Council blocks residents from presenting “valid reasons” for refusing Preston New Road fracking application

Opponents of Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at Preston New Road in the Fylde say their barristers have confirmed there are valid reasons to refuse the application and that the risk of costs would be small if it went to appeal.

The Preston New Road Action Group wants to put this information before Lancashire County Council’s development control committee when it meets to consider the application again on Monday. But the council has told the group it cannot speak at the meeting or circulate any written evidence.

Last night, the PNRAG described the council’s move as a “subversion of democracy”.A spokesperson said:

“This is absolutely appalling, and, we believe, further evidence that the officers of LCC are attempting to prevent due democratic process on this application.”

The committee adjourned discussion of the Preston New Road application on Wednesday (24th June) after a vote to refuse it was tied seven in favour and seven against.

Councillors had been verbally advised there was no planning grounds to turn it down and that Cuadrilla could appeal against a refusal. If that were successful it could result in costs against the council.

Councillors asked for that advice to be provided in writing and Cllr Paul Hayhurst proposed that the committee should meet again on Monday morning to decide the application.

Cllr Hayhurst told the committee: “The residents have spent so much time and effort and taken legal advice up to now which has cost them a fortune, (this) gives them the chance to go back, to put it across their barristers, to see what other information, what their opinions are, and then we can reconvene at that time.”

“It would be absolutely irresponsible for us as a council to take a decision when people who have only had a few minutes to study the legal advice. They’ve got to be able to go back to their barristers to speak to their barristers and see what the situation is. We would be failing in our duty if we didn’t.“

“Valid sustainable reasons for refusal”

PNRAG asked two barristers specialising in planning law to comment on the Council’s legal advice. The barristers had previously told a pre-meeting of the committee that there were “valid sustainable reasons for refusing the application.”

A spokesperson for PNRAG said the latest advice from two barristers “confirms the view that the committee would have valid reasons for refusal on noise and landscape grounds, and that risk of costs would be small if it went to appeal.”

PNRAG had hoped to put that information before the committee on Monday. But it said the council contacted the group late yesterday afternoon (Friday 26th June) to say this wouldn’t be possible.

The Community Support Officer of LCC’s Legal and Democratic Services told PNRAG by email:

“The committee did not take a decision to receive legal or any other further submissions from members of the public. The debate will continue to be one for the members of the committee, and there is no further opportunity for public participation. There will therefore not be any opportunity for members of the public to circulate written evidence.”

“Democracy is being subverted”

A PNRAG spokesperson said: “Members of PNRAG are outraged that democracy is being subverted.”

“What was the point of deferring? It was clearly stated by the proposer and seconder for the deferral that this would give us the opportunity to seek our own legal advice. Now we are now told we may not present that legal advice to the committee. This is not democracy nor is it justice for the people of Lancashire.”

The meeting to consider the Preston New Road application is on Monday 29th June at 10am in County Hall, Preston

  • Cuadrilla’s application to frack at Roseacre Wood was refused on Thursday afternoon on traffic grounds but plans for 91 monitoring stations in the area were approved.

Updated at 10.26 to include the words “risk of” to first sentence before “costs”

7 replies »

  1. If the applicant or any of its supporters wanted to address the Committee or circulate additional written evidence on Monday, they would also be denied that opportunity.

  2. The award of costs for or against the Council resulting from any legal action, whether appeal by the applicant or judicial review by the residents groups subsequent to the determination of a planning application, is not a material planning consideration. Therefore the members of the committee must not consider or take account of any legal costs implications.

    • A totally correct comment in that legal cost implications should not be taken into account by the committee. However, because of verbal advice given to the committee, it may very well have skewed the original vote on Preston New Road – and – at the very least this vote should be taken again on Monday now that the committee have the advice in writing, which from all accounts differs from the verbal advice. Failing this, the council will surely be leaving themselves wide open for potential legal action.

  3. Its the bad management of the council that got them selves into this mess, by not informing the Lancashire people first, that’s closest to their plannings operations, before the council should had commited themselves to anything!

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