Live news as it happens at the eighth day of the inquiry at Blackpool Football Club into Cuadrilla’s fracking plans for the Fylde area of Lancashire. Check our Inquiry page for more information, posts and links.
The inquiry is examining Cuadrilla’s plans to drill and frack at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. Today Lancashire County Council begins to present its case against the schemes on landscape grounds. The council refused permission for Preston New Road on landscape grounds. The council’s witness, landscape architect Steve Maslem, is giving evidence and will answer questions from Cuadrilla’s barrister, Nathalie Lieven.
Inquiry adjourns for the week
The inquiry adjourns until 9.30am on Tuesday 23rd February 2016.
Questions from the inspector
The inquiry inspector, Wendy McKay, put questions to Lancashire County Council’s landscape witness, Steve Maslem.
She asked him whether the impact of the rig could be reduced by painting it a different colour. Mr Maslem said the rig would be less obvious if it was painted green, rather than bright blue, which drew the eye and was not a colour that sat easily within the palate of the landscape. A different colour would make “it a little less prominent”,he said.
Ms McKay asked about the usefulness of planting whips (young trees) round the site. Mr Maslem said he was not convinced about the value of whips. They would do little to camouflage the site and it was “rather sad” for the trees, which would be removed at the end of the project. Putting mature trees in would make the site even more incongruous, he said.
Ms McKay also asked Mr Maslem about the number of residents who would be affected. He said there was a reasonable number there and this should be part of the planning balance. How visible the site was and how the residents used the landscape should also be considered.
Council re-examination on landscape issues
Lancashire County Council’s barrister, Alan Evans, re-examines the evidence of the council’s landscape witness, Steve Maslam.
Mr Evans returns to discuss the value of landscape at Preston New Road. Mr Maslem said the landscape had a medium value. “It is clearly distinguishable from the Blackpool urban fringe.” He added that there was little difference in the value the council and Cuadrilla put on the landscape.
Mr Evans said European guidance recommends protection of ordinary landscapes, as opposed to special or protection. Mr Maslem said he would recommend the guidance to the inquiry.
Mr Evans also returned to Mr Maslem’s evidence that the significant impacts of the Preston New Road fracking site would be within a 1km radius. Mr Maslem said the nearest pylon, described by Nathalie Lieven for Cuadrilla as a detracting feature, was more than 1km from the site.
Mr Maslem gave more details of the scenic qualities of the landscape near Preston New Road. These included nearby lanes, an overview to Blackpool, fishing ponds, rolling fields and the good and tidy condition of the landscape.
Mr Evans asked how representative the Preston New Road site was of the wider Fylde farmland. Mr Maslem said it was a good example of that character type.
Mr Maslem said the fact that there wasn’t a network of footpaths meant that residents and visitors would use the lanes around the Preston New Road site and the lanes becamse, in effect, footpaths. Mr Maslem he had observed cyclists on the lanes, anglers using the fishing ponds and people visiting the caravan site.
Cuadrilla’s landscape witness had argued earlier in the inquiry there was no tranquillity at Preston New Road.
Mr Maslem, for the county council, said: “It is not an entirely tranquil area but that needs to be qualified by when you are in that landscape, especially in the evening, it is not dominated motorway or the Preston New Road. There are elements of tranquillity in it.”
Mr Evans asked whether Mr Maslem agreed with the assessments made by Cuadrilla that there were some major adverse visual impacts. Mr Maslem had previously said he had identified some moderate adverse impacts.
Mr Evans asked if these impacts were “material” in planning terms. Mr Maslem said they were and he said they went beyond the 1km radius of the site.
Assessments on views from houses
Mr Maslem said it would have been useful to have done an assessment from inside homes. He added that there was nothing in Cuadrilla’s environmental statement to help the inspector decide the effect of the Preston New Road scheme would have on the visual amenity of neighbouring properties.
Monitoring array work programme
Mr Evans asked if there was any evidence showing how Cuadrilla would achieve its estimated four days to install individual monitoring stations. Mr Maslem said he had not seen any evidence to support this.
Lancashire county council advice
Nathalie Lieven said Lancashire County Council officers had not recommended refusal of the applications on landscape grounds. She also said the planning committee had also not refused the Roseacre Wood applications on the grounds that they would industrialise the countryside.
Ms Lieven asked: “If the Roseacre Wood monitoring application would not industrialise the countryside then the same works at Preston New Road could not, rationally, have that effect.”
Mr Maslem said: “I don’t know whether there was a landscape difference that affected the decision.”
Rig height at Roseacre Wood
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, asked Steve Maslem, the council’s landscape witness, about his argument that the 56m rig would have a greater impact than a 36m one. He had said there should be condition limiting the drilling rig to 36m.
She asked him where there would be a material impact on reducing the height of the rig. Mr Maslem said there may be other locations than the viewpoints in the study where there would be an impact.
Monitoring at Preston New Road
Nathalie Lieven, Cuadrilla’s barrister, asked Steve Maslem for Lancashire County Council about his evidence about the length of work needed to construct the 80 monitoring wells. Mr Maslem had predicted two weeks per well and argued that the impact would be during construction, rather than operation. Cuadrilla estimated four days.
Ms Lieven asked: Have you been involved in the construction
Mr Maslem: No
Ms Lieven: Are you an engineer?
Ms Maslem: No but I have relied on the expertise of a very experienced hydrologist
Ms Lieven: I have not seen the source of this information or the information itself.
Mr Maslem: No you haven’t
Ms Lieven: My client has already installed a 160 of these monitoring units in relation to the Becconsall and Anna’s Road sites
Mr Maslem: I am not aware of where they have done it. I have seen no evidence that Cuadrilla can do it in
Ms Lieven: Your clients know perfectly well that 160 of these units and there has not been the slightest suggestion that they have taken more than four days. You have no evidence to refute the factual history. Lancashire know perfectly well it took four days per unit. You have no evidence to suggest otherwise and you haven’t asked.
Mr Maslem: If the sites are exactly the same then fine.
Ms Lieven said the duration of the construction was material to the impact. She said Cuadrilla’s estimate of 80 days to construct the monitoring scheme it would be short-term and not amount to an urbanising effect. Mr Maslem agreed if each scheme took four days to install.
Inquiry breaks for lunch
The inquiry resumes at 1.35pm
53m v 36m drilling rig
Steve Maslem for Lancashire County Council, had proposed a planning condition restricting the drill rig height to 36m, if the fracking scheme at Preston New Road was approved
Mr Maslem said a lower rig height would reduce by 24% the area from which it would have impact.
Ms Lieven said most of the 24% would be beyond 1km from the site. This was the distance which Mr Maslem had identified would be adversely affected by the site. Ms Lieven said there had to be a material difference to justify a a planning condition. She added:
“In areas where there is no material impact from a 53m rig all you are going to do is lessen the impact by a 36m rig. As a reason for refusal it gives you nothing because it reduces from non-material to non-material.”
Mr Maslem agreed.
Ms Lieven asked him at which viewpoint would the change from 56m to 36m be beneficial. Mr Maslem said the lower rig provided some benefit in making it less prominent. At 56m it overbearing.
Effect of lighting on landscape
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, asked Steve Maslem for the council “I don’t find in your proof, where the lighting will make a material difference. You haven’t done that exercise.”
Mr Maslem’s answer is interrupted by a ceiling tile slipping out of place. He said the lighting assessment was part of the overall review of the impact of the site.
Ms Lieven said other features in the area that were lit also needed to be considered. She sid these included the A583, lit along its length, headlights on cars from the M55. This was “very eye-catching”, she said. Mr Maslem disagreed. Ms Lieven said there were also tall buildings in Blackpool that were lit at night, including the Tower.
If you were in the more rural part of the area, when you look back to the site, you will see it against the lights of Blackpool, Ms Lieven said. Mr Maslem said the view at night was substantially dark.
“Fracking will inevitably be in rural areas”
Ms Lieven turned to height of the proposed rig. She said rigs were necessary for minerals extraction and it was inevitable that in the UK hydraulic fracturing would be in rural areas.Mr Maslem agreed but he said the US had fracked in urban areas.
Ms Lieven said a 36m drilling rig is going to be uncharacteristic and visible to the surroundings in any rural area. Mr Maslem agreed.
Mr Maslem said Cuadrilla had not eliminated the landscape harm. Ms Lieven put it to him if you have to have a drilling rig of 36m it would not be possible to hide behind a fence. He agreed with the conclusion of the council’s landscape officer that impact would be unavoidable because of the nature of proposal.
Limits on impacts
Ms Lieven said the lanes around the Preston New Road site were not part of a network of established walking routes. Mr Maslem said he was not aware of walking routes.
She also said the hedges would limit the impact of the views. Mr Maslem said there would be views through or over the hedges.
Nathalie Lieven, Cuadrilla’s barrister, asked Steve Maslem, the council’s landscape witness, about dominant features around Preston New Road.
She put it to him that the dominant feature was the M55 motorway and buildings on the edge of Blackpool. Mr Maslem agreed.
Ms Lieven said the impact of a feature and the fact that it was visible was not a good enough reason to refuse an application.
Mr Maslem replied “If it is sufficently adverse, yes”
Ms Lieven said “It has to be materially adverse for refusal”.
Mr Maslem agreed.
Change to Preston New Road landscape
Nathalie Lieven, Cuadrilla’s barrister, asked Steve Maslem, Lancashire County Council’s landscape witness, about how big the change would be on the landscape if the Preston New Road fracking site were approved.
Loss of features
Ms Lieve said the only physical loss in the landscape would be a stretch of hedgerow and three trees. Mr Maslem said a large part of a field would also be lost.
She put it to Mr Maslem all aspect of the landscape effects of this development are fully reversible. Mr Maslem said it would be recorded on maps and plans forever. But the physical impacts would be reversible.
Effect of the rigs
Mr Maslem said the significant impacts on the landscape included the drilling rig, flare stack and coiled tubing tower. Ms Lieven said during the extended flow testing phase there would be no rigs on the site. She said the material effects of the rigs would be for two-and-a-half years, which would fall in a classification as short-term.
Short-term or medium-term
Mr Maslem had said the impact would be medium-term. He said the fences, barbed wire and bund would remain in the extended flow testing. That would still be visible and still have an impact on the landscape and visual amenity. He said the impact on the landscape would be for the duration off the project, which is for six years.
Ms Lieven put it to Mr Maslem “If the inspector concluded that the material impacts would be for two-and-a-half years then this should be considered short-term.
Mr Maslem said the impact on visual amenity for the residents would not be short-term. A six-year term would not be insignificant.
Ms Lieven asked the question again. Mr Maslem agreed the change could be considered short-term if the material impacts lasted two-and-a-half years.
Landscape value of Preston New Road
Nathalie Lieven for Cuadrilla asked Mr Maslem about characteristic of the Preston New Road that would be used to assess its landscape value.
She put it to Mr Maslem that there was no “particular scenic quality” to the fields around Preston New Road. Mr Maslem said “I cannot agree with that”.
She asked him if there were any rare features in the landscape. He said there were not.
Ms Lieven asked if there were any particular features that represented the wider landscape. Mr Maslem
This piece of landscape is an entry gateway into Blackpool and I don’t think there is any other entrance to Blackpool
Ms Lieven asked what particular landscape character would you point to that is of particular value.
Mr Maslem replied: “It is representative of a good entry point into the urban area of Blackpool. It is one of the best.”
Ms Lieven said “This site has no conservation interest, has it”. Mr Malsem replied “Not recorded”.
Ms Lieven said there is no recreation value in the appeal site or the fields around it. Mr Maslem agreed. He also agreed the site was not wild or had a network of public rights away near the appeal site.
Mr Maslem had said the area was largely tranquil. But Ms Lieven said it was close to the busy A583. Mr Maslem said the road had an impact on the tranquillity of the area.
Ms Lieven said the motorway was to the north of the site, which had a significant impact on tranquillity. Mr Maslem agreed.
Cuadrilla questions council landscape witness
Nathalie Lieven, QC for Cuadrilla, begins to question Steve Maslem, landscape witness for Lancashire County Council. She asks Mr Maslem about the value of landscape around Preston New Road.
Mr Maslem agreed that the Preston New Road fracking site would have no material impact on any designated landscape or protected areas.
Ms Lieven suggested there were several “detractors” on the character of the landscape around the proposed Preston New Road site. She said these included the A583, which was lit at night, electricity pylons and the M55 motorway.
Mr Maslem said the pylons were in the Blackpool urban fringe area and not a significant part of the landscape character area around the site.
Ms Lieven said there were a significant number of pylons that were visible. You could also see tall buildings in Blackpool, including the tower.
Mr Maslem the Preston New Road was distinctly different from the urban fringe. There were views of the urban fringe out of it but its value was that it was different.
Ms Lieven put it to Mr Maslem that the M55 would detract from the landscape around the site. Mr Maslem replied “In part”.
“Lower rig would reduce impact on Roseacre Wood landscape”
Steve Maslem, Lancashire County Council’s landscape witness, said the maximum height of the drilling rig at Roseacre Wood should be reduced from 53m to 36m if the plan were approved.
Cuadrilla’s landscape witness had argued earlier in the inquiry that a 53m rig would have no more impact on the area than a 36m rig. But Mr Maslem said the reduced height would be obvious and it would result in a significant improvement for people living locally or using local roads and footpaths.
Mr Maslem disagreed with the analysis by Arup for Cuadrilla which had compared the impacts of the rigs with an empty site. He said “I think it is better to start with impact of the 53 rig and see if there was any benefit in reducing it and I think there is”.
A planning condition should be used to reduce the maximum height of the rig to 36m, should the scheme be approved, he said. Reducing the rig to 36m was achievable and amounted to a sensitive working practice that would reduce harm to local people, required by local planning policy.
“Building monitoring stations would have significant landscape impacts”
Lancashire County Council refused permission for the installation of 80 seismic monitoring stations around Preston New Road. It was concerned that the stations would result in an urbanisation of the countryside.
Steve Maslem, Lancashire County Council’s landscape witnesses, said he had looked at their impact on the landscape during installation. He estimated each station would take two weeks to install, including removal of vegetation, soil stripping and temporary access routes. The overall construction phase for the monitoring was likely to last five months.
Mr Maslem described the tasks involved in construction each monitoring site.
The construction site would be 20m by 20m in size, he said. They would be surrounded by security fencing and include a staff welfare unit, which would have to arrive on a lorry. He said the delivery and fencing was likely to take a day.
A drilling rig and tubing would have to be delivered. Drilling at each site was expected to last three days.
After drilling, there would be concrete collar at the top of the bore. Concrete takes a day to go off before fabricating on top of it, Mr Maslem. Another day would be needed to install the monitoring equiopment and the inspection chamber. This would be followed by demoblisation and installation of 2m by 2m fencing around the station.
In fair conditions the work could be done in eight days but the conditions that were likely would push it up to 12, particularly with contingencies for wet soil conditions, Mr Maslem said.
He said it was very realistic that the operator would find very wet conditions. The area is called the mosses because it is wet, he said. The marl pits are full of water. There is supporting evidence in Cuadrilla’s environmental statement on this about how sensitive the local soils are to damage.
Mr Maslem said there was no construction programme for the monitoring stations so it was not possible to assess their impact on the landscape. He said construction could have significant local impacts on landscape and impacts on visual amenity.
These are not usual activities in the rural landscape, he said. They were not part of the existing landscape and would be easily noticed. The colour of the cabins might be very important.
Post-construction landscape impact “negligible”
After construction there would be negligible impact on the landscape and visual amenity. But Mr Maslem said Cuadrilla had not shown how it would protect the local landscape.
“Drilling rig should be reduced to 36m – if approved”
Cuadrilla’s witness had argued earlier in the inquiry that it would make no different to the landscape impact if the Preston New Road rig were reduced in height from 53m to 36m.
Steve Maslem, Lancashire County Council’s landscape witness, told the inquiry the difference would be readily noticeable. The difference was considered to be of “medium magnitude”.
He said if the application were approved there should be a condition limiting the height of the rig to 36m.
Mr Maslem said local planning policy DM2 required harmful impacts of a development to be eliminated or reduced. Policy CS5 required operators to work to high standards, using sensitive working practices.
Criticism of Cuadrilla landscape assessment
Alan Evans, the barrister for Lancashire County Council, tells the inquiry about the landscape assessment carried out by Arup, acting for Cuadrilla. Mr Evans said this had concluded that the drilling and fracking stages of the Preston New Road proposal would have no impact on landscape.
Steve Maslem, the landscape witness for Lancashire County Council, said Arup had not compared impacts against what was at the site now. Instead it had looked at changes between each stage of the proposed development, Mr Maslem said.
Mr Maslem said Arup had produced an overall impact of the fracking site on all the residents. But he said it would have been a lot clearer if a separate judgement had been done for each resident.
He said open views from nearby houses would be adversely affected by the proposed fracking site. These ranged from moderate to substantial and significant.
He said lanes around the site were used by cyclists and walkers and were also sensitive to impacts from the site.
Cuadrilla’s witness told the inquiry he did not take lighting into account on landscape. Mr Maslem said he couldn’t find a reference in the company’s environmental statement about the effect of lighting on visual amenity.
Mr Maslem said site lighting could affect the landscape character of the area and should be taken into account. He said night-time light would adversely affect local residents. It would change their views in the evening and through the night.
Mr Maslem said photo-montages produced by Arup risked flattening the effect of vertical features. He said he had prepared alternatives using best practice. He said these gave a truer representation of the scale and height of the development in the landscape.
Duration of the development
Mr Maslem said the proposed six years of the project should be considered to be medium length, not short-term as argfued by Cuadrilla.
Preston New Road would have urbanising effect – landscape witness
Lancashire County Council refused permission for the Preston New Road shale gas site in June 2015 partly on landscape grounds.
Steve Maslem, a witness for the council, told the inquiry he had done an appraisal of the landscape up to 3km of the site.
He concluded that the shale gas site at Preston New Road would have an impact on the landscape up to 1km away. By introducing strong vertical features it would be an “incongruous element” in the landscape.
He said the area around Preston New Road was an undulating agricultural landscape, that was tranquil, and represented a valued and welcome buffer from the urban fringe of Blackpool and Kirkham.
He said the fracking site would be out of scale with the character of the surroundings and would have a moderate-major landscape effect.
Mr Maslem concluded the Preston New Road site would be locally dominant and would have a “notable reduction of landscape quality”. He said the adverse impact on landscape and visual amenity would be significant that could be described as urbanising.
Under the Fylde Local Plan, developments should not result in landscape harm. The proposed fracking site was not in keeping with local landscape and so was in conflict with policy E11 of the plan, he said.
Lancashire County Council evidence begins
Alan Evans, the barrister for Lancashire County Council, begins presenting the council’s case. The council’s witness, Steve Maslem, a consultant landscape architect, takes the stand. Mr Maslem’s company has been engaged by Frack Free Ryedale on the group’s case against plans by Third Energy to frack at well at Kirby Misperton.
Nathalie Lieven, barrister for Cuadrilla, tells the inquiry improvements are being made to the sound quality on the webcast.