Research

“Roseacre Wood fracking site likely to break noise conditions” + key noise points from Day 13 of Cuadrilla inquiry

Ed Clarke

A noise expert working for opponents of fracking told the public inquiry that Cuadrilla was likely to break planning conditions on noise limits at Roseacre Wood.

The company has said night time noise from Roseacre Wood would be up to 42 decibels. But Ed Clarke (left), speaking for Roseacre Awareness Group, said Cuadrilla’s predictions had a margin of error of plus or minus three decibels. He said:

“The uncertainty I consider to be inherent in the appellant’s assessment process and un-tested mitigation proposals would give rise to a significant risk of non-compliance if the project were to go ahead.”

Mr Clarke, technical director at the noise consultancy Clarke Saunders Acoustics, said there would be harm to the community while Cuadrilla tried to reduce the noise or the council enforced the limit.

Nathalie Lieven, barrister for Cuadrilla, said noise from the site would be closely monitored. Lancashire County Council could take out an injunction to stop the work if Cuadrilla breached the conditions.

“If my clients are foolish enough to breach the noise limits they are going to bring on themselves a whole pack of trouble.”

“They [Cuadrilla] are going to extreme lengths to ensure that [breaching the limit] would not happen. If they don’t make that effort it will be very costly”.

“42 decibels is too high at night”

Mr Clark said noise would have an impact on local residents, even if it was controlled to the lowest levels Cuadrilla said was possible.

The maximum night time noise levels from Roseacre Wood should be less than the 42 decibels proposed, he said. The lowest level at which there would be an observable adverse effect was 30-35 decibels. At 42 decibels there would be a significant adverse effect.

Mr Clarke said background noise levels at night at Roseacre Wood were below 30 decibels. Five decibels above background levels had the potential to cause adverse effects, he said, and 10 decibels above would lead to significant adverse effects.

Cuadrilla’s noise reduction attempts were “ad hoc”

Mr Clarke described Cuadrilla’s noise reduction efforts as “ad hoc” and “not a compelling reasoned argument”.

He said the company should have thought about noise reduction and good acoustic design much earlier in the process. This would include: selecting the quietest equipment, selecting appropriate sites, the arrangement of equipment on the compound, using tried-and–tested equipment and adding tailored screening

Nathalie Lieven said Cuadrilla had been through all these stages. But Mr Clarke said the company had not used tried-and-tested measures or looked at alternative equipment and techniques to reduce noise.

“People will get more sensitive to drilling noise”

Ms Lieven told the inquiry people would be more likely to become “habituated” to a continuous drilling noise than irregular construction noise. But Mr Clarke replled:

“People do not become habituated to steady industrial noise out of keeping from the soundscape. They become annoyed by it.”

“In my experience, this type of noise is not something residents will get used to.  People will get more and more sensitive, through no malice of their own.”

Value of noise data questioned

Ms Lieven told the inquiry Cuadrilla had provided a great deal of information about noise sources, the nature of equipment and information from a real drilling rig at Horse Hill near Gatwick Airport. Mr Clarke said the company had not shown whether the data was directly relevant to Roseacre Wood.

Roseacre Wood noise “anomaly”

The inquiry heard that Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road scheme had been opposed on noise grounds but Roseacre Wood had not. Mr Clarke described this as “an anomaly”.

He said Cuadrilla’s Environmental Statement found ambient noise levels at night were lower at Roseacre Wood than Preston New Road.

“The situation that noise is not grounds for refusal at Roseacre Wood is confusing”.

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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