Live updates from Cuadrilla fracking inquiry day 3 – noise

Inq1 160211

Live news as it happens at the third day of the inquiry at Blackpool Football Club into Cuadrilla’s fracking plans in the Fylde area of Lancashire. Check our Inquiry page for more information, posts and links.


Inquiry adjourns for the day. It resumes at 9.30am tomorrow.

Sleep deprivation


Ashley Bowes, for Preston New Road Action Group, asks Dr Hiller, Cuadrilla’s noise witness, about the health effects of sleep deprivation.

In his evidence, Dr Hiller said:

“There is no evidence that exposure to noise lasting no more than a small number of years, as is the case for the application sites, can give rise to health effects as defined by Government.”

Mr Bowes said research showed only a few nights of reduced sleep could lead to cognitive difficulties.

Weekend working


The inquiry hears that Cuadrilla proposes to allow operations up to a level of 55 decibels during the day on week days and at weekends.

Ashley Bowes, for Preston New Road Action Group, put it to Cuadrilla’s noise expert, Dr David Hiller, that weekends had lower background noise levels. Dr Hiller agreed.

Mr Bowes asked: “Would that not justify a lower noise level [for the site]”

Dr Hillier replied: “To a certain point, potentially, yes, but not at the levels we are talking about.

He said some operations would not be allowed at weekends and that would protect residents.

Low frequency noise


Ashley Bowes, for Preston New Road Action Group, put it to Cuadrilla’s noise expert, Dr David Hiller, that low frequency noise was more intrusive than medium or high frequency noise. Dr Hiller agreed. He also agreed that properties were better at screening medium and high frequencies than low frequencies.

Preston New Road residents question Cuadrilla’s noise expert


Ashley Bowes, for Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG), begins to question Cuadrilla’s noise expert, Dr Daeets vid Hiller.

Mr Bowes referred to a study carried out for the PNRAG that had been carried out for a longer period of time than those by Cuadrilla or Lancashire County Council.

He said the PNRAG study monitored noise from Foxwood Chase, one of the nearest residential streets to the Preston New Road site. Cuadrilla monitored noise from the northern side of Preston New Road.

Mr Bowes said the PNRAG study recorded night-time noise levels regularly at under 25 decibels, and at times down to 20-21.

Dr Hiller said these levels were measured across 5 minutes at a time and were not typical. He said Preston New Road was dominated by road noise, even at night.

Proposed equipment at Fylde fracking sites


Robin Green, for Roseacre residents, asked Cuadrilla’s noise expert, Dr David Hiller, about predicted equipment at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road.

Dr Hiller said: “That hasn’t absolutely been finalised but the expectation and likelihood is that the HH220 rig, used at Horse Hill, would be used on these two sites”.

Background and predicted noise levels


Robin Green, for Roseacre Awareness Group and the parish council, questions Dr David Hiller, Cuadrilla’s noise expert about the impact of the proposed fracking operation on background night-time noise.

Mr Green put it to Dr Hiller that the predicted noise from the site at night would be 9 decibels above the current background levels at the nearest property to Roseacre Wood.

Mr Green said this would be “plainly perceptible”. Dr Hiller said the proposed 42 decibel limit at the site would protect people from sleep disturbance.

Mr Green put it Dr Hiller that he had misunderstood what planning guidance required.

“You are seeking a condition to allow you to create more noise than you can control.”

Dr Hiller replied:

“We are seeking a noise limit to protect the sleep of residents, to allow them to sleep at night with windows open and not to impose an unreasonably burden on the company.”

Mr Green said: “40 decibels would achieve that”

Dr Hiller replied: “Yes”

Mr Green: “So why set it higher”

Dr Hiller: “It is set at that level to meet the requirement not to exceed 42”

Roseacre residents question Cuadrilla’s noise expert


Robin Green, for Roseacre Awareness Group and the parish council, begins to question Dr David Hiller, Cuadrilla’s noise witness.

Cuadrilla has argued that 42 decibels is an approriate level for night time noise from the sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.

Mr Green pointed to the World Health Organisation guidelines which recommended 40 decibels.

Dr Hiller said 40 decibels was for long-term noise.

Mr Green asked: “How long is drilling to last for?”

Dr Hiller said the first borehole would take five months to drill and the next three would take three months each.

Mr Green asked: “If that causes sleep deprivation, a period of 14 months would be a significant time?”

Dr Hiller: “If it did cause sleep deprivation, potentially yes”.

Mr Green: “If it caused annoyance it would be a significant period of time?”

Dr Hiller: “If it were to cause annoyance, yes.”

Noise impacts


Inquiry resumes with questions on assessing noise impacts from Alan Evans, barrister for Lancashire County Council, to Dr David Hiller, Cuadrilla’s noise expert.

Dr Hiller agreed with Mr Evans that if people complained about night-time noise they would see this as a change in their quality of life.

The inquiry heard that the methodology used by Cuadrilla on predicted noise levels had an uncertainty of +/-  3 decibels.

Mr Evans put it to Dr Hiller that if the appeals were approved and resulted in noise at 45 decibels the sites  would be in breach of planning conditions, which would be for a maximum of 42 decibels.

Dr Hiller said further mitigation would be needed to reduce the noise.

Mr Evans asked how could Cuadrilla reduce this noise because it had said further measures would be an “unreasonable burden” on its operations.

Dr Hiller said at that stage predictions on noise levels would be “more comfortable” than they where now.


Inquiry breaks for lunch until 2pm

Council questions Cuadrilla’s noise expert


Alan Evans, barrister for Lancashire County Council, begins to cross-examine Dr David Hiller, Cuadrilla’s noise witness.

Mr Evans suggested to Dr Hiller that Cuadrilla’s choice of British Standard BS5228 to assess noise levels is not appropriate to its proposed fracking operations at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.

Mr Evans said this standard was more suited to quarrying and mineral production that required considerable earth moving. Dr Hiller disagreed that it was an inappropriate standard.

Mr Evans put it to Dr Hiller that national planning policy guidance on minerals set an upper limit on noise of 42 decibels to prevent sleep disturbance and maintain good quality of life..

Dr Hillier replied “It sets a limit that is consistent with protecting sleep”. He added that the wording was “not entirely helpful” and it contradicted the evidence.

The inquiry heard about the difference between Significant Observed Adverse Effect Levels (SOEAL) and Lowest Observed Adverse Effect Level (LOAEL).

Mr Evans  put it to Dr Hillier that developers had an obligation to get as far below the ceiling of 42 decibels as possible.

Dr Hillier replied the policy was not to exceed 42 decibels and he accepted that noise levels above SOEAL should be taken into account when deciding on planning applications.

Noise no reason to refuse appeals – Cuadrilla’s noise expert


Dr David Hiller, Cuadrilla’s noise expert, tells the inquiry:

“It is my opinion that the proposed exploration works could be undertaken without giving rise to any adverse impact and within the government’s guidelines on controlling noise.”

He recommended night time limits of 42dBa and daytime of 55dB. This would, he said, be consistent with government policy and guidance on noise from mineral extraction sites.

“It is therefore my opinion that there is no reason whatsoever to reject the appeals for exploration at either site on the grounds of noise.”

Reducing noise at fracking sites


The inquiry has been hearing that in March 2015 Cuadrilla offered to spend £1.46m at each site on reducing noise.

The company said yesterday it was no longer willing to spend this money because of the refusal of planning permission and the costs it had incurred on the appeals.

Nathalie Lieven, the company’s QC, asked noise expert,  Dr David Heller, what difference the sound reduction work would make.

Dr Hiller said it would reduce noise levels by about 3 decibels at each site. This, he said would be just about perceptible as a change in noise level.

“In view of the additional cost that seems to be a very limited benefit.”

He also said there would be “no benefit from sleep disturbance”.

Ms Lieven asked:

“If the appeal is allowed with a condition of 42db noise limit, what effect will that have on sleep disturbance or the existing noise levels.”

Dr Hiller replied:

“The existing noise levels are already higher than the WHO predicts will cause sleep disturbance.”

Noise at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood

Dr Hiller, Cuadrilla’s noise expert, tells the inquiry noise-reduction measures, proposed by the company in January 2015, are enough for the sites to comply with government policy.

Noise would be below levels considered “unacceptable”, he said, and they therefore met local planning policies: DM2, EP27 and CS5.

He added that fracking would happen only during the day.

Tonal noise


Nathalie Lieven, Cuadrilla’s QC, asks the company’s noise expert, Dr David Heller, about the likelihood of tonal noise.

Dr Heller said surveys carried out at the Hose Hill drilling site in Surrey identified some tonal noise near the rig. But he said the chances of this at properties near Cuadrilla’s proposed sites was “very much diminished” and it represented a “low risk.” He added:

“There are some conditions under which it could occur so it is something we should be aware of and it should be taken care of.”

Ms Lieven asked: “In what circumstances would these conditions occur?”

Dr Hiller said:

“It is when the drill string is under a lot of load and has to work against particularly hard strata and that induces this tonal noise from the top drive.”

Ms Lieven asked what Cuadrilla would do to deal with this.

Dr Hiller said:

“Slowing down the rig reduces the load on the top drive and would reduce that tonal noise. In extreme, the top drive could be shrouded with baffles.”

Cuadrilla’s noise expert witness gives evidence


Cuadrilla’s noise expert, Dr David Hiller talks about how noise impacts are measured.

The company’s QC, Nathalie Lieven, says the opponents of the proposed fracking schemes are questioning how Cuadrilla’s surveys of background noise were carried out.

Dr Hiller said Cuadrilla’s surveys took a “very cautious” assessment of what background noise levels would be and they had produced similar results to those carried out for Lancashire County Council.

Debate about British Standards


The inquiry hears about different standards for acceptable levels of noise.

Dr Hiller said he thought British Standard BS5228 was the appropriate standard to use for the proposed fracking sites because it applied to open sites where work activities/operations generate significant noise levels.

He said an alternative British Standard (BS4142) did not refer to minerals sites and, in his opinion, did not apply to the application sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood..

Nathalie Lieven, Cuadrilla’s barrister, said opponents of Cuadrilla’s plans have relied on World Health Organisation standards.

Dr Hiller quoted from a magazine article which said WHO guidelines were a useful starting point for planning but the targets dio not have to be met provided “reasonable mitigation measures” had been applied.

He said he thought the appropriate night time noise limit was 42 decibels.

“There is no evidence of health effects due to temporary noise sources and NNG [national noise guidance] does not refer to noise from sources, such as minerals exploration or extraction.

Dr Hiller added:

“The proposed site activities will be temporary and noise levels and character will differ with the different stages of the exploration.”

Noise witness begins giving evidence


Dr David Hiller, Cuadrilla witness on noise, begins giving evidence. He tells the inquiry:

“I do not believe that the noise emitted from the proposed sites could be characterised as at and certainly not above Significant Observed Adverse Effect Level at the relevant noise sensitive properties and therefore could not be considered unacceptable.”


Inquiry opens.

This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s  Rig Watch project.  Rig Watch receives funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here

14 replies »

    • Where is the live feed, and why has Cuadrilla been allowed to provide this? Surely an independant feed must be available, yesterdays ‘cyber attacks’ problematic, unproven, like much of the guff we going to hear from this company?

    • I didn’t know what these figures 40db, 43db, 50db meant so from the internet…
      40db is the level of noise in a libarary and the lowest noise level normally found in an urban environment.
      44db is the level of birdsong – not sure which bird.
      50db is the average level in a suburban environment
      So we’re not talking about high volumes here – seems like clutching at straws to me. I gather when the local council were considering a new supermarket with nightime lorry deliveries, they refused even to finance a traffic survey.

  1. Dr Hiller must also ”believe” that Saddam Hussain had WMD. How sad w have a doctor, supposedly scientific of mind, falls back on faith to shore up his need for a job in the frackingwards…perhaps Jeremy Hunt has given him a new hospital to share profits in, if he jumps to the fracking tune.

    EQ cause a considerable rumble and 40 a year roll out in Oklahoma, not to mention constant traffic and compressors and drilling noise. Would Hitler, sorry is that Hitler or Hiller… near one of these sites…..probably not.

    Meantime, have you heard the scandal that in France they have a technique for extracting gas? The potentially game-changing report buried by French officials, suggested that the country’s shale gas deposits could be exploited with the use of “clean technology” of
    non-flammable propane, as thus there wouldn’t be any need for the controversial practice of fracking.

    Meanwhile will we need to gt crowd funding to sue the government for allowing the EA to brag about how safe fracking is, then rolling out PEDL licences, with NO EVIDENCE proving it is a safe industry?

    The current gob administration may have broken the law, issuing oil leases across England without examining the risks of fracking. A judge could rule that the administration has “completely ignored” environmental concerns upon issuing the licenses.

    Meantime why is the EA cagey about where offshore drill fluids are being disposed of? Are they hoping that sperm whales will thrive on a new form of food spewed out from drills, spills and explosions or what? We need to know after the chair of this inquiry at Lancs made it clear, (I noticed that she made it very very very clear—thus hoping no one would notice, but I did), that the inquiry isn’t about offshore drilling——-well no, because if it was the EA would have to come clean about how much marine life is being damaged around our shores, along beaches your children play upon and sperm whales and other marine life get beached upon after drillkills, and all this thanks to PEDL licensing the most unsafe regulatory framework on the globe…….

    • Non flammable propane. Hahaha. We would struggle with gas BBQs if propane was not flammable. Perhaps you mean nitrogen fracking. Same process as hydraulic fracturing and has been around for decades.

  2. I believe this entire ‘inquiry’ is a charade, to allow all local groups to express their very real fears and concerns, with much new evidence of negative impacts across the board, then ignore all submissions and pass it to Greg Clarke for rubber stamping.
    At which point he declares war, as the miners strike, I’m drafting a letter outlining my concerns about policing peaceful protests by ordinary people who realise this industry is not compatible with their rural environment. Which may lead to scenes from Barton Moss in multiple locations, are our MP’s content to see their constituents brutalised by their police, and others, to further this insanity?

  3. The fact is who wants to have 24 hr industrial noise and in a particularly quiet rural location. They focus on the drilling/fracking but what about all the construction noise and traffic noise as well and that is for a two year period according to Cuadrilla – and that is not for a short time!

  4. Today its about noise, and if this occurs at an acceptable and legal level.
    Its not about safety/traffic/regulation/climate change/marine life/or other made up ‘environmental concerns’.

    Its just about noise, and this was in dispute, and so thats what the discussion needs to be about, just noise.

    • Ken – you should have been there and then you could comment with authority. Is it too far to come from Bristol? You can’t rely on Cuadrilla’s webcast can you – I was told in the room that the sound was down again today. Still I’m sure they’ll get it right after a few more goes – a bit like the fracking eh?

  5. It seems to me a pity that no-one explained what the noise levels being debated actually sound like. As far as I’m aware, from looking at internet sources….

    40db is a Library, bird calls (44 dB); lowest limit of urban ambient sound
    50db is the level of ambient sound level in a quiet suburb.

    The db levels are often confusing as it’s not a linear measure; 70db is 6 times louder than 40db.

  6. I wonder why the sounds of reverberating noise around me being considered in relation to human beings? Surely you have birds and animals in the vicinity which also deserve respect and should not be driven away for ever. We have near us Sites Of Special Scientific Interest from a proposed fracking site. There is rare flora and fauna-but Island Gas, which is near to bankruptcy incidentally, doesn’t care a damn about that or they would not have been there in the first place.
    David Larder
    Chair, Bassetlaw Against Fracking

  7. worth watching this ,I have read alot of for s and against s ,to be honest given the waste ,the state the company left a Blackpool road in last time they visited and the breach of planning by incorrect drilling how can we trust them not too commit more damage to the area I would say a blanket no ,oh and I believe it has been rejected once on a democratic level so for the Government to over rule its people is wrong and a clear breach of our democratic rights .

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