the applications because they were already causing stress, anxiety and sleep disturbance. Fracking would damage the mental of local people, she suggested. “It is my professional opinion that these applications must be refused to … protect the local population from harm to their health.”
Gayzer Frackman said approving the application would lead to increased radioactivity in local and, air and water. The sources included mining cuttings, material used to log the well, fumes from the flare stack, radon in the shale gas, and radioactivity in the flowback water.
Community burden of policing noise
Roy Harrison told the committee: “This is an unacceptable noisy process in a quiet rural location by an applicant with a poor track record.” He said the planning officers’ recommendation that the noise could be controlled to acceptable levels using planning conditions would burden the local community with the role of noise policeman.
“Our community will suffer harm to our health and our wellbeing as a result of noise pollution and additional stress of policing and enforcing planning conditions. This is an unacceptable burden on the community”, he said. “We do not want to be noise polluted”.
“Can anyone in this chamber guarantee that people will want to buy food from a fracked area?”
Jane Barnes said the Fylde could have either fracking or an industry based on horses, but not both. It could have tourism or fracking but not both. If fracking were approved, “the whole prestige of the Made In Lancashire and Taste Lancashire label is put at risk, an unacceptable level of risk to your brand”, she said. “Can anyone in this chamber guarantee that people will want to buy food from a fracked area?” And she warned: “If confidence is lost our farmers only have a few months before they go bankrupt, followed by all the farm supply businesses, of which I am one.”
“There is no safe route to Roseacre Wood”
Cyclist Ian Wattram described a near accident on a narrow road on the proposed lorry route where a rider almost lost control of a horse. “This is a recipe for disaster”, he said. “The idea that a significant number of trucks on this road makes as much sense as me cycling on the motorway”.
James Beaumont told councillors: “The effect of large volumes of HGVs on other road users, on walkers, cyclists, horse riders would be to adversely affect safety and amenity.” The company had ignored areas where the authorities have approved industrial development. “There is no safe route to Roseacre Wood”. The application would be in conflict with policies DM2 and NPPF 32, he said.
Planning meeting is like Disney World
Robert Silverman told councillors he felt he had entered Disney World when he attended the meeting on Wednesday and Thursday. People, he said, were suggesting: “There is absolutely nothing wrong with this operation. I can never go wrong. The Enviornment Agency and DECC are in full control. They know what to do, with a brush and shovel, or something, to clear up a bit of a mess.” But, in reality, he said “they know nothing about the actual process, or if they do, we don’t know what they know about it. I find that particularly frightening.”
Intolerable pressure on councillors
Mr Silverman also criticised the pressure put on councillors in private discussions about the Preston New Road application. It was, he said, “quite intolerable. Very distressing. I saw their faces when they came back in here and they were very distressed on the whole”.
John Hodson, a West Lancashire Borough Councillor, says committee members should not be put under pressure by officers about possible costs in an appeal because this was not a material planning consideration. “The committee should not be subject to the disproportionate pressure of officers – whether the threat of individual or collective financial liability – in making decisions which are supposed to be made on valid grounds only. By these measures the process of Lancashire county council development control is flawed.”
Company reliability and trustworthiness
Jean Stringman reminded the committee: “Members must be satisfied that the companies themselves are reliable, trustworthy, able to guarantee a long term commitment to the communities in which they wish to operate.” She said the company behind the Roseacre Wood application “has no employees, no money and no assets and appears to be very transient. Who do we turn to when the environmental and financial impacts of this development are felt because felt they will be. That is without doubt.”
House buyers put off by fracking
Gail Hodson, a West Lancashire Borough Councillor, read out a letter from an estate agent to someone trying to sell their house in Roseacre. “Since the property has been launched there have been five viewings. On reviewing the feedback that has been obtained from viewers there is a common theme to this. All parties have mentioned the fracking activities in the area and have been put off your property by this.”
“Impact from hell”
Elaine Smith told the committee: “I would like to draw your attention to the officers’ report and the policies that they say it complies with. CS5: conserving and protecting the landscape. Well this application with its 36m drilling rig, 30m workover rig, 30m fracking rig, 30m coiled tubing unit, 5-15 ½ m solid acoustic barriers, 4m high security barriers, topped with razor wire is the impact from hell on the landscape so it fails.” She said the application also failed to comply with CS4, the National Planning Policy Framework, and policies SP9, SP7, SP2, EP11 and 12 and, DM2.
Regulation not fit for purpose
Jackie Copley, a planner with CPRE, argued for a condition on any permission that would prevent Cuadrilla from fracking in the Millstone Grit layers. Fracking in this rock had a significantly greater risk than the target formation of the Bowland shale, she said. But Cuadrilla would not be in breach of its environmental permit for Roseacre Wood if it fracked the Millstone Grit. “The environmental regulation is not fit for purpose”, she said.