The chair of a group of residents opposed to fracking at Roseacre Wood told the public inquiry about their fears if Cuadrilla’s plans went ahead.
Elizabeth Warner, representing Roseacre Awareness Group, said it would be a “personal tragedy” for local people. She predicted:
“Homes would be less appealing, lives less comfortable because of the scale and nature of traffic or their days and nights disturbed by light or noise.”
She said residents faced the “inescapable burden” of drilling noise 24-hours a day, seven days a week and the “alien presence” of lighting and security fences.
The property market would stagnate, she said, with collateral damage to the thriving school and church. She added:
“The urbanising and industrialising aspects will impact on both the value and the attraction of this rural and relatively undeveloped area”.
Mrs Warner said it was wrong to accuse fracking’s opponents of ignorance or scaremongering.
“We are fearful that this development in the heart of rural Fylde will change for ever the way in which the Fylde is regarded and all the reasons why it is valued. Even mitigation will “prejudice the character and appearance of the countryside.”
“We are very keen to say that we are not Nimbys. We do not have a blind rejection of any development anywhere.
“But at that particular location, where socially and economically its values comes from the nature of the area, this specific development is not appropriate.”
“High personal cost to appear at inquiry”
Mrs Warner said RAG’s decision to appear at the inquiry had “come at a high personal cost to those most heavily involved”. She said:
“The considerable resources required to meet the expectations of the process have been raised, organised and steered by people whose first interest and expertise is neither campaigning nor planning.”
“This effort represents the accumulated will of communities so moved we are here now.”
She said: “Thousands of individuals have taken the time and the trouble and the care to have their say”
“Receptors [people affected] are not everything but they are not nothing either.”
10 more key points from Day 14
- What is reasonably practical?
Cuadrilla is required to minimise noise as far as is reasonably practical. Mrs Warner said the definition of “reasonably practical” had changed over the months. In June 2015, Cuadrilla said it could achieve 37 decibels at night but not now.
- No safe lorry route to Roseacre Wood
Mrs Warner said it was disingenuous of Cuadrilla to say the impact of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) would be insignificant. RAG had offered to drive the proposed lorry route with Cuadrilla in the biggest HGV but the company had not accepted. “There isn’t a safe route to Roseacre Wood to serve an industrial site with all the attendant traffic”, she said.
- Scarce community infrastructure
Cuadrilla had claimed “community infrastructure is scarce” in the Roseacre Wood area and “this decreases the sensitivity in terms of any potential impact on community infrastructure”. Barbara Richardson, a former chair of RAG, said there were more than 50 sports and social clubs, with thousands of members that used the lanes on the proposed lorry route. The roads were also used by 27 cycle clubs and 60 livery yards and stables accounting for 500 horses. She said Cuadrilla “has failed to take account of this amenity value and that the impacts on social, recreational and amenity value may be long term and irreversible”.
- Stables could use other routes
Nathalie Lieven, barrister for Cuadrilla, said stables and livery yards could use different lanes to avoid the Roseacre Wood lorry route. Mrs Richardson asked: “Why should they change their route because you want to put bring vehicles down these lanes. These are people who have lived here and rode on these lanes for years.”
- “No impact on property market”
Ms Lieven said there was no evidence that property prices had fallen because of fracking in the Fylde. But Barbara Richardson said people would give evidence to the inquiry next week that they had lost property sales because of the prospect of fracking in Roseacre and the other villages. She said these residents had sent letters to Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive.
- “Loss of business”
Mrs Richardson told the inquiry that visitors to a small caravan site in Roseacre village had already said they would not come back if fracking went ahead. The owners of the site had said: “Most [of our visitors] are elderly who come for the peace and quiet. They have spent thousands of pounds in the local community.”
- “National need for shale gas does not outweigh harm”
Cuadrilla has argued that the national need for shale gas supported its plans to explore at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road. Gordon Halliday, the planning witness for Roseacre Awareness Group, said Cuadrilla had an extensive PEDL area in which to explore. There was no government pronouncement that shale gas exploration had to take place at Roseacre Wood. “This mineral exists over widespread areas”, he said. “It cannot be right that in every case national need should prevail. If the harm is shown to outweigh that national need it [the application] should not be approved”
- Production versus exploration, costs versus benefits
Nathalie Lieven said the local economic benefits from production would be greater than from exploration. Mr Halliday said there was no evidence about local economic benefits. But he said “If we are thinking about the economic benefits from production, we need to think about the costs. We don’t know what the local benefits and disbenefits would be.”
- “Inadequate bird surveys”
Anne Broughton, a local amateur ornithologist, criticised Cuadrilla’s surveys of wintering birds. She said the surveys were flawed, inadequate, not conducted at the best time of year and predicted patterns than did not follow observed behaviour. Cuadrilla is appealing against a condition which prevents work on 81 monitoring sites around Roseacre Wood during the wintering bird season. It wants to limit the condition to eight sites. Mrs Broughton said this was not supported by evidence. She said there was no justification for the monitoring sites if the exploration plans were refused. She also described the monitoring sites as “unacceptable industrialisation and intrusion which will be both significant and widespread in what is currently a very rural area.”
- Traffic problems in Wharles and Clifton Gerald Kells, the traffic witness for Roseacre Wood, told the inquiry that Cuadrilla’s route through Wharles was not suitable for HGVs. The company proposes to go through the village when lorry numbers were not at peak levels. Mr Kells also said the proposed route through Clifton would make existing traffic problems worse.