Cuadrilla’s Roseacre Wood application attracted 205 letters of support. 14 speakers addressed the committee in support of the plans. They said the application, if approved, would create jobs, benefit the local national and local economy and contribute to tackling climate change.
Here is a selection of the arguments made by supporters to the committee.
“We will need to use gas for a long time to come”
Michael Roberts, a retired vicar living in Garstang, referred to the Pope’s recent writing on the moral issues surrounding the use of national resources and the importance of integrity and honesty. Mr Roberts said some in the anti-fracking movement lacked integrity, when compared with official organisations, such as the British Geological Survey.
He added: “It is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils. Gas is better than coal and UK gas is better than imported gas. We need to live in the real world. We need to think about people. We need to think about fuel security and reducing fuel poverty”, he said. “We will need to use gas for a long time to come.
Local opposition to fracking overstated
Claire Smith, president of Stay Blackpool, said local opposition to fracking was not as strong as had been portrayed. She said a survey by the Lancashire Evening Post found only 16% were against fracking, compared with 57% in support and 27% undecided. She said the poll had been anonymous. People who spoke out in favour of fracking were bullied in person or online, she said. She added that she would rather live next door to a fracking rig than a derelict hotel.
“Someone somewhere is always inconvenienced”
Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said the average number of lorry journeys to and from the proposed Roseacre Wood site would be only 10 per day. Development always caused some short-term disturbance, she said. “Someone somewhere will always be inconvenienced.” Refusing the application for a few additional trucks on the road would, she said, be potentially divesting the local business community of “enormous business opportunities” and deprive areas of “much-needed high value jobs”. She said a refusal would send out the message that Lancashire was closed for business. The county could be overtaken by other areas, such as Cheshire, Merseyside and Yorkshire, she said.
“There is a young person’s brain drain in Lancashire
Tony Raynor, of St Anne’s, said he no connection with Cuadrilla. He said no one had tried to hide the fact that employment at the proposed sites at Roseacre Wood or Preston New Road would be negligible. That was why, he said, the two local chambers of commerce had encouraged Cuadrilla to using their local supply chain portals. “It is reassuring to know that reputable bodies like these chambers will hold Cuadrilla to procure locally”.
He said: “There is a young person’s brain drain in Lancashire” caused by jobs losses following cuts in the public sector. He told the committee: “You would not be serving the interests of supporters or opponents of shale gas if you turn them [the applications] down on reasons that would be thrown out by a planning inspector. This would be an irresponsible act because it would further burden our already stretched public finances with costs and legal expenses.”
“No traffic problems around Cuadrilla’s other sites”
Lee Petts, managing director of Remsol, said vehicle movements to Roseacre Wood would not be constant but in peaks and the traffic would be for a short term only. He said the roads around Cuadrilla’s other sites at Becconsall and Preese Hall were similar to those near the proposed development at Roseacre Wood. There had been no problems on these roads when Cuadrilla’s sites were operating and no increase in fatalities or accidents, he said. He believed fears about the impact of traffic from fracking sites could have been caused by pictures from the Barton Moss site in Salford. “It is important to note that they [pictures of traffic] look like that because this was caused by protester activity”, he said.
On regulation, Mr Petts said other countries looked to Britain as an exemplar of health and safety and regulation. He said multiple regulatory agencies led to more checks and balances. Bundling them into a single agency, as Lancashire County Council had requested, would do more harm than good, he said.
“Cuadrilla’s EIA is the most rigorous document ever produced”
Ken Cronin, chief executive of the industry organisation UKOOG, said the onshore oil and gas industry had been going for more than 100 years in the UK. There were currently 250 operating wells in the UK, including in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. He said this demonstrated that the industry did its job safely and in environmentally sensitive areas.
“All forms of energy production have risks and it is the way you handle them that is significant”, he said. Cuadrilla’s Environmental Impact Assessment was “the most rigorous document ever produced for an exploratory onshore site in this country, probably in the world.” He said if approved, Roseacre Wood would be the “most scrutinised site ever and the applicants would need to ensure the absolute highest standards”.
“It is essential that business is allowed to flourish”
Norman Tenray, chief executive of the Lancashire-based construction service business, Obas, said shale gas could produce “desperately-needed jobs”. “Other parts of the UK are keen to snatch away this opportunity”, he said. The Liverpool city region was a formidable competitor. “It is essential that business is allowed to flourish because it is through their success that business can generate revenues for tax receipts.”
Mr Tenray said any progress was unpopular and disruptive. “Approving the application would prove that Lancashire was open for business, a county that seizes opportunity”. He urged councillors to put emotion aside so that a “sensible commercial decision can be made for the benefit of the collective community for many years to come.” Another speaker, James Rudd, described shale gas as a fantastic opportunity for the local community.
“The UK has the best designed wells there are”
Nick Riley, an expert on the geology of Bowland shales, said regulations for borehole design protected the environment from contamination. He said establishing the source of contamination in US fracking areas had been a “real problem” because there was no baseline information. Where there were well integrity problems, it was the conventional parts of the well that failed, he said. “This project will have baseline information”, he added. “Our standards are much higher [than the US]. You have the best designed wells there are.” Dr Riley also referred the environmental health atlas of England and Wales. “This is useful epidemiological baseline information”, he said.
“Problems can be overcome”
Frank McLaughlin said: All the traffic problems associated with the application could be overcome. “I spent three hours two weeks ago driving along the proposed lorry route to Roseacre Wood and I did not encounter any horses. The problems of traffic already exist. What Cuadrilla does is not going to add to them significantly”. He said he had nothing to gain from the fracking industry. He said he regarded as “slanderous” comments that people who had supported the application all had something to gain.
Arthur Parson, Neil Harrison and representatives from Blackpool and Fylde College also addressed the committee They gave the same presentation they gave for Preston New Road. Report on supporters views on that application