Regulation

First evening session of Cuadrilla’s fracking inquiry – the opponents

 

Inquiry opponents

The audience gathering for tonight’s session of the inquiry

Live updates from the first evening session of the Cuadrilla fracking inquiry.

Watched by Cuadrilla’s Francis Egan and officers from Lancashire County Council,  20 members of the public told the Inspector Wendy McKay why they opposed the Roseacre Wood schemes. You can read what four supporters of the application said here.  

Inquiry adjourns

9.25pm

The hearing adjourns until 10am tomorriw (Thursday 17th February 2016)

Celia Briar

9.19pm

Ms Briar said she liked to walk in the Trough of Bowland and didn’t want to look over rigs and flares. She said the views down to Morecambe Bay would be “completely ruined” if the applications went ahead.

She said she was concerned about the recent floods and storms. St Michaels on Wyre, a village three miles from Roseacre Wood,  was flooded several times.

She also said she also worried about air and water pollution from the site and the impact of methane emissions on climate change.

“Too much is at stake for fracking to go ahead in the Fylde”, she said.

Sean Smith

9.10pm

Mr Smith said he was 34 years old and lived  in Wharles with his wife and children. His children waited at a bus stop past which Cuadrilla planned to take lorries on the route to Roseacre Wood

He said he had worked on fire protection in the oil and gas industry. Fire was the biggest safety issue on the sites. There were not always people qualified to deal with it, he said.

He added that he had seen a decline in standards by operators in the current climate of low oil prices.

“Safety is generally an overhead. Operators do not make money out of safety. I want my friends and family to be safe. We are safe at the moment.”

Oil and gas operators were installing only the bare minimum to keep the Health and Safety Executive and their insurers happy, he said.

He asked what safety standards would be followed because some were better than others. This hadn’t been publicised, he said. How did Cuadrilla plan to manage a major incident? There had been cuts in fire and rescue services, he said. There were not many major incident units available to Lancashire.

He asked what would happen if there  was an incident at Roseacre Wood that coincided with an accident on the motorway. The worst case scenario would be an explosion. Would there be an automatic shut down?, he asked. What would the villagers do? How do you isolate the supply? Do you store the foam on site to fight firse?

“I don’t think the site is geographically set up to fight a large fire. I would implore the people in charge to turn down this application. It makes no sense to me.”

Peter Jackson

9.06pm

Mr Jackson said he builds utility infrastructure for water and gas for a living.

He asked what impact vibration from fracking, and seismic activity, would have on pipes underground.

Mr Jackson asked the inspector to consider these issues when making her recommendation.

Lucy Barnes

9pm

Ms Barnes, a 24-year-old dentist, told the hearing she moved to Wharles when she was five. “During my childhood, I enjoyed wide open fields”, she said.

“I remember our parish full of caring people”.

Since the applications, our community has “lost its shine”, she said. People had been working themselves into the ground to oppose the plans.

She said she was worried about her future and that of her two-year-old daughter, Sadie. She said she didn’t know whether walking to the local school would be possible in future.

Mr Egan is often quoted that there is scaremongering about fracking, she said. If that is true, why is hydraulic fracturing  banned in France and Germany, why does New York have a moratorium, along with Wales and Scotland?

“It feels like democracy has been thrown out of the window”.

“I quite often ask myself what is the point”, she said. “Then I think of my daughter.”

“I am sick of feeling that anyone who wishes to speak against fracking is being ignored.”

“I am not prepared to be a guinea pig. This is a massive scale project that should not be allowed until it is proved to be safe”.

“We are people not receptors”.

“The quality of our life lies here with you”, she told the inspector.

To applause, she said:

“Please do not forget us. Please do not dismiss us. It will affect future generations.”

Jane Barnes

8.55pm

Mrs Barnes told the hearing she had lived on the Fylde coast all her life and now runs a agricultural engineering business in Wharles.

Rural businesses that rely on clean air would suffer from fracking, she said. Local farming made a big contribution to the economy and complemented other businesses.

“Our rural economy works. Ours is a thriving rural community. Farming is key to its continued success”.

Pollution from fracking would put this at risk, she said.

Her family lives 550m from the Roseacre Wood site,she said. “I have worries for our future health”, she said. They would find it hard to sell their business, affecting their quality of life in retirement, she added.

Luisa Sanz

8.50pm

Ms Sanz, a doctor specialising in childhood mental health, spoke about the risks of sleep deprivation.

Good quality sleep was vital, she said. “No one can survive without good quality sleep long-term”.

Sleep deprivation affected emotion, causing increasing irritability. Sleep repaired damage, released growth hormones and stimulated the immune system, she said.

“If we don’t sleep, or have good sleep, we increase the risk of chronic diseases, vulnerability to illness, increased risk of mental illness, type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke”.

“We are not improving the lives of the residents and we are worsening the lives of future generations if we allow fracking locally.”

Asked by the inspector about her main concerns, she said these included sleep deprivation and the mental health of children.

8.45pm

Sally Lowe

8.40pm

She told the hearing she had moved to Lancashire to look after elderly parents and to care for her husband who was recovering from cancer.

The fracking application had added stress to an already stressful life.

Her main relaxation was riding. She felt fracking would lead owners to move their horses from the area. She also enjoyed walking on local roads, which could not be shared with large lorries, she said.

Heather Speak

20.32pm

Mrs Speak said she lived in Wharles and had been a parish councillor for 40 years.

“I love my home and especially my garden. The fracking site is some 480m from my home.”

“The fracking application had split the community, ruined friendships and caused stress and depression”.

“Our beautiful parish is under attack. Our homes are under threat.”

She told the inspector: “Our grass verges on Roseacre Road have been deliberately churned up. They have never been like this for 30 years. I would ask that you take notice of the state of Roseacre and parts of Dagger Road”.

There had been a deliberate attempt to make the roads wider,she said.

“I have seen it happen. I have had many complaints. I have had planters on the roadside damaged. Signs against fracking have disappeared after dark. The police are keeping a check.”

Mrs Speak also spoke about intimidation. Manure had been dumped behind her home, trip wire had been put across field gates and cameras put on poles.

“There are many properties less than 500m from the fracking site. We are really worried. We don’t want our lives to change. I have spoken to many residents. I share their fears. I have spoken many times to Cuadrilla. I am very worried.”

“I am not convinced we will be safe, healthy or happy if this massive industry is allowed.”

Mrs Speak said there had been support for the Roseacre Wood application from Old Orchard Farm. This followed a visit from Cuadrilla directors. The topic of the conversation was compensation, she said.

“How do I know this?”, she asked.

“My neighbour wanted me and my husband to be looked after financially but we would have to get rid of our [anti] fracking signs”, she said. “We are no longer friends”.

“We have followed a democratic process”.

Fighting back tears, she said:

“It has affected my health. Our community is suffering.

Health impacts on residents is a material consideration”.

To applause she urged the inspector to dismiss the appeal.

Elaine Smith

20.25pm

Ms Smith said as a tourism professional she was concerned about the impact of fracking on the area’s tourism industry, which was an important part of Lancashire’s economy.

She said 63m visited the north-west each year adding £3.86bn to the local economy and supporting 56,000 jobs. 17-18m people visited the Lancashire coast. Tourism provided 1 in 5 jobs in Blackpool.

“So what does shale gas propose job wise?”, she asked. “The equivalent of 11 full-time jobs on each of the sites. She said:

“Shale gas will not sit alongside tourism .”

It would be folly to put shale gas in rural Fylde, she said. It had been described by the Royal Horticultural Society as “One of the greenest, cleanest, most beautiful areas”.

Would people choose to battle with the HGVs, she asked? It would ruin the factors that would pull people to the area.

She denied that people visiting the coast would be oblivious to fracking. People will see the eyesores on the way to coast and breath the emissions, she said. People may be concerned about the Fylde food and water. And they may just choose to go elsewhere.

“These applications are not sustainable. We request you reject all four applications and refuse all four appeals.”

Asked by the inspector what attracted people to the area, Ms Smith said it was variety, a rural escape, cultural market towns with great history, and wonderful country pubs and restaurants offering local food.

Craig Hughes

8.15pm

“I am a farmer, I am a businessman”, Mr Hughes said. ” I live in a tiny village with a phone box and bus stop. I live half a mile across the fields from Roseacre Wood”.

He said he was the only commercial beekeeper in Lancashire. Bees disliked vibration. The fracking site at Roseacre Wood would probably cause him financial hardship and the bees distress.

“It may be that I will be unable to sell my honey. I help farmers, free of charge, pollinate their crops. My business might be stuffed. I may be blacklisted by people who do not want to take my honey”.

Mr Hughes said his other food businesses might go and the “knock-on could be immense”.

“No one is going to buy  from me and from an industrial landscape.”

“I refute the claims that Cuadrilla makes and their application”.

“I encourage people to come to Lancashire but I can’t do that now, hand on heart”

He asked the inspector to refuse the appeals.

Hayley Smith

7.55pm

Ms Smith said she lives and has a thriving livery stables business in Newton, the village next to Treales.

“Horses have a bigger effect on the economy of the Fylde that you might expect. Nationally it is worth £4.8bn”, she said.

There were more than three other livery business within a short distance. “We rely on this business to make a living”, she said.

Everything we need is available locally, feed,supplements, vets, saddlery, specialist services, she said.

“The biggest problem for me and my customers from this fracking is traffic”.

She said her customers used roads that were part of the proposed traffic route to Roseacre Wood. Traffic can frighten horses and customers, she said. “This will take pleasure from their hobby”.

Changing riding route would not help, she said, because normal traffic would move to other roads to avoid the fracking vehicles. Her business would suffer and the money of establishing the business would be wasted, she said.

“What will we do then for a living?”, she asked to applause from the audience.

Richard Moore

7.50pm

Mr Moore said his family were established farmers in the Fylde. It was an outstanding area for dairy farming, he said, but this would be lost if fracking went ahead because their products would be shunned.

“If people won’t buy our products we are lost. This isn’t fair. We didn’t ask for this.”

He said his farm relied on water from a borehole. He had friends near the Roseacre site who relied on spring water. If it became polluted it would never be clean again.

“This is our area”, he said. There were four people for fracking tonight and 22 opposed, he said. This shows the number against fracking in this area.

“It should be local people making these decisions. It shouldn’t be people in Westminster deciding this. If we don’t want, we shouldn’t have this forced on us.”

“If people are for fracking they either haven’t researched it properly or they have something to gain from it.”

“Even if there is a 1% chance that it will cause cancer that should be a massive no. These people have to stop and think and visit a cancer ward.”

“If people are willing to put money over local people’s health it is an absolute crime.”

To applause from the audience, he said:

“It scares me to death what we could be facing”.

Jacqueline Sylvester

7.45pm

Mrs Sylvester said she had lived in Roseacre since 1968 and brought up her children in the village. The proposed Roseacre Wood site was approximately 300m from her home.

She was most concerned about the effect fracking would have on her health. She has a heart condition and her husband has lung problems. Her grandchildren spent most of the school holidays in Roseacre.

She said her family and friends would all be vulnerable to air and water pollution, noise and light from the fracking site. She was already suffering from stress, anxiety and depression because of the impact of fighting the proposal, she said.

Mrs Sylvester said she and her husband were in their 70s and so the air, light and noise pollution would potentially last for the rest of their lives. This would not be temporary, she said.

She said they had planned to move nearer to a bus route.

“Who would buy our property now?”

If this site goes to full production there will be many more wells in Lancashire, she said

“This has fractured our community, ruined friendships, and turned people against each other”.

Mrs Sylvester said it was unfair of Cuadrilla to compare Elswick with Roseacre because Elswick had not been fracked.

Barbara Richardson

7.35pm

Mrs Richardson said she lived 600m away and directly opposite the proposed Roseacre Wood site. She had retired to live in a peaceful area with stunning views, she said.

The area is not just enjoyed by the residents but by cyclists, walkers and horse riders. She enjoyed seeing the brown hares, skylarks, great crested newts, she said.

“It is a truly wonderful place to live. All I can hear now is birds and an odd tractor”.

Fighting back tears, she said she now faced a huge industrial complex, surrounded by a 4m security fence.

She said she spent a lot of time in her garden but now faced 24 hours of noise and lighting.

If the exploration is successful, the site would go to production, she said. We know this will last many more than 6 years. It will probably be for the rest of my life.

“This was not my dream”.

She said four of the monitoring sites were within 50-150m from her home. The only access to three of them was by the track to her home.

“I can see no need for these monitors”, she said.

Cuadrilla had already installed seven seismic monitors. Why did it need more? She asked the inspector to add conditions on the monitoring scheme. These should include working only on weekdays and not after 5pm. She also said an ecological survey on the monitoring sites was required.

The inspector asked Mrs Richardson about her normal walking route. She said she walked past the proposed site and generally around the area.

Gillian Cookson

Mrs Cookson is a Parish Councillor in Treales and has lived with the village for 18 years.

She said the research she had carried out into the industry had convinced her that shale gas was not safe or sufficiently regulated. She said Cuadrilla was interested only in making money.

Mrs Cookson raised concerns about the 91 monitoring sites within 4km of Roseacre Wood. Cuadrilla had receive planning permission for them but is appealing against a condition on over-wintering wildlife.

To comply with law, the company needed far fewer boreholes than they had permission for, Mrs Cookson said. The rest must be for commercial purposes, she said.

Work had not begun on the monitoring because the exploration had been refused. She argued that they had been approved in contravention of national planning policy.

Lucy Cookson

7.24pm

Teenager Lucy Cookson said she was born and raised in Treales. She said: “I love it here”. Most of her hobbies were based outside, she told the inspector, including running and walking along local lanes.

“I felt very happy, safe living here. But life has changed for us”

People worry about the risk of fracking. We are not just worried about Roseacre, she said.  Mr Egan wants to make the Fylde the biggest gas field in Europe.

She said the area would be “completely doomed”. Who would want to come and live here or come on holiday here? Which supermarket would want to take produce from here? She told the inspector

“You have to get it right or we will all suffer.”

“I have a right to be listened to”

“If you allow this appeal, I will not feel safe to use the lanes for fear of heavy traffic”.

“I may not do as well as I could because of the fear of where will be fracked next?”

Let the shale gas remain in the ground until the technology exists to extract it safely, she said.

“Please listen to me and do the right thing for me and future generations”.

Alf Clempson, for Ben Wallace, Conservative MP for Wyre and Preston North

7.20pm

Mr Clempson apologised that the MP could not attend the session.

The narrow roads were not equipped to cope with the volume and frequency of traffic, he said. Accidents would be more likely. The traffic would have an unacceptable impact onthe rural road network.

Shirley Powney

7.15pm

Ms Powney spoke about offshore gas opportunities. These should be maximised, she said, quoting a House of Lords report. Shale gas would not save the UK from gas shortages, it said.

She said there has been no shortage of natural gas since the application was refused. North Sea production rose in that time and demand was falling.

Climate change commitments required the UK to reduce its use of gas. Offshore wind was increasing its capacity to supply electricity

Half  our imported gas comes from Norway, she said. We do not rely on liquified natural gas. Shale gas would be more expensive than LNG and gas from the North Sea.

“This application does not meet a present proven and sustainable need. This inquiry should uphold the decision to refuse the application.”

Christopher Noad

7.07pm

Mr Noad said he was a retired chartered engineer and former director of various companies in the automotive industry.

He said he had lived in Roseacre for 46 years. He talked about the height of hedges on Dagger Road. He said Cuadrilla’s traffic witness was wrong to say today that the hedges were 1m high. They were, in fact, 1.5-3pm.

The Cuadrilla commentary on traffic was selfish, he said. Each HGV would exceed the centre line at every corner for much of the route to Roseacre Wood after leaving the strategic highway, he said.

Proposed passing places would not allow vehicles to pass at any speed and the would destroy verges and hedges. The route through Wharles village was an unacceptable imposition on other road users.

“It will turn country roads into industrial conduits”.

The Roseacre Wood exploration application was astonishing, he said, given the poor access on rural roads. Shale gas deposits could be accessed by wellsites kilometres away from the deposits so there was no need to drill from Roseacre, he said.

To meet juggernauts on country roads will terrify many road users, he said.

“The proposed passing places will result in catastrophe. We know these roads intimately. We have measured the tarmac widths. The passing in places is either impossible or hazardous.”

We ask you to consider that the Lancashire County Council refusal was the correct decision, he said.

Keith Hulme

7pm

A Roseacre resident, Mr Hulme said:”I share the concerns that have been presented to this inquiry about noise, traffic, pollution, health risk, climate change and tourism.”

But he said “I would like to go beyond this temporary phase”. This appeal only applies to a four well 6-year programme. But the only reason for considering this is for ultimate production, he said.

The environmental statement makes it clear that production permission will be applied for if gas flows are commercially viable, he said

“This is the lid to Pandora’s box and should be judged as such”

“We have been told the effects are temporary, short term and affect a few people. It will only be temporary and short-term if the project fails to deliver”.

He said the present scheme would involve one 6-axle articulated lorry every 10 minutes at peak. If exploration was successful there would be continuous drilling and fracking for 20 years on one well pad.

4,000 well pads  would be required, with 400 new wells each year, he said, to deliver the shale gas available in the region. Perhaps we should double or triple this figure, he said.

“What impact would 4,000 wells have on our health?”, he asked.

“My concerns are real and I believe shared by many people”

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

 

Categories: Regulation

2 replies »

  1. Ruth, thank you for your excellent reporting of this. Huge emotion in the room and rightly so. I am so uplifted to hear heart felt testimonies from the people whom I so respect and love. They are tenacious and selfless to the enth degree, and long may it continue. We are the people.

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