Regulation

Fracking damage to tourism – but only short term, Cuadrilla inquiry hears

Inquiry 7

Fracking in Lancashire could damage tourism, the second day of an inquiry into Cuadrilla’s shale gas plans heard this afternoon.

But Mark Smith, a planning expert witness for Cuadrilla, said tourism would recover when the shale gas industry became established in the county.

Earlier today the inquiry heard that Cuadrilla’s plans for two shale gas exploration sites in the Fylde would create a total of 22 jobs. Local employment would be mostly in security and cleaning and specialist jobs would go to people outside Lancashire.

The inquiry, at Blackpool Football Club, is considering Cuadrilla’s appeals against the refusal of planning permission for fracking up to four wells each at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. It is also reviewing the refusal of permission for a seismic monitoring scheme at Preston New Road and some of the conditions attached to a similar scheme at Roseacre Wood, which was approved.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will make the final decision on the appeals.

Threat to tourism jobs

Robin Green, the barrister for Roseacre residents, put it to Mr Smith: “You said it was possible jobs could be lost in the tourism sector but this was likely to be short-term. It was speculative and unquantifiable and linked to public perception of fracking.”

Mr Green asked why the impact on tourism jobs would be short-term.

Mr Smith said: “In the longer term, when the industry is established and people are aware of the actual impacts, tourism will recover.

He suggested that perceptions would change because the company had assessed the impacts of fracking to be minor and negligible.

Mr Green suggested:

“Come to Lancashire home of fracking that will have the tourists flocking”

He put it to Mr Smith:

“There is no evidence that the public are moving towards acceptance of fracking as an industry.”

Mr Smith replied

“I don’t have any evidence. There may be evidence but I don’t have the knowledge”.

Mr Green said:

“As a tourism draw, fracking is unlikely to be up there as draw.”

Mr Smith replied: “There is no evidence of fracking having an impact, I have not seen the evidence.

22 jobs at fracking sites

This morning, the inquiry heard that the proposed exploration sites would generate a total of 11 jobs each.

The North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce has said shale gas would create well-paid and numerous jobs for Lancashire.

But Mr Smith, of Arup, accepted that only 22 jobs would be created by the two exploration sites.

He agreed that the jobs would be mostly in cleaning, security and possibly well decommissioning. Jobs involved in the drilling and fracking the wells would go to people from outside Lancashire, the inquiry heard.

Estelle Dehon, the barrister for Friends of the Earth, said the figures had included any benefits of local spending.

She put it to Mr Smith that the economic benefits would materialise only if the sites went into production. Mr Smith agreed.

Ms Dehon said that the wider effects beyond Lancashire had not been quantified. Mr Smith again agreed but added:

“It is only through exploration and testing that those potential substantial benefits would be realised.”

“There is no certainty but if those benefits do arise they would be substantial to the economy.”

Ms Dehon suggested to him that if wanted the inquiry nspector to take account of benefits of the site going into production she should also had to take account of the costs.

Mr Smith replied: “If that information is available. I’m not aware of that information being available.”

Other issues in today’s hearing

Climate change

Mr Smith told the inquiry that a government statement supporting shale gas, made by the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, in September 2015, removed the need to assess greenhouse gas emissions for gas projects.

He said UK policy was now that these projects would contribute to achieving UK climate change targets because the government regarded gas as the cleanest fossil fuel. Gas would help the UK move to a low carbon energy supply, he said.

But Ms Dehon, for Friends of the Earth, said the statement did not displace the statutory duties of the Climate Change Act. She added that the weight that should be given to the statement was reduced because it had not been consulted on nor debated in parliament.

She described a project to extract peat near Irlam, which had been turned down on climate change grounds by the Secretary of State because it would have emitted 181,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide over its life.

Ms Dehon said exploration at the Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood sites together would release 236,000 tonnes of Co2 on lowest estimates.

Cuadrilla has not fielded an expert witness on climate change at the inquiry. It said at the opening that this was not matter for the inquiry.

But today Mr Smith acknowledged that planning policy guidance made it clear that climate change was a material consideration in planning decisions. He also agreed that targets to be achieved under the Climate Change Act and the Paris Climate Agreement should be taken into account.

Low carbon energy

Ms Dehon also challenged Mr Smith on whether gas could be described as low carbon. She said:

“Shale gas is a fossil fuel and it is not low carbon is it?”

Mr Smith replied:

“It is clearly a lower carbon fuel that coal. That is why it helps meet climate change targets.”

Ms Dehon said:

“Natural gas’s role to a low carbon economy is as a transition. It is not part of the low carbon economy.”

Mr Smith replied the government had supported shale gas as a lower-carbon form of energy to replace coal.

 

Waste treatment

Ms Dehon said she would call evidence to show that if Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road operated together they would generate waste fluid that would amount to 65% of the UK waste treatment capacity.

She said the inspector had to be satisfied about the disposal of waste water from the sites.

Mr Smith agreed but he said these issues had been dealt with by the Environment Agency when it issued a waste permit. He said:

“The guidance is clear. The inquiry should assume that other regulatory regimes will operate effectively”.

Mr Smith said later that Cuadrilla had identified water treatment facilities in the north of England but because of commercial constraints they could not be identified. He added:

“When there are no longer commercial constraints these treatment facilities will be made available to the public”.

Site selection

Mr Green, representing Roseacre residents, put it to Mr Smith that Cuadrilla had a licence area of more than 1,000 sq km and it could have chosen sites from anywhere within an area of 100 sq km where it had undertaken 3D seismic surveys.

Mr Smith said the sites at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road had been chosen because of the geological conditions were suitable. He said the company had considered fracking at existing sites at Anna’s Road, Becconsall and Preese Hall but they were not as suitable.

Public health

Ms Dehon, for Friends of the Earth, put it to Mr Smith that research found people were already experiencing sleep disturbance and depression at the planning stage of fracking in Lancashire. Mr Smith said Cuadrilla acknowledged people were suffering from anxiety and had proposed measures to address this.

Cuadrilla has argued that impacts from the sites had been overstated by opponents. But Mr Smith accepted that any public health issues arising from noise, traffic or lighting at night were material considerations that should be considered when coming to a decision.

5 replies »

  1. But Mark Smith, a planning expert witness for Cuadrilla, said tourism would recover when the shale gas industry became established in the county. WOW he’s a bit like Knaresborough’s Mother Shipton isn’t he, (or perhaps not, she at least was credible) or even a Petulengro, or perhaps even Mystic meg….he can tell the future, fer gudness sake Ruth are you taking bookings for palm readings with Mark Smith at all???? Has he a stand on Blackpool pier, has he a market stall somewhere in Blackpool I want him to read my palm……

    Whoops sorry then Mark Smith said

    that perceptions would change because the company had assessed the impacts of fracking to be minor and negligible.”

    Errrr no, I have my finger on the pulse of many folks who aren’t satisfied with this prophets forecasts, due to em all reading significant and strong evidence reports on the sad impact of fracking on the envrioenment….but given many folk still love prophets who get things wrong a tie or two…..is Mark Smith booking in Blackpool for readings Ruth….please do an interview tih him soon…..

    Mark Smith said
    “I don’t have any evidence. There may be evidence but I don’t have the knowledge”.

    Yep, some of us folk have evidence backed up by knowledge, but why worry about both connections when you are Mark Smith eh???

    Mr Smith replied: “There is no evidence of fracking having an impact, I have not seen the evidence.” Sad, why is he ignoring scientific evidence, rigorous testing of the rules and oceans of evidence that fracking is unsafe……..are those his twenty rellies in the pro frack march Ruth……….

    ”This morning, the inquiry heard that the proposed exploration sites would generate a total of 11 jobs each.” Well I ruddy well ope they gie a jobby to that old age pensioner profracker outside teh football stadium yesterday as he looks like he needs a job on his way to Jeremy Chunters newly refurbed ospitals circa 2025 …………..

    LURVED this bit:-
    But today Mr Smith acknowledged that planning policy guidance made it clear that climate change was a material consideration in planning decisions. He also agreed that targets to be achieved under the Climate Change Act and the Paris Climate Agreement should be taken into account.

    ERRRR iyam about to invoke the Geneva convention mate on no state should pollute a nation’s water supply during wartime………..we are at war and our own government is about to pollute the whole water basin, drinking and river basin across the north of England, where it is already at Greece levels of highly modified therefore not very good, so George Osborne can retire early on the dirty deeds…..do me a favour…..

    Lurved this bit:-
    Mr Smith replied:

    “It is clearly a lower carbon fuel that coal. That is why it helps meet climate change targets.”

    Yesterday he was saying he didn’t understand teh figures behind climate change nor did he think they were trustworthy, but not using those words….

    But today as with yesterday he is using climate change stuff as a defence…..even a comedian has more respect for his audience……gerimoff……

  2. “Fracking Damage to Tourism – But Only Short Term.” Clearly people are going to continue to be keen to visit areas of countryside turned into an industrialised landscape, with polluted water and devastated wildlife. They will want to see at first hand the damage and environmental destruction caused by fracking, and will be well advised to bring a packed lunch and bottled water, since their chances of getting a decent meal will be zero.

  3. With all the publicity and hooh haah surrounding fracking, fracking sites might become a tourist attraction itself. People might flock there to see what the fuss is all about or even flock there to protest (most protestors are from outside area anyway, so they are practically tourists). Either tourism will benefits.

  4. Yeah and I guess the locals could sell them all gas masks and ear defenders …. more jobs there than anything Cuadrilla’s gonna offer !!

    Seriously though, I was one of the 300 or so protesters braving the cold in Blackpool on Tuesday morning. Granted there were a few folks from outside the County – mainly from other places under threat from fracking – but most of us there were locals.

    Not nutters or tree-huggers – just ordinary people from all age groups and all walks of life.

    There were a few things we had in common though:

    i. Most of us have never protested before in our lives.

    ii. We’re all quite well-read. There’s a lot of good material around when you look for it – from government papers, from the fracking industry itself, from countries like the US and Australia where there’s actual experience, and from the the 70 or so places that were concerned enough about the potential impact of the industry to impose a moratorium or an outright ban on it.

    It’s all there – the noise, the air pollution, the toxic chemicals, the earth tremors, the groundwater contamination, the public health hazard, the stress on water supplies, the disposal and treatment of wastewater, the increased road traffic, the threat to wildlife, the impact on the tourist economy, agribusiness and the food industry.

    It’s just a shame more people don’t read it and decide for themselves.

    Even if they decided all that lot is nothing to worry about they might be a bit concerned by the scale of development. The two sites under review at the moment are, after all, only exploratory. If this ever went ahead into production, the number of well sites in Lancashire alone would be counted in hundreds – and across the UK in thousands.

    Now, that’s not a minor inconvenience to a handful of local residents – that’s a significant re-allocation of the UK’s land resource. And I don’t think government should be doing that without careful consideration of all the other consequences. For example, the more land we allocate to fracking the less food we grow, the more we import, the greater our dependence on other countries, the greater cost of transportation, the more expensive food is in the shops.

    OK, so maybe you dismiss all that as scaremongering too.

    But then, a couple of months ago the UK was a signatory to the Paris agreement on climate change – our PM waxed most eloquently on the the need to reduce greenhouse gasses and committed us to a carbon neutral economy by 2050. When you translate that statement into something a bit more tangible it means that about 80% of the fossil fuel reserves we know of in the world today have to stay where they are – underground. So, even if there was zero risk associated with fracking – why on earth is the UK setting it’s stall out to find more ?

    Or maybe it’s about jobs – the climate’s all very well but we can worry about that later ? As we’ve heard today that the fracking industry is going to employ ~ 11 workers per site, so a few thousand sites equals a few tens of thousands of jobs right ?

    Except that, as the pressure for discontinuation of fossil fuels continues, this is a declining market. And in a declining market in particular, the established players dictate the barriers to entry for the new players. That’s why the price of crude oil has dropped from $120/barrel just over a year ago to around $30/barrel now. It’s to kill off the shale gas/oil industry.

    By contrast the market that is about to take off world wide is in renewable energy (wind, wave, solar, tidal, geo-thermal). Not only is this environmentally clean, and secure (the wind will always blow and no-one’s yet managed to hold back the tides) but recent studies have suggested that around a million skilled jobs could be created in the UK, in a growing market with significant export potential.
    Bafflingly, the government has chosen to halt UK research into this topic, whilst giving tax breaks to frackers.

    In summary, the way I see it, fracking is
    – potentially dangerous
    – damaging to the land in the short term and probably long term
    – a threat to the rural economy
    – destined never to produce quality jobs
    – uneconomic in the medium term
    – fundamentally unnecessary

    By contrast there is a renewables market which will:
    – provide us with a secure energy supply into the future
    – protect our climate
    – allow us to meet our international obligations
    – provide us with high quality jobs
    – and genuine export potential.

    Strangely enough I don’t really enjoy standing around for 3 hours freezing half to death outside Bloomfield Road.

    So if anyone can tell me why I am wrong – provide me with some plausible evidence that fracking isn’t risky, or that ultimately there’s any real benefit to be had from what’s going on out at Roseacre Wood and Little Plumpton – both places I’ve known since I was a kid – then I’ll gladly give up and get on with something else.

    But if they can’t, perhaps they might like to pick up a placard and join me ?

    • Excellent analysis and summary. I live near Falkirk, with constant anxiety it’s going to happen to us, too (test drilling is not covered by the Scottish government ‘moratorium’, oddly). We struggle and protest here, and like you, are ‘ordinary people’. Thank you for fighting in Lancashire. It is appalling what you are being put through. I hope you win, as you so deserve.

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