Key issues from Week 2 of the Cuadrilla fracking inquiry

inquiry4As the public inquiry into Cuadrilla’s fracking plans nears its half way stage, DrillOrDrop looks back at the key issues from Week 2, starting with the session for public comments. Inquiry background and links

“We are people not receptors”

Fighting back tears, Heather Speak, a parish councillor in Wharles for 40 years, told the inquiry inspector:

“The fracking application had split the community, ruined friendships and caused stress and depression. It has affected my health. Our community is suffering.”

Cllr Speak was one of 20 opponents of plans to frack at Roseacre Wood who put their case to the inquiry in the first of four public sessions.

Another was 24-year-old Lucy Barnes, brought up and still living in Wharles. She said she remembered the parish as “full of caring people”. But since the applications, “our community has lost its shine”. She said: “People had been working themselves into the ground to oppose the plans”.

She criticised Cuadrilla’s plans and the planning terms used to describe where they might have an impact:

“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”.

Opponents of Cuadrilla’s Roseacre Wood scheme also voiced their concerns about lighting, noise, traffic and the impacts of fracking on tourism and agriculture.

Richard Moore, who comes from a long-line of Fylde farmers, said:

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

Refusal led to redundancies

Supporters of fracking also gave evidence to the inquiry last week. Paul Matich, of the drilling services company, PR Marriott, explained how 36 of his staff had been made redundant when Lancashire County Council turned down Cuadrilla’s planning applications in June last year.

“As a consequence, jobs, income, spending and training of considerable benefit to the local economy has been lost.”

Oil engineer, John Standing, said a shale gas industry could create a “mini Aberdeen effect” in Lancashire, while Paul Hennessey, who works for a company treating fracking waste water, said no other industry offered the same opportunity for expansion.

“This industry will create jobs”

During week 1, the inquiry heard that Cuadrilla estimated 22 jobs would be created by the two sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.

In week 2, Babs Murphy, the chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and a supporter of Cuadrilla’s plans,gave evidence of job creation in the longer term. She said:

“There is a clear reasoned assumption that this industry will create jobs.”

But she acknowledged:

“At this moment in time we have no idea how many but we do believe it will be significant.”

She said there was no evidence that tourism or farming would be affected by a Lancashire shale gas industry. But under questions from Estelle Dehon, the barrister for Friends of the Earth, Ms Murphy said only 3% of chamber members worked in tourism and 1% in farming.

Fracking and landscape

“Minor impact on landscape” or “urbanising effect”?

During Week 2, Cuadrilla argued that shale gas extraction at Preston New Road would have a minor impact on landscape character even though there would be significant visual changes.

Lancashire County Council’s witness, Steve Maslem, told the inquiry the proposed fracking site would have an “urbanising effect” on the landscape and would introduced an “incongruous” element, resulting in “notable reduction in landscape quality”.

What’s the value of the Preston New Road landscape?

Cuadrilla argued that the landscape around Preston New Road had no particularly scenic quality and had no conservation interest or protections. It said the M55 motorway had a “significant impact on tranquillity in the area.

Lancashire County Council argued that the Preston New Road area offered “tranquil elements” and was a buffer to the urban fringe around Blackpool. The council told the inquiry the undulating landscape, lands and fishing ponds were examples of scenic quality that were used by cyclists, walkers and anglers. The area was a good example of Fylde farmland.

Colour of screens and rig

Cuadrilla said if the schemes were approved it would accept a planning condition on the colour of acoustic fencing, designed to reduce noise from the proposed shale gas sites. But it would not accept a condition on the colour of the rig. The inquiry heard Cuadrilla might need to hire a rig and it would be painted in the owner’s colour.

The County Council’s landscape witness, Steve Maslem, said a green rig would blend in to the landscape better than the bright blue used on Cuadrilla’s equipment.

The impact of 24-hour lighting

Cuadrilla argued that lighting at the Preston New Road site would have little impact on landscape character, particularly because car lights on the M55 were “very eye-catching”.

Lancashire County Council’s landscape witness said lighting should have been taken into account in assessing the impact of the site. The area around Preston New Road was substantially dark at night, the council said.

Rig height – will 17 metres make a difference?

Cuadrilla argued that a 53m drilling rig would have no greater impact on the landscape than a 36m one.

Lancashire County Council argued that the difference would be of “medium magnitude” and if the schemes were approved the rig heights should be restricted to 36m.

“Tree planting won’t reduce impact”

Cuadrilla proposes to plant whips (very young trees) around the sites to lessen the impact on the landscape. Lancashire County Council says this would do little to camouflage the site and the use of mature trees would make the site look “even more incongruous”.

Fracking’s rural impacts are “inevitable and unavoidable”

Cuadrilla’s barrister, Nathalie Lieven, told the inquiry that hydraulic fracturing in the UK would inevitably be in rural areas. It was impossible to hide a 36m rig behind a fences, she said, so impact on the landscape was “inevitable”.

Fracking and traffic

“Traffic no reason to refuse Roseace Wood”

Cuadrilla’s traffic witness, Johnny Ojeil, told the inquiry the impact of traffic on the Roseacre Wood site did not justify refusal of the scheme. The increase in HGVs would not lead to road safety problems. Opponents said the level of traffic would have an unacceptable impact on roads and highway safety.

Inskip lorry route “too expensive” for six years of project

Cuadrilla confirmed it would not use a route to Roseace Wood through the Inskip defence site for the whole of the proposed project because it was too expensive.

Nathalie Lieven told the inquiry the cost of the route, which avoided Wharles, was not justified during the extended well test phase because lorry traffic to and from the site would be low.

She would not reveal the cost because it was “commercially confidential”. The inquiry heard that Cuadrilla was no longer proposing to install passing places in Wharles.

“Unsuitable road”

Lancashire County Council argued that part of the HGV route to Roseacre Wood along Dagger Road was unsuitable because it measured only 4.3m-5.1m wide in places. Cuadrilla said this could be mitigated by creating passing places and because visibility on the road was good.

Clifton-with-Newton Parish Council said the Roseacrew Wood HGV route wasn’t “practicable” because it was not the most direct or shortest route and it did not connect the site with the strategic road network.

“1 HGV every 10 minutes”

The inquiry heard that the number of HGV movements would increase on one section of road near Roseacre Wood from two a day to up to 50 a day. A public witness said this would amount to one lorry every 10 minutes. Cuadrilla said the peak would happen on 12 weeks throughout the six years of the project.

Alternative route dropped

Cuadrilla confirmed it had abandoned plans to use a route to Roseacre Wood through Broughton.

More public sessions

The inquiry has added another session for public comments. Future public sessions at the inquiry are now on:

25th February, 6.30pm-9.30pm, Preston New Road

8th March, 5.30pm-9.30pm, Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road

10th March, 9.3oam-5.30pm, Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road

Background to the inquiry

Live updates from Weeks 1 and 2

Key issues from week 1

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

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