25 opponents of the Preston New Road scheme gave evidence to the evening session on Day 10 of the inquiry. This is what they had to say:
The hearings resume at 9.30am tomorrow (Friday 26th February 2016)
The final speaker, Meg Green, explained that she runs wildlife projects on the nearby Ribble Estuary, an internationally-important site.
She said the estuary had commercial shellfish grounds and nursery areas for fish, which were vulnerable to changes in water quality. The area also hosted red-listed (vulnerable) birds, as well as otters on the river and leatherback turtles out to sea.
She said she was concerned about the impacts of fracking on the environment but had not been able to get answers. She wanted to know how the waste would be treated and how it would be returned to the environment.
“Here on the Fylde, fracking is too close to the estuary”, she said. “Any contamination would be life changing for many species, including us”.
“The natural world is changing and we are totally dependent on it. It provides our water food and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”
13-year-old Morgan told the inquiry that the application made him fear for his health and his local community.
He said the planning decision meeting at County Hall had been like a white-knuckle ride. He said he would never forget Cllr Paul Hayhurst standing up for what he believed it.
Morgan said people referred to at the planning meeting were his friends and neighbours. The public health officer had not been able to give a clear answer about the health impacts of fracking.
“I think that is why they call us receptors. We are real people who matter. We are just as important as anyone else. Calling us receptors does’t change that.”
Morgan said he was a musician. He didn’t want to have fracking in his head. He wanted to spend time on practice and with his friends.
The six-year application may be classed as temporary, he said, but it marked the rest of his childhood.
To cheers and a standing ovation, Morgan said:
“I want to add my voice to why Cuadrilla’s plans should be refused”.
Mr Marshall said he wanted to offer extra planning reasons why the Preston New Road application should be refused.
He said gas from the site would not meet a national need, as required under national planning policy. He said North Sea production had risen and gas consumption needed to fall to meet climate change targets.
He said fracked shale gas was the most expensive form of gas to extract. “it can never compete with conventional offshore gas, whatever the need”, he said.
“A shale gas industry would become an economic burden. Cuadrilla has not proved the applications are needed nor that it was sustainable development.”
Ms Marshall, a psychotherapist specialising in post traumatic stress, said she lived within five miles of Preston New Road. She said she hoped the inquiry would end the “enormous suffering” of the community.
She said any experiences that triggered a strong fear response could lead to trauma. it was not surprising, she said, that residents were feeling stressed, fatigued and depressed and needed medication.
Many members of the community were traumatised, she said. The protracted process had made this worse. During 2014, people put lives on hold, preparing for the January 2015 planning meeting, only for it to be postponed at Cuadrllla’s request at the last minute
Resources had been pushed to the limit in June 2015, she said. The community continued in “perpetual uncertainty”.
“To add insult and injury, our government has raised the stakes even higher”.
Local governance and due process appeared to be null and void. The government had behaved like a bully and thrown out democracy, she said.
“They are threatening the remove the cornerstone of our society. It will not just be Preston New Road that will be fracked, they will fracture the bedrock that democratic society is built on.”
Mrs Marshall said:
“This community will continue to oppose. We have literally nothing to lose.”
Ms Shannon said she lived with her family 800 m from the site on Moss House Lane. Her life was under attack, she said.
She said it was not right that representatives of the industry had come into homes, clubs and schools handing out “free money”. It also wasn’t right that neighbours had had their lives turned upside down, spending all their time fighting the applications.
“It isn’t right that councillors were emailed by central government urging them to accept the application. It isn’t right that Whitehall will have the final say on the appeal”, she said.
“This application would not be considered in Australia because they have 2 km buffers between sites and homes. Do we deserve less protection?”
Ms Shannon added that it wasn’t right that Cuadrilla had got more exploration licences after it had failed tell the government about problems with its fracking at Preese Hall.
She said it wasn’t right that her children’s teacher wasn’t allowed to talk about fracking. It wasn’t fair that she had to take her children out of the school and start again somewhere new.
“If the appeal is successful we will be living in constant fear. The planning process should not allow an industrial process of this toxic nature so close to our homes and schools.”
Ms Stevens said the area around Preston New Road was tranquil. There were pylons, she said, but that doesn’t make it right to add more.
“I don’t subscribe to the statement that fracking will have to take place in a rural location at sometime. Those fields at Preston New Road are a buffer to the ever increasing growth of Blackpool.”
To expect people to put up with six years of drilling was wrong, she said. There should be complete transparency of the whole process. “We are told we have to trust the regulators on waste treatment. We don’t. We are also questioning if these bodies have the capacity to cope with magnitude of this industry.”
Ms Stevens added: “I believe the government is trying to fast-track fracking using regulation that was design for the conventional industry and sacrificing Lancashire in the process.”
“It is a long way off being accepted anywhere. We simply don’t want it. Nor do we believe the industry is viable ,sustainable and safe for our health.”
“We expected our county council to protect us and they have. I would expect you, Madam, to turn these applications down.”
Mr Mills said his property at Little PLumpton had been valued at £5.5m before Cuadrilla arrived in Lancashire.
In May 2012, he said, Cuadrilla trespassed on his garden and settled only after the threat of court action. They had planned to detonate explosives for seismic testing near a gas main.
They later detonated in a field instead. Mr Mills said his house shook violently.
“Cuadrilla claimed the explosions were very mild but my PA ran out of the office saying: is it safe, is it safe?”
“Since then I have been mired in a legal case with Cuadrilla over the damage to my property.”
He said the damage included a cracked floor but Cuadrilla had treated his family appallingly.
Francis Egan had never contacted him about it. He said he had been I have been “proactively ignored” by Chris Smith, of the Shale Gas Task Force, David Cameron, and the local MP.
“They don’t want to hear from people who don’t want this process.”
“I haven’t met anyone who does want it, apart from people who think they may benefit.”
Cuadrilla’s arrival had been expensive, stressful and ruinous to relationships, he said. If fracking is approved, he would move away and take his employees with him.
Mr Mills said: “The only ray of light is that my insurer has accepted the damage, and will fight my claim against Cuadrilla for me, including for the loss of value in my house. I hope I can set a very useful and expensive precedent.”
To cheers from the audience, he said:
“We don’t want fracking at Preston New Road, in the Fylde or in Lancashire”
He said the inquiry had not discussed vibration, which could be directly linked to drilling. With fracking there would be a variety of vehicles and industrial machinery on the site and using local roads.
Home owners may have to obtain a structural survey of their property before drilling took place, he said in case they wanted to claim for any damage caused by operations on the site.
4,000 new properties were already agreed within a few miles of Preston New Road so it was not a suitable location for fracking, he said.
Continuous vibration could cause stress, leading to problems of sleep. Many residents, who were elderly or disabled, could find themselves confined to their homes. They could be affected by vibration 24-hours a day for months on end. This needs to be investigated.
Minimum distances should be set between fracking sites and homes,Mr Hopwood said. Once the door has been opened to fracking at Preston New Road, more sites would follow.
Mr Hopwood said a US university had launched an android mobile phone app, My Shake, which would allow people to carry out their own seismic monitor. It was not meant to replace technology but it would relay seismic events back to the university, he said.
Mr Hobson said he worked as a management consultant and lived in Lytham.
He told the hearing:
We know from the Environmental Statements submitted by ARUP for Cuadrilla that the likely total direct jobs per development site is 7 Full Time Equivalent Employment, and the total direct, indirect and induced employment will equate to just 11 for each site. Another 4 temporary Full Time Equivalents may be created by the associated monitoring processes.
The North West Chamber of Commerce have submitted a large volume of evidence about Aberdeen, but the creation of 26 new jobs across two sites, a large number of which are, according to the Arup Statement for cleaners and security guards, is hardly going to transform the Fylde into a new Aberdeen.
He said full-time employment in a shale gas industry would be around 2,250 on average over 16 years or 3,600 for the 5 peak years. So, he said, it was a gross exaggeration to suggest that a 100 well pad UK-wide industry could have a significant impact, in terms of direct employment, on the local economies which we fear may be forced to host it against their wishes.
He estimated shale gas would equate to 0.02% of UK employment. He said: “the claim that shale gas is going to have a significant employment impact on either a local or a national scale, at either a development or a production phase can simply not be substantiated”.
Ms Henshaw is a local resident who is also a retired magistrate. She said Lytham St Anne’s had been voted one of the best places to live in England.
She said she would not wish to live in the “middle of an enormous ugly birthday cake” with annoying candles that would not blow out. She said small country roads would be dominated by tankers delivering to the site.
She recited the words to the hymn Jerusalem. “For future generations, for tourism and agriculture”, she said, breaking into song, “save our green and pleasant land”.
Miss Ansell was speaking on behalf of Danielle Trachillis, a cafe owner who could not attend because she was ill. Miss Answell said she was concerned that customers to the cafe, Ma Bakers, may decide to avoid the business because of the noise from Preston New Road.
Business owners had not been adequately considered, she said. The Preston New Road scheme should not be imposed on the Fylde when it had already voted against it, she said.
Ms Stephenson said this had been a very difficult two years for the community.
She described an incident when she and her children had been trapped in her car by a vehicle driven by a Cuadrilla security guard. She said he had photographed them and then followed them for several miles down the motorway, continuing to photograph. Her daughter remembers the car number plate of the security guard, she said. She asked Francis Egan, attending the hearing, what had happened to the photographs.
Ms Stephenson said she had resigned as a school governor at Weeton school, the nearest school to Preston New Road, when the governing body had been told not to discuss fracking. She also withdrew her children from the school.
She said their local councils had democratically voted against the applications. Then government announced the appeal would be decided by Greg Clark, the secretary of state. What message does this give to communities?, she asked.
“This is a very dangerous signal. What option do law abiding people have when the government has already decided?”
“If this is not an abuse of human rights I don’t know what is”.
To cheers from the audience she said “I strongly recommend you to refuse these appeals”.
Ms Bird lives on Moss House Lane, overlooking the Preston New Road site. Why should we be used as guinea pigs?, she asked. Our lives should not be disregarded, she said.
The first two years of her son’s life have had “a dark cloud” hanging over it.
“The Environment Agency have told me that Cuadrilla will be responsible for ensuring that water leaving the site will be clean when it enters the Carr Brook, which runs past my house. I am sure I am not the only person in this room to doubt whether they can trust them.”
Ms Bird said:
“We don’t have enough spare cash to just leave and start again. I can’t even get a straightforward valuation on the property. I’ve been told to put it on the market and take the best offer I get. Who would want to buy a smallholding overlooking a fracking site.”
She said: “I have no idea how we will manage with a two year old and our jobs with the constant noise. This is not something we have ever wanted. We’ve not been given any good reasons why we should accept it.”
Ms Ansell lives just over a mile from the Preston New Road site, where she runs a child-minding business. She said she was concerned about the risk to her business if the scheme went ahead.
She said she wanted to know what Cuadrilla would do to guarantee the children would not be risk. She said she could do nothing to stop the potential pollution from the M55 motorway but she did not want another source of pollution.
The drilling rig would dominate the south western skyline from her house, she said. She acknowledged she could also see Blackpool Tower and the pleasure beach structures but they were further away and were part of the area’s history. The rig would damage tourism
Cuadrilla is not up to the job, she said, referring to earthquakes caused by fracking at Preese Hall. The dangers from fracking in a populated area were too big to risk. The danger to the local population had not been sufficiently taken into account.
“It should not be imposed on us in the Fylde when we have voted against it at local and county level.”
“The Fylde coast is beautiful. If these two sites are allowed to go ahead, it will be an inevitable precedent for further sites and lead to the industrialisation of the area”.
Mr Holliday spoke about the Preston New Road monitoring scheme. He said each monitoring site was the size of eight houses. The whole scheme took up the space needed by 2,188 houses. 80 of these monitoring sites were for operational purposes, not to protect the local environment and people, he said.
The seismic monitors would help Cuadrilla decide whether to continue fracking, Mr Holliday said. He referred to academic criticism that the traffic light system was too senstive. There was a risk of false positives. How soon would it be before they are ignored? he asked.
He said he thought damage to wells at depth was the greatest risk from fracking. Deviated wells were more vulnerable. Leaks were aggravated by high pressure fracking.
The traffic light system was good PR, he said, to make regulation look good.
Cuadrilla said there were no cumulative effects from disturbing the area of 2,188 houses, Mr Holliday said.
“The question remains can Cuadrilla be relied on to monitor and report problems? I have reservations about the company’s competency.”
Mr Pemberton, a fourth generation dairy farmer, said his cattle drank from ponds and streams about 3 miles from the Preston New Road site. He said any contamination could spread throughout the area.
Downstream of the fracking sites were Sites of Special Scientific Interest. If they became contaminated that would put a lot at risk, he said.
“Our landscape is flat, it floods, contamination can go anywhere”, he said. We can’t change our landscape. If the geese went on to a contaminated areas they could spread it across the area.
“We are very densely populated. The area had been flooded this year and it will be flooded again. It will spread pollution across a huge area.”
“One well could affect thousands of acres. It could really make a difference to us all. This is a risk we don’t need to take.”
To applause from the audience, he said Cuadrilla had not shown all the waterways in the area on its plans.
Cllr Chris Henig
Cllr Henig is a county councillor for Lancaster, who served on the development control committee that turned down the Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood fracking applications. She said she voted against all four applications.
Speaking personally about the planning process, she said she had been struck by several issues. Supporters stressed the benefits long-term but they said opponents should not consider the long-term risks. This is illogical, she said.
She said she had read subjective conclusions in the planning officers’ report to the committee on public health, ecology, air pollution, tourism and farming. Legitimate concerns were disregarded by the use of the word temporary, she said.
She also said she was concerned about the lack of guarantees given by Cuadrilla about the long-term effects on the area. Regulators had suffered cuts in capacity. This remains a concern, she said.
She said she had seen documents prepared for the inquiry and had been shocked about the statements of common ground.
“Cuadrilla assumed areas that had not been used as reason for refusal as an area of agreement with the council”.
Initial documents on conditions were also shocking, she said. Cuadrilla ought to be required to take out insurance, she said.
Cllr Henig added that anti-fracking campaigners had not put pressure on councillors, as had been suggested. “We had Christmas cards from Cuadrilla and the company wrote to say it was opening a local office”, she said.
“That LCC should have to pay costs to defend a democratic process is in my opinion immoral. It made its decision as a democratically-elected body and it should bot be punished.
“There was no predetermination. We did our best. We listened to the evidence and voted on our judgement.”
“Councillors and council tax payers should not be penalised for this.”
Ms Cannon said she was concerned about below ground activities of the application. She said the end result of the application would be anything but temporary or short-term.
The operations will leave an underground footprint she said, that would influence planning decisions and landuse in the future. Steel corrodes, concrete cracks and the wells had the potential to pollute soil, air and water.
The government supports shale gas and repeatedly states we have gold standard regulation, she said. The industry is new and the only well to be fracked was at Preese Hall four miles away from Preston New Road. It has been abandoned but is it being monitored?, she asked
The traffic light system on seismicity, which came after the Preese Hall earthquake, is untried, she said.
Councillors had already suggested they had a lack of confidence in the regulatory system.
Living near Cuadrilla’s Grange Hill site, she said she could hear the drilling noise and feel the vibration.
“We have lived through the uncertainty about the site. We already have legacy of three abandoned wells.”
But the Preston New Road site would be was a much bigger scheme. She asked the inspector to dismiss the appeals and register the lack of confidence of the community in the regulatory system.
Mr Watson said: “I live at the nearest house, approximately 300m from the proposed fracking site at Preston New Road. I have three young children.”
He said people had used “semantic acrobatics” at the inquiry.
“What seems to have been forgotten is the nearby community that would have to put this up with this fracking.”
Noise will disrupt daytime and night time sleep and activities. His children aged five and 11 have bedrooms on the front of the house opposite the drilling site.
“I have a deteriorating chronic condition as have five of my elderly neighbours and we need to have naps during the day. We wouldn’t be able to do that if fracking is going on 350 m away.”
We have to avoid stress, he said. The current situation is stressful but exploration and production would be enormous stress, 24-hours a day, seven days a week for years.
A family with an autistic child living nearby would have to move away if fracking went ahead, he said. He also questioned what would happen to catteries and kennels in the area.
If the operation went ahead it would change the landscape he had loved. “It will destroy our rural way of life. It will have been forced on us.”
“Night time light will mean I will not be able to count the stars with my little boy John.”
Increased traffic would lead to more accidents – there had been six in the past twelve months already. Crossing Preston New Road would be even more dangerous.
He said spillages of toxic waste from lorries and air pollution would be constant concern.
“When the smell gets too much we will have to keep our children indoors. We will not be drinking tap water. That fear is there. Your children are your first priority.”
Some of us have already experienced damage to our property, he said.
“It took me 12 months to get anywhere [with Cuadrilla’s local representative]. I only got somewhere when I threatened to go to the press.”
“My daughter asked about the birds in the fields. I don’t think they will come if there is fracking.”
“The regulatory system only heightens our anxiety. Goodness know who will be accountable in the future.”
“If it goes ahead, our human rights will have been trampled on. We would need to move with a cost reduction of 25%. That represents a loss on my house of about £500,000.”
“The precautionary principle should prevail.”
Dr Frank Rugman
Dr Rugman said he was speaking as a local resident, living 1.5 miles from the Preston New Road site.
He said the Fylde had four times the population of rural Pennsylvania. 200,000 people live within 10 miles of Preston New Road.
People living near fracking sites in the US had experienced health symptoms, including skin rashes. Other health problems could take longer to emerge, including heart disease. In the US, people who had suffered health problems had been legally gagged.
Dr Rugman said emissions from lorries and on-site compressor could contribute to impaired lung development, cardiovascular and other diseases. Drilling noise at night could increase stress and sleep impairment. People who slept under 7 hours a day had an increased risk of stroke. The elderly were most at risk. Each house at Foxwood Chase, near the site, had a retired person.
The Public Health England report evidence that fracking was safe was out of date and “a leap of faith”, he said. There was ongoing and accumulating evidence of the harms of fracking.
“The arguments against fracking are overwhelming. The impacts in the UK will be magnified because it will be carried out nearer to where people lived.”
Mr Sutcliffe said there were issues about fracking including health impacts, light, air and noise pollution and traffic accidents.
Unintended consequences can lead to irreversible changes to ecosystems, he said.
Local property prices had been cut and vendors had lost sales. People were concerned about potential subsidence.
His parents had suffered from stress and had aged considerably over the past two years.
“I love the Fylde, I love the coast and the town of Lytham. Both my grandparents lived and worked here and I enjoyed playing on the beach. If fracking comes it will deny these pleasures to future generations.
“Will visitors chose not to come when faced by fracking fields and heavy traffic on their way to the coast.”
Mr Sutcliffe added: “Please for the sake of all those whose lives will be shattered turn down this appeal.”
Mrs Sutcliffe told the inquiry:
“As a local resident, I am afraid of large-scale fracking coming to the Fylde. This is not irrational. Cuadrilla had talked about 100 wellpads. 90 monitoring stations to support one wellpad shows I am right.”
What residents need is guaranteed independent monitoring covering air, water and soil qualities, she said. The regulatory authorities will not control noise from the operation not monitor light pollution. If drilling proceeds residents will be left with a legacy of risk.
The wells give Cuadrilla to have access to long-term waste disposal recepticals.
All wells will degrade over time, she said. Well integrity will not hold. They will leak. There will be no ongoing monitoring after abandonment. There will be no bonds for future pollution incidents. The public will pay financially as well as with health risks. We are not protected now or in the future. Accidents can and with scalin gup of operations will happen.
She described Cuadrilla as an inexperienced company. They have had a “dismal track record”, generating a long list of breaches of planning conditions and failing to frack a single well successfully. Some of us think it is unbelievable that they should be allowed to continue their “Lancashire experiment”.
The decisions of Lancashire County Council should be respected – this is a national human rights issues, she said.
Cllr Kevin Ellard
Cllr Ellard is deputy chair of the development control committee of Lancashire County Council but he said he was speaking personally.
I am agnostic on fracking, he said.
“These applications must do no harm and satisfy concerns of the Director of Public Health. We should consider the facts and take decisions on planning policies alone. I am concerned about the proliferation of regulators each with different responsibilities. There are concerns about their capacity. The regulatory regime is not up to the job”.
The employment benefits would be time limited, Cllr Ellard said. He asked the inspector to compare the 22 jobs likely to be created with the tourism economy, which employeds over 50,000. Lancashire’s tourism industry risked going into long-term decline, he said.
“Fracking is an unsafe process in an unsafe environment. Too many serious flaws remain on these applications”.
He said when the Roseacre Wood fracking application was refused it seemed logical to refuse the monitoring array. It should have been refused on grounds that it would industrialise the countryside.
It is a mark of good government to devolve decisions to the lowest possible level, he said. That was the county council. The important point for councillors is to approach each item without prejudice, debate and then decide,he said.
“There is no such impartial approach for the Secretary of State, who has pre-determined himself. If we had predetermined ourselves we would, quite rightly, have been disqualified. This opens the decision to further challenge.”
To applause, Cllr Ellard said: I recommend you refuse all four applications in front of you.
Mr Silverwood said he was a business owner in Lytham. He was proud of the town but thought people didn’t realise the impact that fracking would have.
It is a poisonous industry, he said.
“We are a small country. Lancashire is a very heavily populated county. So when you have a dirty industry it doesn’t add up that you want to put it near people.”
He listed past environmental problems. Don’t we learn, he asked.
“It seems to me we are disposable assets. We are not considered. We are up north to start with and that doesn’t help. We come from the heart. We don’t come from some gaining situation. We are just good people who want to protect our environment. We are not hoodwinked by the government or Cuadrilla.”
If Francis Egan was offered a job paying double the money he would be gone, Mr Silverwood said. “You should look for a job in renewables”, he said. “Talking about fossil fuels, you are antiquated.”
“You are burning fossil fuels and it will run out. Waves won’t run out – tides won’t stop. Get on with renewables.”
Mr Silverwood added: “I don’t think people realise they are not ensured for anything other than seismic activity.”
He said the NFU had told him there was no insurance company that would cover other risks from fracking. “That leaves us completely open to anything in the future”.
To applause, he said: “When things go wrong the landowners that have allowed it on their land will be just like us, without protection”.
Mr Sanderson is a retired chairman of the Dairy Farmers’ Association. He is a third generation dairy farmer and lives at Kirkham, between Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.
“I feel that there is a common denominator between Cuadrilla and the farmers who allow fracking on their land: the need to make money.”
“People who oppose want to protect their land, their families and their homes. Just like I do when I look at my two children – they are priceless.”
He said he worked 90+ hours a week to keep his family business afloat. “This adds to the pressure when it is not needed”, he said.
“It is high time for the government to listen to the people to avoid more problems like the recent the flooding that cannot be cleaned up.”
“Fracking seriously compromises safety. It worries me deeply.”
He said the Fylde is produced a “staggering amount of the highest quality produce”. His business produced enough milk for 4,500 families at two litres a day.
“The collective importance of food and farming to the UK economy must not be underestimated or compromised.”
He said wanted to give the inquiry “the heart of the people”. To applause he said: “I hope what I said tonight makes a difference”.