Regulation

Top 10 points on planning issues – Cuadrilla fracking inquiry Day 10

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Lancashire County Council put its planning case for refusing the fracking applications at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. Its witness, Katie Atkinson, argued that the applications did not comply with local and national planning and mineral policies. Here are our top 10 arguments between the two sides from today:

  1. “Silent and absent” planning policies
    Cuadrilla sought to prove that local policies in the development plan did not deal specifically with hydrocarbons. This meant, the company argued, that paragraph 14 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NNPF) would come into force. This says applications should be approved “where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out-of-date … unless any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits”. Lancashire County Council argued that policies in the development plan covered general planning issues and could deal with the applications. They had been approved by an inspector, the council added.
  2. Local versus national policy
    Cuadrilla sought to prove that policies used to refuse the applications did not comply with national planning policy. Nathalie Lieven, barrister for Cuadrilla, suggested that one policy in the Fylde Local Plan would prevent shale gas exploration in rural areas, which meant it contradicted government policy. Lancashire County Council argued that the policies used by the development control committee to refuse the applications did comply with the National Planning Policy Framework.
  3. Amber Rudd’s statement on shale gas
    Cuadrilla argued that a statement made to parliament by the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, in September 2015 showed that government policy supported the exploration proposals at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. The statement said there was a national need for shale gas exploration and development, it would bring economic benefits and help the UK meet its climate change commitments. Lancashire County Council argued that the statement was not policy. National planning and minerals policy had not changed to take account of it. And just because there was a national need for shale gas it does not mean an application should be approved.
  4. Weighing up policies
    The two sides disagreed on how much weight should be given to the different policies in deciding the appeals. Cuadrilla said the ministerial statement should get considerable weight because it was recent and dealt with shale gas applications. Lancashire County Council said it was not policy and should be considered alongside local planning and mineral policies and the National Planning Policy Framework.
  5. Exploration versus production benefits
    Lancashire County Council argued that the NPPF requires mineral planning authorities to distinguish between exploration, appraisal and production. The benefits of production should not be taken into account when deciding exploration applications. Cuadrilla argued that there had to be exploration to get the benefits of production so the benefit of production could be applied to an exploration application.
  6. Contradictions in planning decisions
    Cuadrilla sought to expose contradictions in the decisions made by Lancashire Council last year. The Preston New Road fracking application was refused on landscape and noise grounds, while Roseacre Wood was refused on traffic grounds. This must mean that a 36m minimum drilling rig was acceptable at Roseacre Wood, Cuadrilla’s barrister claimed. She also contrasted the refusal of the monitoring scheme at Preston New Road but the approval of a similar scheme at Roseacre Wood. Lancashire’s planning witness, Katie Atkinson, said the applications had been considered on their merits. Traffic problems at Roseacre Wood were enough to refuse that exploration application, she said.
  7. Transport management plan
    Cuadrilla argued that concerns about increased levels of traffic at Roseacre Wood would be dealt with by the traffic management plan. The county council said this could not be monitored, practically or with the resources available. A lack of a safe and secure access to a site was a reason to refuse an application under the National Planning Policy Framework, it added.
  8. Other regulatory regimes
    Cuadrilla has argued that any concerns about air or water pollution and well safety would be dealt with by other regulators. It stressed that Paragraph 122 if the NPPF requires local planning authorities to assume these regulatory regimes will operate effectively.
  9. Time to build the monitoring arrays
    The two sides again disagreed on how long it would take Cuadrilla to construct the monitoring schemes. Nathalie Lieven, for the company, said other schemes proved they could be completed within the five months estimated. But Lancashire County Council said there was no evidence that the previous schemes were comparable with the ones planned.
  10. Unreasonable burdens on Cuadrilla
    Cuadrilla has claimed that the cost of further sound-reduction screens at the exploration sties were an unreasonable burden. But Lancashire County Council argued that the estimated cost of £1.5m for each site had to be set in context. Katie Atkinson, for the council, said there was no evidence to support the company’s claim. “£1.5m sounds like a lot of money but to a reputable or successful company it might not be – we don’t know”.

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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