Cuadrilla’s Lancashire fracking appeals could be heard at a public inquiry in six months’ time, according to correspondence between the company’s lawyers and the Planning Inspectorate.
The company has drawn up a draft timetable which proposes the inquiry should start on Tuesday 9th February next year. All the appeals will be heard together.
The timetable, agreed with Lancashire County Council and posted on the council’s website, suggests the inquiry would last for 10 days. (See instructions at the bottom of this post on how to see the document.)
Cuadrilla has appealed against the refusal of planning permission for monitoring boreholes around a proposed fracking site at Preston New Road in the Fylde. It has also appealed against conditions attached to the approval of a similar application at Roseacre Wood.
Fracking appeals to be lodged next week
In an email to the Planning Inspectorate, Cuadrilla’s lawyer, Emily Sykes, of Herbert Smith Freehills, indicated that the company would lodge appeals this month against the refusals of permission to drill and frack wells at both Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. The timetable lists the submission date for these appeals as 11th September 2015.
Should that happen, the deadline for comments from interested people on the fracking appeals would be 29th October 2015.
Ms Sykes’ email also suggests that all the appeals would be heard together. She said:
“Please note that we have drafted this timetable to capture all four appeals (the two monitoring works appeals submitted on 27 July 2015 and the two exploration works appeals to be submitted in September), on the basis of PINS’ determination that all four appeals will be conjoined.”
The Planning Inspectorate confirmed that all the appeals would be heard together by one inspector at one public inquiry. A spokesperson said this was the most efficient, consistent and cost-effective way to handle the appeals because many of the same issues would arise.
Rule 6 status
The email also confirms that on 25th August Roseacre Awareness Group was granted Rule 6 status in the appeals on the Roseacre Wood applications. This means the group would has the right to be represented by a barrister, present evidence and cross-examine witnesses for the company and Lancashire County Council.
The Planning Inspectorate confirmed that it was considering a request for Rule 6 status from Preston New Road Action Group and another group, which it would not identify at this stage.
The spokesperson said there was no cut-off date by which groups must apply for Rule 6 status. But he said the nearer the date got to the inquiry the less likely it was for Rule 6 status to be approved.
“Insufficient local interest” for inquiry
In an earlier letter, dated 27th July 2015, Cuadrilla’s lawyers urged the Planning Inspectorate to decide the Preston New Road monitoring appeal by written representations, not a public inquiry.
The letter said:
“It is not considered that the level of local interest in the monitoring works application will be sufficient to justify a hearing or inquiry for this appeal”.
It also describes the appeal as “extremely urgent”. The letter said:
“The monitoring works need to be installed at least 12 months in advance of the hydraulic fracturing operations associated with the exploration site application.”
Statement of case
The company’s statement of case, also posted on the county council’s website, described the refusal of the Preston New Road application as “unsustainable” and “not supported by technical evidence and planning policy”. The decision, the statement said, was inconsistent with decisions for other temporary forms of development in Lancashire. It was also described as inconsistent with the decision on the Roseacre Wood monitoring application.
Lancashire County Council confirmed this morning that it was responsible for finding a venue for the appeal. We asked the Planning Inspectorate to confirm whether all the appeals would be considered at a single inquiry. We’re still waiting for a reply and will update this post when we receive one.
To view the documents referred to in this post click on the Preston New Road monitoring works planning application page and go the Attachments’ tab, page 9. The documents are titled:
- 27/08/2015 Email to accompany draft bespoke timetable
- 27/08/2015 Draft bespoke timetable
- Covering Letter
- Statement of case
Planning Inspectorate details for the appeal (reference number APP/Q2371/W/15/3130923
Updated 3/9/15 to include confirmation from the Planning Inspectorate of a single inquiry and Rule 6 status
Updated 14/9/15 to include Planning Inspectorate reference number