The North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce (NWLCC) was granted Rule 6 status by the Planning Inspectorate yesterday. This will allow it to be represented by an advocate, present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
NWLCC has backed Cuadrilla’s planning applications to frack at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road. Its chief executive, Babs Murphy, said a refusal of the applications would suggest that Lancashire was closed for business.
Yesterday’s announcement brings to five the number of groups granted Rule 6 status at the inquiry.
The others are: Roseacre Awareness Group, Preston New Road Action Group, Friends of the Earth, and Treales, Roseacre and Wharles Parish Council. They have all objected to Cuadrilla’s plans.
In June, Lancashire County Council’s development control committee refused both applications to frack and also turned down an application for seismic monitoring stations around the Preston New Road site.
Cuadrilla is appealing against the three planning refusals, as well as conditions attached to the approval of an application for seismic monitoring around Roseacre Wood.
The NWLCC applied for Rule 6 Status on 8th October and a letter seen by DrillOrDrop dated yesterday (19th October 2015) approved the request. The Planning Inspectorate confirmed this morning the names of all Rule 6 groups which will be represented at the inquiry.
Rule 6 status means the five groups will each be regarded as a “Main Party”, alongside Cuadrilla and Lancashire County Council. They will receive copies of the documents from the company and the council and will be entitled to cross-examine their witnesses. The Planning Inspectorate grants Rule 6 status to groups which it believes will “add substantively” to the case being made by the local planning authority or the appellant.
We asked NWLCC to comment this morning but it said no one was available this week.
Claire Stephenson, of the Preston New Road Action Group, said she was not surprised that NWLCC had applied for Rule 6 status. But she said:
“The question must be asked, how Ms Murphy from the Chamber will endeavour to represent viewpoints from over 1,600 businesses she claims to speak for and how many of those people/businesses are actually comfortable being categorised as pro-fracking?”
The NWLCC website has regularly supported Cuadrilla’s activities in Lancashire. It made a statement in August welcoming Cuadrilla’s decision to appeal. In a recent newsletter, Ms Murphy said she was delighted that Cuadrilla would be moving its headquarters to Bamber Bridge, near Preston, early next year. The organisation also welcomed the government’s release of more oil and gas exploration licences.
The inquiry is scheduled to start at 10am on 9th February 2016. It is currently expected to last 12 days and will be held at Blackpool FC Hotel and Conference Centre, Bloomfield Road, Seasiders Way, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY1 6JJ.