Live news as it happens at the 11th 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 Katie Atkinson, for Lancashire County Council, gives evidence on planning policy. She will be cross-examined by Cuadrilla’s barrister. At 6.30pm the inquiry hears the views of members of the public about the Preston New Road scheme (see separate post).
The inquiry resumes at 6.30pm tonight for public comments on the Preston New Road application.
The inspector, Wendy McKay, asked how many monitoring sites would need to be developed at one time before it led to an industrialisation of the countryside. Katie Atkinson said that was a question for the council’s landscape expert.
Asked about possible conditions, Mrs Atkinson said Lancashire County Council was still negotiating with Cuadrilla. Some control over the construction of the monitoring boreholes could be included in a condition.
Local and national consistency
Mrs McKay asked about the consistency of local planning policy with the National Planning Policy Framework. Mrs Atkinson said you have to bear in mind whether they were trying to achieve the same objectives. These included attempts to eliminate or minimise harm, she said, and great weight should be attached to this issue.
Temporary or permanent?
Mrs McKay also asked whether Fylde Local Plan policy EP11 used to refuse the applications, referred to temporary or permanent developments. Mrs Atkinson said the policy did not specify and should be applied to both.
On the duration of drilling, Mrs Atkinson said this would be for 14 months and little weight should be given to the temporary description of the application.
Transport management plan
Mrs Atkinson had said the plan could not be enforced. Mrs McKay asked whether problems with monitoring would be a practical or resource issue. Mrs Atkinson said “I think it is both”.
Alan Evans, for Lancashire County Council, refers in his re-examination of Katie Atkinson, to a statement by Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary. In it Mrs Rudd said there was a national need to explore and develop shale gas.It would bring economic and climate change benefits.
Mr Evans asked if there had been any change in policy that meant the difference between exploration and development should be ignored.
Katie Atkinson said national planning policy made the distinction between the phases of gas and oil operations. Individual applications for exploration should be considered on their own merit and should not take into account hypothetical economic benefits or costs of production if shale were found in viable quantities. She said there had been no change to minerals guidance or national planning policy following Mrs Rudd’s statement.
Local planning policy
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, had criticised the Lancashire Minerals and Waste Plan and the Fylde Local Plan because they did not refer specifically to shale gas or the drilling infrastructure that might be needed. Mr Evans asked Mrs Atkinson whether the Minerals and Waste Plan included references to infrastructure for other industries. Mrs Atkinson said it did not.
Cuadrilla also criticised the Minerals and Waste Plan because it did not have site selection policies for shale gas. Mr Evans asked whether this was required. Mrs Atkinson said it was at the discretion of the mineral planning authority to include this.
Mr Evans referred to policy CS5 in the Lancashire Minerals Plan core strategy, which sought to avoid bulk transport of minerals by road. Mrs Atkinson said the proposed exploration site at Roseacre Wood was a long way from the primary route network, which was the main reason for its refusal.
Mr Evans asked Mrs Atkinson if there was anything in the Fylde Local Plan that said it should not be applied to mineral plans. Mrs Atkinson said no, it covered a wide range of developments.
Cuadrilla’s barrister, Nathalie Lieven, had criticised policy SP2 in the Fylde Local Plan, which sought to protect the character of the countryside. Ms Lieven said shale gas developments would never be allowed in rural areas under policy SP2. Mrs Atkinson told the inquiry policy SP2 was not used by Lancashire County Council as a reason for refusing any of the applications.
Mr Evans asked about landscape harm and the visual impact of the scheme proposed for Preston New Road. Mrs Atkinson said: “Where possible, harm should be minimised. If a lower rig height is possible then that should be what is used on that site”.
Benefit of mineral extraction
The National Planning Policy Framework gives great weight to the benefit of mineral extraction. Mrs Atkinson had said she didn’t give great weight to this because she didn’t regard the applications as extraction proposals. She said this concurred with another section of the NPPF which said applications for exploration, appraisal and production should be considered separately and on their own merits.
Mrs Atkinson said she had not set out the arguments for and against the application in her statement to the inquiry. But she said she had carried out that balance.
Inquiry adjourns for lunch
The inquiry resumes at 1.40pm
Cross-examination on planning decisions
Exploration applications at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood
Nathalie Lieven told the inquiry that Lancashire County Council had refused permission for exploration at Preston New Road on landscape grounds but had not used this reason for Roseacre Wood. She put it to Katie Atkinson “a 36m rig must be acceptable at Roseace because that was not a reason for refusal”.
Mrs Atkinson said transport grounds were sufficient to refuse Roseacre Wood.
Ms Lieven asked: “If the council thought there was some other unacceptable impact they must have used it to turn down the application”.
Mrs Atkinson replied: “The planning officers’ recommendation was to turn it [Roseacre Wood] down on transport grounds.
Ms Lieven suggested: “The councillors were not as concerned about landscape grounds at Roseacre Wood as Preston New Road.”
Mrs Atkinson said: “The councillors pointed out, from looking at Roseacre Wood, the distance from the strategic road network meant it would not be acceptable.”
Ms Lieven said: “It must follow that the councillors were less concerned about landscape impact at Roseacre than PNR [Preston New Road]?”
Monitoring applications at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood
The inquiry heard that Lancashire County Council refused the Preston New Road monitoring scheme, against the advice of planning officers, on landscape grounds. But the council approved a similar scheme at Roseacre Wood.
Ms Lieven asked: “If the monitoring array at Roseacre Wood does not have an unacceptable industrialising effect, how can it have this effect at Preston New Road?”
Katie Atkinson said each application had to be judged on its own merits and other decisions should not be taken into account. She said the council thought landscape was a reason for refusing the exploration scheme at Preston New Road. Given that some of the monitoring arrays would be within 4km of the exploration site they felt this would also not be acceptable, she said.
Ms Lieven asked Mrs Atkinson to point to “a single factor” about the monitoring array at Preston New Road that would make it unacceptable in the same circumstances at Roseacre Wood.
Mrs Atkinson said: “The councillors were presented with all the evidence before making their decision. They came to a decision.”
Ms Lieven asked: “What’s you’re opinion Mrs Atkinson? It is simply not a rational conclusion.”
Mrs Atkinson said: “I haven’t looked at the Roseacre Wood in any great detail. I agree with the councillors that each case should be judged on its merits.”
Ms Lieven asked the question again. Mrs Atkinson said the masts and buildings on the Inskip defence site had to be taken into account at Roseacre Wood.
Ms Lieven asked: “Would you judge Rsoeacre more industrial than Preston New Road?”
Mrs Atkinson replied: ” I would not.”
Cross-examination on reasons for refusal
Roseacre Wood exploration
Nathalie Lieven put it to Katie Atkinson that the traffic management plan (TMP) for Roseacre Wood dealt with transport issues that had been the reason for refusal by Lancashire County Council. Mrs Atkinson said the TMP had not dealt with the issues to the satisfaction of Lancashire Highways Authority.
Preston New Road monitoring arrays
Ms Lieven said the Preston New Road monitoring scheme had been refused because it breached policy EP11 of the Fylde Local Plan, covering the quality of development in the countryside. She asked Mrs Atkinson whether this policy applied if the total length of the development would be only 80 days.
Mrs Atkinson said: “In my professional opinion the policy does not say whether it is temporary or permanent so the policy applies.”
Ms Lieven said the council’s only concern was the construction period for the arrays. Mrs Atkinson agreed but she added that there was disagreement about the duration of the construction period.
Ms Lieven said information from Cuadrilla from previous monitoring wells showed that drilling would take one or two days.She asked: “Is there any evidence of these sites taking longer or leading to complaints”. Mrs Atkinson said she was not aware of any.
“Is there any evidence of Lancashire County Council inspecting or raising concerns about these sites?”, Ms Lieven asked. “Not that I’m aware of”, Mrs Atkinson said.
But Mrs Atkinson added that the council was concerned about how long the overall construction would last. She said some of the Preston New Road monitoring boreholes would be deeper than those in the previous drilling projects. It was not possible to compare the previous monitoring arrays with those proposed.
Ms Lieven said the council had not produced any evidence that construction of 160 existing monitoring units had caused any problems or complaints. Mrs Atkinson said the council did not know whether they were comparable.
Ms Lieven said they were comparable because they were in the same areas. Mrs Atkinson said the council did not have comparable information on construction.
Cross-examination on planning balance
Nathalie Lieven accused Katie Atkinson of not reflecting the other side of the argument in weighing up her case in support of Lancashire County Council. Mrs Atkinson said she had justified the council’s reasons for refusal. She agreed that she had not included arguments in support of the applications in her statement to the inquiry.
Cross-examination on the Fylde Local Plan
Lancashire County Council used policies in the Fylde Local Plan as reason for refusing the exploration applications.
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, put it to Katie Atkinson that the Fylde Local Plan did not apply to mineral exploration and extraction.
Mrs Atkinson said the plan gave guidance on the location of new developments and contained policy on a wide range of planning topics.
Ms Lieven said: “You cannot point me to a single sentence anywhere in the plan where this plan deals with shale gas.”
Mrs Atkinson replied: “It should be read in conjunction with the Lancashire Minerals and Waste Plan.”
Ms Lieven said the policy SP2 in the Fylde Local Plan about development in the countryside would prevent mineral extraction anywhere. “This shows that this plan is not dealing with mineral extraction. This policy is plainly aimed at built development, isn’t it?”
Mrs Atkinson replied: “It just says development”
Ms Lieven put it to her again: “This policy is not about mineral extraction”
Mrs Atkinson said: “I think the policy is referring to development in general”
Ms Lieven: “A 36m minimum rig cannot be in keeping with the countryside and it can’t be redesigned. So the policy is incapable of being met by hydrocarbon extraction, which means it would be in breach of national policy when it was agreed in 2005.”
Mrs Atkinson: “It should be read in conjunction with the Lancashire minerals policy and it deals with new development in rural areas”.
Ms Lieven: “This policy must be given at its most very little weight because it can’t be met by an application for hydrocarbons”.
Mrs Atkinson: “I disagree, I think it is in accord with paragraph 17 of the NPPF. It is part of the development plan.”
Ms Lieven: “Policy EP11 of the Fylde Local Plan is in breach of the ministerial statement [on the need for shale gas] because it is barring a form of development for which there is a national need.
Mrs Atkinson:”Just because there is a national need does not mean that an application has to be permitted. It has to be judged on its own merits. There will be impacts of this type of development wherever it is. At this particularly location policy EP11 applies.”
Cross-examination on harm and benefits
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, said there were no landscape designations in the areas of the appeal sites. She also said a very few number of properties would be affected.
Katie Atkinson said the number of people affected was an issue to be considered.
Ms Lieven asked “Are you saying it would make no difference if there was one or 100 properties that are affected?”
Mrs Atkinson said: “It is an important material consideration”.
Ms Lieven put it to Mrs Atkinson that the ministerial statement made by Amber Rudd in 2015 made it clear that the proposed developments could make a positive contribution to the wider economy and to meeting targets on carbon emissions.
Mrs Atkinson said the statement used the word “could”.
Cross-examination: “Great weight” to benefit of minerals
Natalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, put it to Mrs Atkinson that the National Planning Policy Framework said great weight benefit should be given to the benefits of mineral exploration. Mrs Atkinson agreed.
Ms Lieven said the NPPF also said where the environmental impact of a development was covered by other regulatory regimes then the guidance is that they should leave this to the other regimes. Mrs Atkinson agreed.
Cross-examination: Local planning policy is “silent on shale gas”
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, put it to Katie Atkinson that the local policies, which had been used to turn down the applications, were silent on shale gas and hydrocarbon exploration.
Mrs Atkinson: “They don’t specifically say the word hydrocarbon. However, I don’t believe it can be classed as silent because of that fact. There are general policies consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework and the inspector found the policies sound.”
Ms Lieven: “There is nothing in the local policies on the government position for a need for shale gas exploration. There is no policy that grapples with the fact that shale gas exploration requires drilling rigs of 36m.”
Mrs Atkinson: “There is enough in the policy that can deal with those applications.”
Ms Lieven: “The policy does not deal with those applications.”
Mrs Atkinson repeated that Lancashire’s general policy could deal with the applications though she accepted that there was no reference to rig height.
Ms Lieven said the policy did not reflect that hydrocarbon exploration had to take place at geologically appropriate locations.
Mrs Atkinson said the NPPF required that mineral planning authorities had to be satisfied that the application would make a positive contribution to the biodiversity, landscape, geodiversity and other issues. Local policy required proposals for minerals to conserve and enhance the quality of Lancashire’s landscape. It has to be in keeping and make a positive contribution, she said.
Ms Lieven asked: “Where would Cuadrilla find information about where it could explore for shale?”
Mrs Atkinson: “The policy said exploration had to be in the PEDL area”.
Ms Lieven:” There is no guidance on where would be appropriate within PEDL areas. It has no criteria for hydrocarbons and no site-allocation guidance.”
Mrs Atkinson: “It is a generalised policy”.
Ms Lieven: “If the inspector decides the policy is out of date or absent then the appeal should be allowed unless there are significant adverse effects that outweigh the benefits”.
Cross-examination on National Planning Policy framework
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, said sustainable development, defined by the NPPF, was judged on economic, environmental and community issues.
Referring to a ministerial statement by Amber Rudd, Ms Lieven said: “It is government policy that the exploration for shale gas meets an economic need.”
Katie Atkinson replied: “It is a statement of view”
Ms Lieven: “Exploration for shale gas meets a national economic need.”
Mrs Atkinson: “The national economic need is linked to development, not exploration.”
Ms Lieven: “You have already accepted that you can’t develop without exploration so exploration meets an economic need.”
Mrs Atkinson: “You have to read the NPPF paragraph 147 which says when planning for onshore oil and gas you have to distinguish between the three phases.”
Ms Lieven: “An application to explore meets a national economic need because you can’t develop without exploration. It does follow doesn’t it?”
Mrs Atkinson: “It does follow but it is not as simple as that.”
Ms Lieven turned to environmental issues of sustainability. The ministerial statement says shale gas meets the government’s ability of achieve its climate change targets, she said.
Mrs Atkinson agreed about the content of the statement.
Ms Lieven said Lancashire County had no criteria-based policy for the exploration of hydrocarbons. Mrs Atkinson said it has general based policy, which was sufficient and had been found sound by the inspector.
Ms Lieven: “The council had no criteria-based policy for the exploration of hydrocarbons”
Mrs Atkinson: “No”
Ms Lieven: “Lancashire has been in a hydrocarbon exploration area since 2008”
Mrs Atkinson: “Yes”
Ms Lieven: “Lancashire has brought in no specific policies on hydrocarbon exploration.”
Mrs Atkinson: “It has not named hydrocarbons but the inspector of the policy found it sound.”
Cross-examination on the ministerial statement
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, begins her cross examination of Katie Atkinson by asking her about the ministerial statement made by Amber Rudd on shale gas in September 2015.
Mrs Atkinson said she accepted the statement was a material consideration.
Ms Lieven said it was very recent, it was directly related to shale gas exploration and it stated that there was a national need for the plans like those Cuadrilla was applying for.Mrs Atkinson agreed.
“This all goes to the weight that should be attached to it”, Ms Lieven said. Mrs Atkinson agreed but said it was not policy and had not been consulted upon.
“I’m not very interested in whether it is policy”, Ms Lieven said. “But it is a very weighty consideration, given its recentness and direct applicability”.
Mrs Atkinson: “I believe it is a relevant consideration. I don’t agree that it is guidance. I don’t think it should be given as much weight as the guidance documents.”
Ms Lieven: “I don’t care what you call it. It is a material consideration. It must carry very considerable weight. It is very recent and it says this type of developent is in the national need. It must be given very considerable weight.”
Mrs Atkinson: “It should be given its due weight.”
Ms Lieven put it to her that the appeal schemes could bring substantial benefits in energy supply, economic growth and lower carbon emissions.
Mrs Atkinson: “These benefits are for exploration not production”
Ms Lieven: “It is government policy that exploring could potential bring substantial benefits in those three ways. You cannot develop without exploration.”
Mrs Atkinson: “It does say could.”
Monitoring array construction
The two sides have disputed how long it might take to construct the monitoring arrays. Cuadrilla argued that it had completed previous arrays in the time estimated for the schemes at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.
Alan Evans, for the council, said Cuadrilla had provided information in an email on drill start and completion dates of previous monitoring sites.
Katie Atkinson said there was no information on how long the whole operation took.
Maximum rig height
Alan Evans, for Lancashire County Council, asked Katie Atkinson whether it would be reasonable for a planner to impose a condition which would control the height of the rig. Lancashire had argued that the maximum height should be reduced from 53m to 36m. Cuadrilla said this wouldn’t make any difference in the impact on the landscape.
Katie Atkinson replied: “From a planning point of view, if it can be seen there is a reduction in the detrimental impact it would be reasonable to impose a condition.”
Alan Evans, for Lancashire County Council, asked Katie Atkinson about the extent to which a decision-maker should make a judgement on the issue of what is an unreasonable burden on a developer. Cuadrilla had argued that additional sound-reduction work would cost about £1.5m per site.
Mrs Atkinson replied:
“I think it is very difficult to judge whether or not an unreasonable burden has been reached. There has been no evidence to say what an unreasonable burden is.”
“£1.5m sounds like a lot of money but to a reputable or successful company it might not be – we don’t know”.
Local planning policy
Lancashire Minerals and Waste policy
Alan Evans asked Katie Atkinson about the weight that should be given to policies in the Minerals and Waste local plan. He asked about policy DM2, which covers site allocation
Mrs Atkinson said considerable weight should be attached to policy DM2 and policy CS5 on sustainable production of minerals. They post-dated and were in line with the National Planning Policy Framework, she said.
Fylde local plan
Mrs Atkinson said the Fylde Local Pan should be read in conjunction with the Minerals and Waste and structure plans. She said the Fylde Local Plan could be used to decide the applications. Both sides had agreed that this plan had policies that were relevant.
She said considerable weight should be given to policy EP11, which deals with landscape protection. It accorded with the minerals and waste local plan and the National Planning Policy Framework.
Lancashire County Council referred to Policy EP27 of Fylde Local Plan as a reason to refuse on Preston New Road on noise grounds. Mrs Atkinson said: “I would attach considerable weight to this policy. It is in line with paragraph 23 of the National Planning Policy Framework. It is part of the development plan and in conformity with the NPPF.”
Can benefits of production be considered?
Mrs Atkinson told the inquiry the benefits of production should not considered at this stage. The National Planning Policy Framework said all three stages of oil and gas developments (exploration, appraisal and production) should be considered separately.
Amber Rudd’s shale gas statement
Alan Evans, for Lancashire County Council, asked what weight should be placed on this ministerial statement.
Mrs Atkinson said the statement was not policy. It had not be consulted on.
Safe and suitable access
Alan Evans put it to Katie Atkinson that the National Planning Policy Framework required developments should have a safe and suitable access. Applications should be refused on transport grounds only if the impacts were severe.
Mrs Atkinson said a safe and secure access should be an integral part of an application. If it could not be provided then an application could be refused.
Lancashire’s planning case – Roseacre Wood exploration
Katie Atkinson, for Lancashire County Council, said the narrow lanes to the proposed Roseacre Wood site were used by local motorists and people for walking, cycling and horse riding. The development would generate significant heavy goods vehicle traffic which would have a significant adverse effect on road users, particularly vulnerable ones, she said.
Mrs Atkinson said this was contrary to paragraph 35 of the National Planning Policy Framework which required developments to be designed to minimise conflict with other road users.
The roads were not suitable for this type of development, she said. Roseacre Wood was removed from the strategic road network and so did not minimise conflict with other road users.
Mrs Atkinson said the Traffic Management Plan was unenforceable. “The residual cumulative impact rendered the site unsuitable and did not comply with paragraph 32 of the NPPF which says developments should be refused on transport grounds only if the residual cumulative impacts would be severe.
The proposal was contrary to DM2 of the Lancashire Minerals and Waste local plan, which required developments to demonstrate a positive contribution to residential amenity, reduce carbon emissions and reduce the length and number of journeys.
Having reviewed national and local policy and the reasons for refusal, the appeal should be dismissed, she concluded.
Lancashire’s planning case – Preston New Road monitoring works
Katie Atkinson, for Lancashire County Council, said proposed monitoring arrays near Preston New Road were all in open countryside. National planning policy requires decisions to take account of landscape character.
She said Cuadrilla had not supplied sufficient information to explain its construction programme of five months. The cumulative impact of all the 80+ array sites would be unacceptable, she said, and was contrary to paragraph 144 of the National Planning Policy Framework, as well as national minerals policy guidance.
Cuadrilla had also not identified how it would access all the proposed sites, she said.
The council considered the degree of construction work would adversely impact the landscape and was contrary to policies EP10 and EP11 of the Fylde Local Plan.
The reasons for refusal were justified, Mrs Atkinson said, and the appeal should be refused.
Lancashire’s planning case – Preston New Road fracking
Katie Atkinson, for Lancashire County Council, tells the inquiry the proposed location is a greenfield site and was not in keeping with the landscape. Cuadrilla had underplayed the impact on the landscape, she said. The photo-montages did not accurately assess the impact on the landscape or visual amenity.
The council’s refusal of the application complied with the national planning policy framework which requires developments to avoid harm to landscape character.
“This application would be contrary to development plan policy DM2 of the mineral and waste plan and EP11 of the Fylde Local Plan” she said.
Mrs Atkinson said planning practice guidance for minerals said developers should seek to minimise night time noise. She said 39 decibels at night would be unacceptable and cause annoyance.
she said: “The council considers that this application would be contrary to EP22 of the Fylde local plan on noise, leading to a detrimental impact on local residents, which could not be controlled by conditions.”
Having reviewed policy and the council’s decision, this appeal should be refused, she said.
County council planning witness introduced
Alan Evans, barrister for Lancashire County Council, introduces his planning witness, Katie Atkinson.
The inquiry heard that since March 2015 she has been commissioned by Frack Free Ryedale in its campaign against Third Energy’s plans to frack a well at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire.
Questions to Cuadrilla
Nathalie Lieven, barrister for Cuadrilla, said written questions had been submitted to the company about its noise evidence. Ms Lieven said there was no inquiry procedure for this and she would not be responding to questions unless an easy answer could be given.