A High Court judge in London will rule later this month on whether a residents’ group can challenge permission granted by Lancashire County Council for a fracking monitoring scheme in the Fylde.
The hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice will decide whether Roseacre Awareness Group (RAG) can seek a judicial review of the way the permission was granted.
A written appication for a JR was refused but RAG has secured a short hearing before a judge to review that decision. The hearing is scheduled for 22nd October 2015.
On 25th June this year, the council’s development control committee voted unanimously to refuse consent for Cuadrilla’s fracking plans at Roseacre Wood. But later that day the committee approved by nine to four with one abstention the company’s application for 91 seismic monitors at and around the Roseacre Wood site. More details
Opponents of the scheme had argued that the monitoring sites would lead to a loss of agricultural land and would contribute to the industrialisation of the countryside. The deputy chair of the committee, Kevin Ellard, said:
“If you turned down an application for a battleship you wouldn’t then pass the application for a dry dock.”
RAG, which opposed both applications, has argued that “there is no credible need” for the monitors because the fracking application had been refused. In seeking a judicial review, it said:
“Win or lose, the hearing demonstrates the importance of the principle that littering the Fylde with unnecessary industrial paraphernalia cannot be allowed”.
“It is certain that this High Court hearing will not be the end of an opposition which will never go away”.
Four lawyers from the London chambers, Cornerstone Barristers, have been instructed to fight Cuadrilla’s appeals against the refusal of permission to frack at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road.
The barristers will represent Friends of the Earth, Preston New Road Action Group and Roseacre Awareness Group (RAG). All three groups were awarded Rule 6 status for the inquiry, which allows them cross-examine witnesses and present evidence.
Two of the barristers, Estelle Dehon and Ashley Bowes were involved in hearings held before the committee meetings in June. Ms Dehon is also involved in the submission for a judicial review by RAG (see above).
Elizabeth Warner, RAG’s Chair, said she was encouraged that the barristers had decided to represent the groups.
“We fought the planning application without legal representation and won but the Inquiry is a quasi-judicial process which needs both expertise and experience. Our barristers have both, we have a senior and a junior acting for us.”
“We have moved into different territory but we still have the local knowledge to back up the London tacticians and hundreds of hours research to place at their disposal. We think we will show that right really can overcome might!”
Cuadrilla has now lodged four appeals linked to the fracking applications. It is challenging:
- Refusal of permission to drill, frack and test up to four wells at Roseacre Wood (APP/Q2371/W/15/3134385) Appeal link
- Refusal of permission to drill, frack and test up to four wells at Preston New Road (APP/Q2371/W/15/3134386) Appeal link
- Refusal of permission for a monitoring array at and around Preston New Road (APP/Q2371/W/15/3130923) Appeal link
- Conditions attached to the approval of permission for a monitoring array at and around Roseacre Wood (APP/Q2371/W/15/3130924) Appeal link
All four will be dealt with together at one inquiry, currently scheduled to start on 9th February 2016 and last for 12 days. Draft timetable Comments from interested parties must be submitted by 30th October 2015 for the Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood fracking appeals.
Localism versus fast track fracking
Cornerstone said the appeals would be the first time the Government’s policy on fracking would be applied by an inspector to individual applications.
“In so doing the appeals will bring into conflict two Government flagship planning initiatives: the fast-tracking of fracking exploration and localism,” the firm said.
The issue of localism was also raised by the Fylde MP, Mark Menzies, in a letter to the Communities and Local Government Minister, James Wharton.
Mr Menzies told the Blackpool Gazette: “As someone who is a strong supporter of localism I believe the council’s original decisions over these sites should be upheld and I wanted to put my view on record to be considered as part of the appeals process.”
“I have said all along that these decisions should be made at a local level and I stand by that.”
The MP told the paper Mr Wharton replied
“While a Planning inspector may come to a different view from the local planning authority and allow the appeal, this does not mean that they have disregarded the views of the local authority or local residents – rather they have attributed different weight to the issues in coming to their decision.”
“Currently some two thirds of appeals are refused, so the decision of the local authority is upheld in the majority of cases”.
Frack Free Lancashire is organising a benefit party to raise money for the judicial review and the appeals. The event is on Friday 9th October at 8.30pm at the Town House Pub, St Annes Road West, Lytham St Annes FY8 1SB Details
Updated 12/10/15 to include details that a written application by RAG for a judicial review was refused by a judge.The hearing will review that decision.