Live news as it happens at the 15th day 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.
Today Ashley Bowes, barrister for Preston New Road Action Group, begins his case against Cuadrilla’s proposals. His first witnesses is Mike Stigwood who will give evidence on noise impacts from the site. He will be followed by Steven Scott-Brown who will give evidence on planning and landscape. Both will be cross-examined by Cuadrilla’s barrister, Nathalie Lieven.
The inquiry continues at 5.30pm with a public session for comments in favour and against the proposals. We’ll be reporting on these comments in a separate post.
Questions from the inspector
Site selection The inspector, Wendy McKay, asked if Mr Scott-Brown wanted to comment on Cuadrilla’s site search process. He did not.
Mr Scott-Brown said site selection could have been more sensitive. He said putting a drill rig in the centre of field was insensitive.
He said 3km horizontal drilling would take Cuadrilla to the edge of Blackpool. He said
“It is not a good location where it is but I am hard pushed to find a better one in the surrounding area”
Lighting Ms McKay asked about the scope for controlling lighting with conditions. Mr Scott-Brown said the lighting was incompatible with a rural area.
“This suggests to me that the proposal is wrong in this locality”
Chesterfield decision Ms McKay asked if the inspector referred to the ministerial statement in the decision notice. Mr Scott-Brown said the decision notice post-dated the Amber Rudd statement by six weeks so it should have been part of the consideration.
Valued countryside Ms McKay asked why Mr Scott-Brown had described the site as valued countryside.
He referred to the Landscape Strategy for Lancashire. This said the area was gently undulating landscape, with long views and open road verges. It is a distinctive type of countryside. It is relatively unspoilt. It is hard to find anywhere that has a better relationship with open countryside than this one does. He said:
“This makes the development much more alien”
Mr Scott-Brown referred to landscape and pollution impacts in Pennsylvania. Ms Lieven said the regulatory experience of the US couldn’t be applied to the UK.
Ms Lieven the UK’s processes were completely different. Mr Scott-Brown said he accepted that.
The issue of contamination was the responsibility of the Environment Agency, Ms Lieven said. The assumption should be that the regulatory would do its job properly, she added.
Ms Lieven said the assessment on landscape in the Chesterfield appeal case was very site specific. Chesterfield was for exploration and production, she said. The lifespan of the development was for 15 years, she added.
Type of evidence
Mr Scott-Brown was asked whether he was giving evidence on the overall balance. He said he was not.
Mr Scott-Brown had said there should be a compelling reason to drill in a rural area. Ms Lieven said there was nothing in national planning policy to require this.
Ms Lieven questioned Mr Scott-Brown on a comment about the dark area at night. She said the Preston New Road was lit. Mr Scott-Brown said either side was farmland. Ms Lieven said the motorway had car lights on it.
Separation of settlements
Ms Lieven questioned Mr Scott-Brown’s comment that the fracking site would affect the way the landscape separates settlements.
She said his comment suggested it would encourage coalescence. Mr Scott-Brown said he was talking about bring industrial structures into a rural environment.
Cross-examination: rural setting
Ms Lieven questioned Mr Scott-Brown on a comment that it was rural. She said it was close to a major A road, near the M55 and close to the edge of Blackpool.
Mr Scott-Brown said this did not mean it was not rural. He said the open views were relatively unrestrained.
“Harm to landscape and nuisance”
Mr Scott-Brown said the landscape was valued because of its openness of appearance and character.
“To seek to develop part of it for purposes unrelated to agriculture and related activities would cause avoidable harm.
Mr. Stigwood’s evidence also demonstrates that harm would also be caused by noise nuisance, he said.
“In conflict with planning policy”
Mr Scott-Brown said:
“The appeal proposals are in conflict with relevant policies of the Development Plan
The effective “presumption against” embodied in Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 arises.
Mr Scott-Brown said there was potential for “hidden” consequences to the visual landscape in terms of water supply, levels and arrangements for removal of surface water from the development “platform”
He added the success of the exploration process would convert the area into a de facto gas field.
Mr Scott-Brown referred to a similar appeal on a proposed gas site in Chesterfield. The inspector in that appeal concluded:
“when set against the established character of the landscape, the proposal would be seen as an alien feature ”
“The tall flue stacks, lighting columns and the buildings associated with the proposal, including the substantial acoustic wall and security fencing would appear as incongruous industrial elements in an otherwise rural landscape”
“The proposed mitigation, in the form of raised earthy bunds, would accentuate the change in profile and add a further discordant feature that would jar against any prevailing topography. In that sense, the proposed mitigation would not only fail to off-set the harm to local landscape it would cause further harm of itself”
“The compound would sit in the middle of the field and the proposed means of enclosure (including fencing, acoustic fencing, hedgerow planting and bunding) and tree planting would not relate to the established field boundaries and pattern of enclosure”.
The appeal decision post-dated the ministerial statement on shale gas developments, Mr Scott-Brown said.
Presence of M55
Mr Bowes asked Mr Scott-Brown if the M55 reduced the impact of the site. He replied:
“I don’t think it does. The landscape impact would go north of M55 and south of Preston New Road.”
“Cuadrilla has shown little sensitivity”
Mr Scott Brown said the site is:
“Closer than necessary – or neighbourly – to existing build development.
“Its siting appears to have had little regard for its near neighbours, which would therefore exacerbate its harmful effect on their amenities.
“The installation does not appear to have to be at this specific location and we argue that the appellant has shown little sensitivity in this respect as to where this major proposal is located, in relation to known “receptors” of its impact.”
“Lighting incompatible with rural ambience”
Mr Scott-Brown added:
“Good lighting is essential for sound operational reasons but we argue that the need for good, safe lighting may be incompatible with retaining the relatively dark, unlit rural ambience of this area.
“This issue is analogous to the issue of providing bunds – it is a necessary operational part of the proposed development but exacerbates the “harm” caused by it.”
Substantial road access and buildings
Mr Scott Brown said:
“The presence of a substantial road access with construction, sight splays and loss of associated hedgerows would also be an installation more appropriate to an industrial area.
“It is clearly intended to provide access for a high volume of traffic, predominantly large vehicles Under normal circumstances this would be unlikely to be permitted in this rural area.”
He said supporting buildings, above ground pipework would also emphasis that this is an installation of an inherently industrial nature, again in a rural setting.
“The site would also need extensive ancillary works such as an underground gas pipeline, laid close to residential property, connection points and structures to facilitate connection with the gas grid. This adds to both the complexity of proposed development on this site and the amount of “industrialisation” it would bring.
Mr Scott-Brown said:
“The presence of a drilling rig up to 53 metres tall is an alien feature in this rural, small -scale landscape which cannot be ameliorated by the erection of 4 metre high soil bunds.”
“It is arguable, in addition, that the extensive bunds- which have the character of formal engineering works are themselves alien features so the prospect arises that one alien feature is “buffered” by another. ”
Preston New Road Action Group case
Mr Scott-Brown said:
“We consider that the issue of the alien nature of this proposed installation to its host landscape and setting is fundamental rather than a detail, and this argument is allowed for by the various policies relevant to this case.”
“Potentially gas- bearing shale deposits are known to occur under a large area of west Lancashire, and indeed under much of northern and central England.
“The issue is whether there are compelling reasons why exploration has to take place at this location, in a highly open tract of countryside which is also close to a considerable amount of built settlement.”
“The open landscape character of this area, which fulfils a valuable role in separating settlements will be adversely changed, possibly permanently.”
He said the landscape was valued. There was nothing in the NPPF that said only designated landscapes were valued.
National and local planning policy and guidance
Mr Scott-Brown said he had based his assessment of the policy context on the guidance set out in para. 215 of the NPPF, which advises that “due weight” should be afforded to existing Development Plan policies in the Development Plan for the time being in force in the area, according to their consistency with the Framework.
He said local plans included the Fylde Local Plan, the Joint Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan and the Joint Lancashire Minerals and Waste Development Framework Core Strategy.
He said these polices were consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework
“Indeed it would be inappropriate to rely on them if they were not, and should therefore be accorded full weight in any decision reached.”
New witness: Steven Scott-Brown
Ashley Bowes introduces Steven Scott-Brown to the inquiry. Mr Scott-Brown is an independent planning consultant with 40 years experience. He was contracted by Preston New Road Action Group to advice on Cuadrilla’s plans.
Questions from the inspector
Fracking controls The inspector, Wendy McKay, asked if Mr Stigwood recommended controls on fracking at weekend.
“That would be a major benefit if hydraulic fracturing did not take place on Saturdays”, Mr Stigwood replied.
“I see no evidence that it would affect the operation on the site”, he said.
Weekend, evening and early morning noise limits Mr Stigwood added that a lower limit of 50 decibels should apply in the evenings, compared with 55 decibels during the day.
He also proposed extending the night noise limit to apply on Sunday morning. There is a need for protection at early evening. A step to 45 decibels in early morning would be appreciated, he said.
Mitigation Ms McKay asked Mr Stigwood what he meant about extreme mitigation. He replied: “You could enclose a lot of the site in a building but to enclose it all would be ridiculous”.
Four times louder Mr Stigwood said an increase of 20 decibels was an increase of four times in the level of noise. He said this would be exceeded at times by the proposed Preston New Road site.
Noise survey in Foxwood Chase Ms McKay asked about the impact of noise on bedrooms at Foxwood Chase. Mr Stigwood said the higher you go in a property, the higher the noise. The bedroom would record higher levels than those at ground level.
Re-examination on planning guidance
PPGM Ashley Bowes, for Preston New Road Action Group, asked Mr Stigwood about noise limits in Planning Practice Guidance Minerals. Mr Stigwood said PPGM does not distinguish between night and daytime work.
BS8223 Mr Bowes also referred to British Standard BS8223, which distinguishes between anonymous and other noise. This is the BSI identifying anonymous noise, Mr Stigwood said.
Precedents for 30 decibel conditions
Ms Lieven put it to Mr Stigwood that there were no conditions on low frequency conditions for the HS2 and A14 construction sites. Mr Stigwood said they were industrial sites
Ms Lieven asked if there was anything in his evidence to support precedents for conditions on noise levels of 30 decibels on sites lasting for two years. Mr Stigwood said he had not presented evidence of other sites. He could provide information but he did not see precedents as useful. Each site should be considered on its merits. He said:
“Two years out of your life is a serious impact”
Ms Lieven said “The noise here is eight months then a four month gap and then ten months.”
Mr Stigwood said the conditions permit the noise without a time limit. He said :
“Four months of that level of noise leading to sleep disturbance would be unreasonable.”
Low frequency noise
Ms Lieven said there was no reference to low frequency noise in the Planning Practice Guidance on Minerals. Jacobs, for Lancashire County Council, said low frequency noise should not be a material consideration, she added.
Mr Stigwood said Jacobs did not carry out an analysis of low frequency noise against World Health Organisation guidance. Jacobs did not have the material in front of this inquiry.
Ms Lieven said neither of the noise consultants for opponents thought low frequency noise was an issue. Mr Stigwood replied that they did not refer to the issue.
Ms Lieven said Mr Stigwood had not done an assessment inside properties near Preston New Road.
Mr Stigwood replied: The assessment, as required by the WHO is an external noise assessment. I didn’t do an internal assessment.
Ms Lieven said: “There is no evidence that low frequency noise would be a problem inside.”
Mr Stigwood said other consultants didn’t do the analysis. “No one else has done the analysis on the data. We did that analysis.”
Ms Lieven put it to Mr Stigwood that his opinion differed from four other noise consultants.
Mr Stigwood replied that two of the other consultants had not looked at the issue and Jacobs didn’t have the data to look at. He was unable to do a more detailed assessment because Arup would not provide the data.
But he said Arup data had showed pumps and diesel engines on the site would lead to low frequency noise.
Elderly people living nearby
Ms Lieven said there were no care homes or hospitals in the area.
Mr Stigwood said all but one of the homes in Foxwood Chase, one of the roads closest to the Preston New Road site, had elderly residents.
British Standard BS4142
Mr Stigwood gives a detailed answer about British Standard BS 4142, which covers how site noise emerges above the background level. He described what factors should be taken into account.
Ms Lieven asks: “Have you finished?”
She says: “My instructions are that you are plainly wrong”. In applying the standard, she described how to assess the typical noise level in the time period, 10pm – 7pm
Mr Stigwood disagreed. He said if you took the night average you would get the wrong result. The intent is how the noise emerges.
Ms Lieven said she would leave it there.
Typical night noise
Ms Lieven asks Mr Stigwood where in his evidence did he establish typical noise levels from 10pm to 7am.
Mr Stigwood said the typical noise level at core sleep times at Preston New Road was 42 decibels.
Ms Lieven said noise was less significant at core sleep periods because people were already asleep by then.
Mr Stigwood said elderly people were awake in the middle of the night because of their interrupted sleep. So this time for core sleep was a critical period for these people. It would be wrong to look at the average for the period 10pm-7am for vulnerable groups.
Nathalie Lieven continues her cross-examination of Mike Stigwood, the noise expert for Preston New Road Action Group.
The inquiry resumes at 1.50pm
Is Preston New Road noisy at night?
Ms Lieven said it would not be possible to describe Preston New Road as a quiet noise environment
Mr Stigwood: “I disagree. You get the underlying level of noise in the low 20s (decibels).”
A car passing will lead to some sleep disturbance, he said. The more noise events will lead to a lower quality of sleep.
“The Cuadrilla noise will stop people getting back to sleep.”
You need to look at the cumulative noise from the site and the environment, Mr Stigwood said.
Ms Lieven said:
“It is a general noise environment of 42 throughout the night. That is not a quiet noise environment.”
Mr Stigwood replied this measure did not cover the whole eight hours of the night. He added the higher the noise gets above the background the more it intrudes. At the moment a vehicle passes it is the dominant noise.
“There will be times in the night when the drilling noise will be dominant. It will be audible for a significant period, and it will be dominant, noisy, loud, for considerable periods.”
Ms Lieven said audibility was not grounds for a refusal. Mr Stigwood said he had not argued that.
Ms Lieven said noise above background does not lead to sleep disturbance. Mr Stigwood disagreed.
Noise recorded at Preston New Road
Ms Lieven referred Mr Stigwood to the location of his survey , near a garden wall in Foxwood Chase alongside the Preston New Road site. Ms Lieven said this would reduce maximum road noise. Mr Stigwood said the impact was very small.
Mr Stigwood there are passing cars at 3am on Preston New Road. They add intrusion, he said, but they are not frequent.
They are the main cause of sleep disturbance, Ms Lieven said.
Mr Stigwood said you may have one or two cars pass. That will extend the period it takes for an elderly person to get to sleep, he said.
But this falls into insignificance with drilling noise, he said.
Ms Lieven said for large parts of the night, the LA max (maximum noise) is above 42 decibels. Mr Stigwood said this was an average noise level, influenced by the peaks.
Mr Stigwood said an eight-hour average does not inform me of what happens when someone wakes up in the night. He said: “What I have relied on is the dominance of the noise, the special characteristics, how they are intruding over background noise”.
He said single noise events from the site needed to be superimposed on the maximum noise events in the environment. If you are going to look at effects on sleep you need to look at the total of the site noise and the events in the environment.
Nathalie Lieven returned to surveys of noise at Horse Hill, near Gatwick, where Cuadrilla’s drilling rig was used. Ms Lieven said there was limited variation in noise levels. Mr Stigwood agreed.
“What we have got is a fairly constant noise of drilling noise, she said.
Mr Stigwood replied that the site drilling noise had added regular individual noise events.
How noisy does it need to be for disturbed sleep?
Ms Lieven asked where in the WHO guidelines was evidence of sleep disturbance at noise below 42 decibels.
Mr Stigwood said the guidance equated 42 decibels to self-reported waking up. Later in the WHO guidelines, he said complaints arose at 35 decibels and a threshold of 30 decibels where you start to get physiological responses.
Ms Lieven asked again where in the document is there evidence of sleep disturbance below 42. She said complaints at 35 decibels was not about sleep disturbance.
Mr Stigwood said people who complain do so because of sleep disturbance. People are not complaining otherwise, he said.
Ms Lieven said there is nothing in this document about sleep disturbance at 42 decibel. Mr Stigwood disagreed. He said complaints were related to sleep disturbance.
He added that the WHO research was based on transport noise. He said his experience of 40 plus years suggested the noise limits needed to be lower than for transport noise.
Anonymous noise and special characteristics of noise
Ms LIeven asked Mr Stigwood about anonymous noise. Mr Stigwood said anonymous noise was not about whether you could identify it but about how people responded to it.
He said road and rail noise did not lead to fight or flight responses. Noise that was not anonymous would have special characteristics, he said, which included tone, hums, or drones.
Ms Lieven said road noise on the Preston New Road may well be disturbing.
Mr Stigwood said most people would react to a moped with a noisy exhaust. But a car or lorry would produce tyre noise, rising and falling generally. That was the norm and it did not have special characteristics, he said.
Sudden braking or accelerating would have special characteristics but that was not normal on Preston New Road Mr Stigwood added.
“Maximum a community should endure”
Ms Lieven said neither WHO nor Planning Practice Guidance Minerals related the maximum noise limit to the background. Mr Stigwood said neither gave guidance on how to keep noise below the maximum level. Mr Stigwood added:
“The upper limit of 42 decibels is the maximum a community should endure”.
Ms Lieven said there was a condition proposed on maximum noise levels at Preston New Road. Our proposed condition meets the guidelines from the WHO, she said.
Mr Stigwood said the guidelines later qualified noise limits. You have to go back to the front page, he said. The WHO guidelines were based on 1995 research on transport noise.
“You are taking a discursive document and you are reading it didacticly. I can’t agree with that.”
Ms Lieven said Cuadrilla would meet the limits in the WHO guidance. She said: there was no requirement to set a noise condition related to background levels. Mr Stigwood said the noise from the site would meet the WHO limit but the total noise would not. You would have to add in other noise sources, he said.
Ms Lieven referred to World Health Organisation guidance on community noise. Mr Stigwood it was dangerous to look at one paragraph of the guidance in isolation. You have to caveat what that section is applying to, he said. The material to which Ms Lieven was referring related to continuous transport noise.
Ms Lieven said it applied to industrial noise. Mr Stigwood said the guidance does not apply to noise with special characteristics.
Cuadrilla reacting to noise levels
Ms Lieven said Cuadrilla would be monitor noise levels in summer months to ensure it did not breach the limits, should the proposal go ahead.
Mr Stigwood questioned whether the noise would be monitored on or off the site.
Ms Lieven said Cuadrilla would be alerted when there were noise issues. If there were, the site manager could slow down the drilling, she said. Mr Stigwood said the site manager may be able to draw those conclusions if he had sufficient investigation of noise emissions in all directions and all meterological conditions.
Mr Stigwood added:
“We do not have evidence before the inquiry that slowing down the drilling would reduce the noise.”
Traffic and tree noise
Ms Lieven said people going to bed between 10pm and 11.30pm would be likely to close their window because the A583 was still noisy at that point. Mr Stigwood said some people might.
Ms Lieven said Steining Wood Cottages would have tree noise. Mr Stigwood said there would be less tree noise in winter but at Foxwood Chase there was very little foliage noise.
Ms Lieven said windows would be more likely to be open in summer at night. Mr Stigwood said in summer there would be the greatest transmission of noise from sites like Cuadrilla’s proposals but not foliage.
Ms Lieven said in summer there would be substantial traffic noise. At the start of the night. Mr Stigwood agreed.
Ms Lieven said a strong wind from the North West would blow noise from the motorway and the Preston New Road A583 towards people living near the site. She said a strong wind would encourage people to close windows.
Mr Stigwood said people would close their window because of temperature, rather than wind.
Ms Lieven said again on a windy night blowing noise from the site, people would close their windows. Mr Stigwood replied:
“I don’t recognise that description of how people behave. People living next to a motorway will close windows as a matter of habit.”
“They don’t stick their head out and say the wind is from the north east I’ll shut my window. The main comfort factor is temperature.”
Ms Lieven said Preston New Road would be unlikely to become water logged because it sloped to the Carr Brook.
No, Mr Stigwood said. “When you have water logging, you have water in the surface layer. It doesn’t behave as an absorbant layer it behaves as a reflective layer for noise”
“We can’t replicate” Cuadrilla and Lancashire County Council data
Ms Lieven put it to Mr Stigwood that Jacob, working for Lancashire County Council, checked the data provided by Arup and came back with figures within 1 decibel.
Mr Stigwood replied:
“They don’t tell us what they did. It doesn’t change the uncertainties. We don’t understand how they got to where they got. We did that exercise and we can’t replicate what they got.”
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, turned to a survey of drilling noise at the Horse Hill near Gatwick. The site used Cuadrilla’s 5220 drilling rig.
Noise consultants, Jacobs, working for Lancashire County Council, asked for information from Cuadrilla. Arup did exactly what Jacobs asked them to do, Ms Lieven asked.
Mr Stigwood said he had identified information which Arup had not provided that he would have expected.
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, begins hers cross-examination by asking Mr Stigwood about drilling applications he had compared noise levels with the proposals for Preston New Road. Ms Lieven questioned whether they were for shale gas. Mr Stigwood said they were.
Weekend protection needed
Mr Stigwood said the maximum noise limit during the day at weekends should be 45 decibels (Cuadrilla is proposing 55 decibels).
This takes into account lower background levels at Preston New Road, he said.
Describing 55 decibels from the site, Mr Stigwood said:
“It would be a sudden impact”
“Elderly need core sleep but they are not going to get it”
Mr Stigwood was asked about the impact of sleep disturbance. He replied:
“There will be serious effects”
He said of elderly people:
“Their need for sleep is as much as for the young. They need core sleep but they are not going to get it.”
Mr Stigwood proposed 30 decibels as a maximum night time noise limit. Lancashire County Council is proposing 37. Cuadrilla wants 42
Preston New Road “is pin-drop quiet” at night
Mr Stigwood carried out a five-week noise survey in the gardens of houses near Preston New Road. He said the findings showed:
“We have a very quiet environment. Noise dropped to the noise floor of the meter.
“I have been there at 3am in the morning and it is pin drop quiet.
Mr Stigwood said his survey showed that background noise levels fell lower than those that Cuadrilla had estimated.
“The core sleep periods are quiet. Weekends are quieter. On weekend mornings the increase in the background noise is more gradual. In the evenings at weekends”.
“There is a need for greater protection at night and at weekends”, he said.
Cuadrilla had criticised the location of the survey microphone near a wall in a garden of a house near the site. Mr Stigwood said:
“This met survey compliance. It indicates the noise levels in Foxwood Chase”.
It was an excellent location to measure background noise. It follow all the guidance. It measures noise on the facade of the building.
Mr Stigwood said the location would have no measurable effect on the background noise. It would have no discernible effect on noise from the proposed site. The maximum noise from a car passing would be reduced slightly.
Construction or industrial noise?
Mr Stigwood said the noise from Preston New Road would be industrial, not construction noise (as Cuadrilla said in its evidence).
Construction noise is relatively short-lived, less than six months, he said. When it does occur at night it is extremely infrequent, he said. When it does happen at night it moves around over geographical distance.
You will get some noise but you will not get two years of night time noise from any construction site, he said.
I live within 200m of a section of the A14 that was widened and I can count on the fingers of one hand the nights of noticeable noise.
“My professional experience is that these are very short-lived events”
Mr Bowes asked Mr Stigwood if it was acceptable to apply construction guidelines to the proposed Preston New Road site. Mr Stigwood replied:
“Totally inappropriate. It is not looking at the same principles. There are a wide variety of difference that dictate what is acceptable.”
DEFRA report on sleep disturbance
Mr Bowes asked Mr Stigwood about a report by Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on the effects of sleep disturbance.
This had been used by Cuadrilla to support its case for a 42 decibel night time limit. The report suggested that levels below 35 decibels had been excluded because of “uncertainty”.
Mr Stigwood said the paper is concerned solely with environmental noise from transport, not other sources of noise.
The paper specifically said it did not offer guidance on neighbourhood noise from factories or industrial sites, Mr Stigwood said.
It shows different types of noise have different affects, depending on their source, Mr Stigwood added.
Reaction to Cuadrilla evidence
Mr Stigwood referred to an article given in evidence by Cuadrilla. He said it supported his case because it called for assessments of character as well as level of noise. He said:
“I have looked at the nature of noise and how it accords to the background. I have said it needs to be below the absolute limit [proposed at 42 decibels] because of those characteristics”.
Sleep problems for elderly people
Mr Stigwood outlined the sleep problems of elderly people:
- The elderly take longer to get to sleep.
- They have fragmented sleep – it is not so deep
- They need to visit the toilet, up to six times in the night
- A large proportion will wake through the night.
- They have a greater difficulty getting back to sleep.
- Circadian rhythms change in elderly people
Mr Stigwood said of elderly people:
“The probability is that they will not get back to sleep because of the dominant drilling noise. It is a noise that they will clearly identify. If they have emotional response to the noise it will take them longer to get back to sleep.
Dominant noise – and this will be dominant – in the core sleep periods will lead to sleep disturbance.”
Will 42 decibels cause sleep disturbance?
Ashley Bowes, for PNRAG, asked: Will noise at 42 decibels cause sleep disturbance
Mr Stigwood repllied: Yes, it will definitely cause sleep disturbance.
One of the reasons for the maximum level of 42 decibels, is that you should consider background levels, he said. If the background is 42 decibels and you are adding another 42 decibels, you are approaching 45 decibels and you are pushing yourself above guideline levels.
“You should look at the total dose that these people suffer, not the individual noise”, Mr Stigwood said.
The character of the noise and that it occurs throughout the night and that the background drops quite substantially during the core part of the night will cause disturbance.
Added to that is the fact that there is low frequency noise and vulnerable groups here exposed – the main group of which is the elderly.
Low frequency noise problem
Mr Stigwood said his analysis had confirmed there would be significant low frequency noise from the drilling rig at Preston New Road.
“There is a low frequency noise problem”
“The evidence clearly confirms … the need for lower limits as a result”
Low frequency noise is less attenuated from outside to inside than medium or high frequency noise, he said
“Cuadrilla failed to consider more than level of noise”
Mr Stigwood said Cuadrillal had not considered what made noise annoying (see below). He said:
“Cuadrilla dismissed low frequency noise at an early stage. They said it is not a problem” The company said it doesn’t wake people up below a certain level”.
“It would be a lovely concept if it applied but it doesn’t. It is not correct.”
What makes noise annoying?
Mr Sigwood said night time limit needed to reflect:
- Loudness dominance and noisiness of the noise compared to the existing environment
- Nature and character of the locality
- Frequency and duration of the noise.
- Character of the noise and its incongruity
- Human response
“Noise is about messages”
Mr Stigwood, referring to British Standards on noise, said :
“Noise is about message imparted. It is not about level it is about the message it imparts”.
People vary greatly in their sensitivity to noise and levels may need to be reduced to take account of this. Different characters of noise have an impact, regardless of level.
Fluctuations, noise events and low frequencies
Mr Stigwood said noise levels needed to take into account the number of noise events and the fluctuations in noise levels.
More detailed assessment was needed for low frequency noise, he said.
Guidelines on night time noise
Ashley Bowes, for PNRAG, asked Mr Stigwood about World Health Organisation community guidelines on noise. This proposes a night time level of 42 decibels. Mr Bowes asked Mr Stigwood about the problem of 42.
Mr Stigwood said 42 decibels was “an absolute level”, an “upper limit”. This is the point that with windows open there is sleep disturbance.
He said to avoid sleep disturbance the guidelines recommended 30 decibels. They acknowledged that lower levels of noise can be annoying, depending on the source.
Mr Stigwood said the WHO recommended lower limits if there was low frequency noise and if vulnerable people could be affected. For example, low frequency noise from ventilation systems can disturb sleep even at low levels.
Vulnerable people included elderly, disabled, people who were depressed, as well as young children and babies. These people required greater protections, Mr Stigwood said the guidelines ruled.
Mr Stigwood said there is extensive evidence that sleep disturbance is caused by industrial and nuisance noise below 42 decibels, the level proposed as the night time for Preston New Road.
“We are sub-consciously listening out for something abnormal”, he said.
“Conflict with planning guidance”
Mr Stigwood said :
“These findings demonstrate a clear conflict with the development plan policies EP27 Fylde Local Plan 2005 as it will unacceptably result in harm by way of noise pollution and DM2 Lancashire Waste and Minerals Plan 2013 as environmental impacts that cause demonstrable harm cannot be eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels.”
“Fail to protect the community”
Mr Stigwood said:
“The evidence indicates that if limits needed to protect the community were applied, the development could not meet them ad that in any event the emission of noise will be greater than stated. In the circumstances refusal is considered the most appropriate option.
“If the site was to be approved greater controls are required to prevent serious land use conflicts due to unreasonable and intolerable noise.”
“Erroneous assumptions, conclusions and modelling”
Mr Stigwood sums up his concerns about Cuadrilla’s noise work and the assumptions used to defend it:
Detailed analysis of the proposed development demonstrates the likely levels of noise will be significantly greater than stated. He said:
- Detailed analysis of the prediction methods applied that show those adopted will understate values and ignore circumstances and guidance indicating higher noise will arise.
- Errors in the calculation of values input into prediction modelling.
- Assessment was based on grossly inadequate survey of community noise using unrepresentative locations. This led to erroneous assumptions about the sound environment that are shown to be incorrect.
- A long term survey which has demonstrated the assumptions about the sound environment are erroneous and that it is particularly quiet during core sleep periods and also quieter than stated at weekends and in evenings. This confirms much lower decibel limits are required.
- The assessment failed to factor non-acoustic factors which relate to observed adverse effects.
- Incorrect application of guidance and selecting only those parts of the guidance supporting the approach adopted. In effect the guidance directed the user to the Planning Practice Guidance for Minerals which provides different criteria and methods of approach to that applied.
- The existence of significant low frequency noise content warranting lower limits, an issue dismissed by the appellants without any supporting evidence.
“Enforceable conditions needed”
Mr Stigwood said :
In the event of approval there is a need not only to set enforceable planning conditions that cannot be interpreted in a more lenient manner but also to incorporate enforceable controls which will serve to minimise noise at all times including ensuring the stated sound reductions are achieved.
“Misapplication of guidance”
Mr Sigwood said:
” There has been misapplication of guidance. In particular there has been a false assumption noise levels below those recommended by the WHO to address critical health effects from transport noise are acceptable. This is contrary to WHO guidance.
“There has also been assumption maximum limits set in guidance are applicable regardless of the quietness of the environment. This misunderstands the principles under which those limits are derived. ”
Night time noise limit needs to be stricter
Mr Stigwood said noise should 9 decibels lower than proposed by Lancashire County Council at night.
This is a case warranting stringent low decibel limits and the levels the appellants predict will be generated equate to loud dominant noise at critical times including core sleep hours and at weekends.
The inherent noisiness of this type of sound indicate the need to prevent this noise emerging significantly above background sound levels.
The operators cannot reduce noise to acceptable levels and as a consequence refusal is recommended.
In the event of approval, there is a serious risk necessary control levels would defeat the enterprise and if higher limits are given as sought, land use conflict and nuisance will arise including sleep disturbance.
“Higher noise expected”
Mr Stigwood, for Preston New Road Action Group, said:
“A more robust assessment of resulting (night_ noise indicates significantly higher levels should be expected.”
Approaching this conservatively indicates levels of the order of 48-49dB LAeq as free field and 51-52dBA as a façade level. (Cuadrilla predicted 42 decibels)
Mr Stigwood said a survey by his firm, MAS, had demonstrated a much quieter sound environment exists than assumed.
He said: Measured levels fall as low as 19dB LA90 at night which is limited by the instrument but for significant periods are at and below 25dB LA90. Full assessment requires repeat long survey at Plumpton Hall Farm.
The background sound levels experienced are patently lower than considered to arise by the appellants.
Mike Stigwood spelt out what he said were his concerns about Cuadrilla’s noise forecast. He said:
The evidence indicates significant observed adverse effects will arise. The sound environment is such that the mitigation proposed cannot reduce noise at night to acceptable levels. There are also grounds for serious concern due to noise in the evenings and at weekends.
The appellants analysis includes a number of errors including:
- Failure to gather sufficient appropriate evidence of the existing sound environment.
- To consider non-acoustic factors.
- Inappropriate and selective guidance applied.
- Prediction errors leading to understating of levels with extensive evidence higher levels are expected.
- Assumptions for noise mitigation are without supporting evidence.
- A failure to provide sufficient evidence supporting conclusions.
Noise concerns at Preston New Road
Mr Stigwood said there were four concerns about noise at Preston New Road
1) The reliability of the predictions of noise and its characteristics.
2) The sound environment in which it is planned to occur and how well it is masked or how incongruous that noise is. This includes the reliability of assessments of the existing environment.
3) The formulation of appropriate limits needed to protect the community.
4) Whether levels of noise can practically be reduced sufficient to meet appropriate noise criteria.
Mike Stigwood introduced
Mike Stigwood is a qualified environmental health officer and environmental consultant. He has a post graduate qualifications in acoustics. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health. He is a senior consultant with MAS Environmental.
MAS was commissioned by Preston New Road Action Group.
Key documents distributed to Mike Stigwood
Cuadrilla submits list of documents it wants to use in cross-examining Mike Stigwood. Documents provided to him.