Regulation

Cuadrilla’s first Lancashire shale gas planning appeal underway

The first appeal by Cuadrilla against refusal of planning permission for shale gas exploration in the Fylde area of Lancashire is now underway.

The Planning Inspectorate has validated the company’s appeal over the application for a seismic and groundwater monitoring array around the proposed fracking site at Preston New Road.

The Inspectorate has confirmed that the appeal will be dealt with by an inquiry. This means witnesses will give evidence and be cross-examined in public. Dates have also been set for the submission of information and statements from the company, Lancashire County Council and local people.

The Preston New Road Action Group, which opposed Cuadrilla’s plans in the Fylde, has said it is prepared to contest the appeal.

This is the first of a series of appeals that the company announced it intended to pursue following refusals of planning permission by Lancashire County Council in June this year.

On 29th June the council’s development control committee refused Cuadrilla’s application for the Preston New Road monitoring array, which comprised 80 underground and nine surface seismic monitoring sites and three groundwater monitoring boreholes.

On the same day, the committee refused permission for drilling, fracking and testing up to four shale gas wells at Preston New Road. Both refusals were against the advice of planning officers.

A week before, the committee followed officers’ advice and refused permission for a similar application to drill, frack and test up to four more wells at Roseacre Wood. It approved the application for a monitoring array near that site but imposed conditions on the permission.

Cuadrilla announced it would appeal against all the refusals and the conditions imposed on the Roseacre Wood monitoring array. There is no information from the Planning Inspectorate on the fracking appeals.

Preston New Road Action Group has criticised the decision to hear the monitoring appeal before the one against the fracking refusal.

Claire Stephenson, spokesperson for the group said:

“It is a nonsense that we should have to fight this appeal first. The water boreholes in particular are specifically located as a result of Cuadrilla’s main application site.”

“Without permission for fracking these installations are not necessary. The main appeal should have been made as a priority. We can only assume this is part of Cuadrilla’s tactical game to overturn all Lancashire County Council’s decisions against them.”

The validation of the Preston New Road monitoring appeal has been faster than expected. The Planning Inspectorate website warns of delays of up to 10 weeks. But Cuadrilla announced its intention to appeal only three weeks ago, on 23rd July. Claire Stephenson, of PNRAG, said:

“The unusual speed with which the Inspectorate has processed and validated Cuadrilla’s appeal shows how the government’s announced promise to speed up fracking permissions is already having an impact.”

The Planning Inspectorate has also validated Cuadrilla’s appeal against the conditions on the Roseacre Wood monitoring permission. This is to be linked to the Preston New Road appeal, which is to be the lead case.

There are no dates yet for the Roseacre Wood monitoring appeal. But on the Preston New Road appeal, the council and company have to submit their cases by 27th August. Local residents and other interested parties then have to make their comments by 17th September.

Claire Stephenson said:”We shall have to see the full details before deciding exactly how to handle the appeal. It is significant that the PNR appeal is the lead case, establishing precedent for further decisions and appeals on monitoring sites, so it is important not only to us but to the rest of Lancashire and beyond to get this right.”

Timeline

29th June 2015
Lancashire County Council’s Development Control Committee refuses permission for monitoring stations at Preston New Road

23rd July 2015
Cuadrilla confirms it will appeal against planning refusals and conditions

13th August 2015
Planning Inspectorate validates appeal for Preston New Road monitoring array and decides it should be decided by an inquiry

27th August 2015
Appeal questionnaires to be submitted to Planning Inspectorate

17th September 2015
Statements due from Cuadrilla and Lancashire County Council and comments due from interested parties

Judicial review

Roseacre Awareness Group has applied to the High Court for a judicial review of Lancashire County Council’s approval of Cuadrillla’s Roseacre Wood monitoring array. Post coming soon on the Group’s case

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