Live news as it happens at the 18th 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.
On this, the penultimate, day of the inquiry four groups give their closing statements. They are, in order, Newton-with-Clifton Parish Council, Preston New Road Action Group, the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and Friends of the Earth.
The remaining closing statements are on Wednesday 16th March.
The closing statements for Roseacre Awareness Group/Treales, Roseacre & Wharles Parish Council, Lancashire County Council and Cuadrilla continue at 10am on Wednesday 16th March.
Friends of the Earth – Estelle Dehon
Ms Dehon said Cuadrilla’s plans did not comply with the development plan and national policy, including the National Planning Policy Framework and the Climate Change Act. The ministerial statement made by Amber Rudd in September 2015 did not bear the weight put it on by Cuadrilla. The impacts of the applications were sufficient to refuse the applications when considered separately or cumulatively, she said.
Ms Dehon said she supported conditions proposed by Lancashire County Council and the residents’ groups. She said FOE’s proposed condition on a baseline health survey and on-going monitoring was important to establish any health effects.
She said a condition on available waste capacity would provide empowering information to Lancashire County Council and would flag up early problems with flowback treatment.
Ms Dehon said Cuadrilla had addressed impacts separately and concluded they were not adverse. This was the wrong approach, she said. Impacts did not exist separately and should be considered cumulatively.
Any benefits from the proposals do not offset the harm of exploration for its own sake, she said.
Ms Dehon said estimated figures on job likely to be generated by the proposals had been given by Cuadrilla and PR Marriott. But they varied, she said. Marriott’s figures were higher but were based on a 2010-2011 contract and were not relevant, she said.
Most of the 11 jobs estimated by Cuadrilla for each per site would go to people outside Lancashire. The jobs generated was not enough to justify the costs of the developments, Ms Dehon said.
Production versus exploration costs and benefits
If the benefits of production were considered then so should the adverse costs of production, she said. They should include the health and climate change impacts.
If the assessment of the application were limited to exploration then the benefits and costs of production should not be considered, Ms Dehon added.
She questioned claims by the Chamber of Commerce that it represented local businesses. During the inquiry, it emerged that only 3% of the Chamber’s membership was in tourism. Ms Dehon added that any evidence based on a shale gas survey of Chamber members should be given vanishingly little weight. The survey asked members how they hoped to benefit, she said.
Ms Dehon said the Chamber’s evidence about the benefits on oil production on the economy of Aberdeen looked only at the upswings and not the downswings. It was not relevant to proposals for shale gas fracking meters away from people’s homes.
Ms Dehon, for Friends of the Earth, said national planning policy requires health impacts of planning applications are taken into account. The relevant Director of Public Health should be consulted, Ms Dehon said.
There will be unacceptable health impacts from the exploration work. Evidence shows they were happening already. The fact that the impacts are focussed on people living nearby does not diminish them.
Ms Dehon referred to evidence from Dr David McCoy who said there would be unacceptable impacts arising from noise, lighting and traffic. They would be exacerbated by emotional and psychological factors that were entirely justified, he said.
Ms Dehon said there was uncertainty about the safety of fracking. She said:
There is a lack of trust in the oil and gas industry generally and Cuadrilla specifically.
There was a fear that production would be forced on local communities she added,. The effects of industrial-scale production were relevant because they feed into concerns at the exploration stage, she said.
She said Cuadrilla “has not been successful” in attempting to reduce concerns.
Dr McCoy said a proper health assessment on industrial scale production would help to address concerns.
Climate change and national planning policy
Ms Dehon said the requirement of the Climate Change Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions cannot be deferred. This is reflected in the National Planning Policy Framework which requires planning to deliver reductions in emissions. Cuadrilla had not taken this into account, she said.
She referred to the refusal of an appeal to extract peat at Chat Moss near Salford. The principle reason for refusal was that it would result in greenhouse gas emissions and was not restricted to peat schemes, she said. It was based on the NPPF requirements to reduce emissions. This sets out the approach on greenhouse gas emissions for mineral applications, she said.
Cuadrilla’s schemes do not comply with principle in the Chat Moss case or the NPPF requirements on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, Ms Dehon said.
Ms Dehon reminded the inquiry that Professor Kevin Anderson had given evidence that shale gas could not be regarded low carbon.
He had said the UK was aiming for a low carbon economy. It could not be a zero carbon economy because it was not possible to remove greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture so electricity generation must be reduced to zero-carbon.
Ms Dehon said Cuadrilla estimated that its projects would generate 124,397 tonnes of co2 equivalent over the six years of the development. This waslikely to be an underestimate, she said. The exploration phase of the development is particularly intensive, she said. The emissions were equivalent to 18 months of car travel in Fylde and this figure had not been challenged. Against the terms of the Paris agreement, the projects would be 5-9% Fylde’s carbon budget.
Control of waste volumes
Ms Dehon Cuadrilla had argued that flowback waste could be controlled by the choke manifold in the well. She said:
This is not a solution but a stop gap measure that could be quite risky.
She said Cuadrilla had assumed 100% of the flowback would be reused in the traffic assessments. But this not assumed in the environmental permit. She added:
This is the best case and it has not considered the worst case.
The proposed developments failed to comply with local planning policy on waste, she said.
She also pointed to a discrepancy in volumes of flowback in Cuadrilla’s waste permit and environmental statement. This had not been diminished by Cuadrilla’s note to the inquiry, she said, nor by Cuadrilla’s claim that it was not relevant because it was covered by the Environment Agency.
FOE’s evidence is that inconsistencies in Cuadrilla’s evidence meant it did not comply with requirement in planning policy for information with which to assess the impact on onsite storage, traffic and treatment capacity.
Regulation of waste
Ms Dehon said the Environment Agency looks at waste treatment facilities. But its statement on Cuadrilla’s waste permit said it was not responsible for treatment capacity.
She said FOE had given evidence that the Environment Agency had “washed its hands” of the issue. DECC has assumed capacity would be scrutinised through the planning system. If the planning system did not look at this issue then it would not be considered, Ms Dehon said.
Ms Dehon said Cuadrilla had estimated that its schemes at Preston New Road and Rsoeacre Wood would use 68% of waste treatment capacity. But she said there was disagreement about whether this was capacity in the UK, northern England or at a subregional level. FoE’s witness had said the 68% referred to national capacity and he was not challenged, Ms Dehon said.
Cuadrilla case required the decision-maker to turn a “very blind eye” to the role of the other regulators, she said.
There is not a presumption that the other regulators would do their job properly. The word in the guidelines is assume, not presume.
The judicial review brought by Frack Free Balcombe Residents’ Associaton found that the planning authority had discretion to consider issues that could not be left to the regulator. The judge in the case did not say there was a presumption that issues could not be taken into account, Ms Dehon said. This had been claimed, erroneously, by Cuadrilla, she said. The Balcombe case had no authority on waste capacity, she added.
Amber Rudd statement
Estelle Dehon, for Friends of the Earth, said Cuadrilla had placed considerable weight on the statement by Amber Rudd on shale gas made in September 2015.
The written statement does not seek to impose outcomes in individual statement, she said. The correct legal approach is that the statement represents the view of the government on shale gas and oil and does not impose presumptions, she said.
“It does not establish that exploration would meet a national need or climate change target by moving to a low carbon economy.”
These aspects of need should be consider alongside other evidence and they are not predetermined by the government’s view in the statement. Ms Dehon added.
She said the statement did not define low carbon or the duration of the transition to a low carbon economy. Ms Dehon said the only evidence on low carbon and transition duration before the inquiry was by Professor Kevin Anderson and this should be considered. His view on the weight that should be given to the statement was unchallenged.
Professor Anderson’s evidence was that the written ministerial cannot bear the “extraordinary weight” that Cuadrilla gives to it. She said Professor Anderson had said of the statement:
It envisages a transitional role of natural gas as a bridge, across which the UK had already travelled some way. The bridge extends to 2030, after which gas must play a rapidly diminishing role.
The statement said it should be considered in planning decisions but it does not say how much weight should be given to it, Ms Dehon said.
The weight to the ministerial statement should be reduced because since it was made there had been two key developments:
- The Government’s abandonment of its Carbon Capture and Storage package. The government’s gas strategy relied on CCS. The support for shale gas is unsustainable and will have to change, though this has not yet happened, Ms Dehon said.
- The Paris Agreement signed by 195 members of the UN framework on climate change, including the UK. The intention is to secure a legally binding agreement, Ms Dehon said. It is a material consideration for the inquiry. It should not be diminished by the UK’s membership of the EU.
Ms Dehon said Amber Rudd’s statement cannot diminish the potential impacts of an application from noise, landscaping, climate change, traffic, waste or public health. Nor does it require permission to be granted despite any impacts, Ms Dehon said.
The statements require developments to be safe, timely and sustainable. What is sustainable in planning is defined in the NPPF. Something that is not sustainable cannot be supported by the ministerial statement, Ms Dehon said.
Critique of Cuadrilla’s planning case
Cuadrilla maintains the development plan is silent on shale gas or out of date and there were no specific policies on shale gas, Ms Dehon said. The company therefore argued that the National Planning Policy Framework should come into force and the schemes should be approved. But Ms Dehon said Cuadrilla’s witness accepted that there was no contradiction between the development plan policies and the NPPF.
Ms Dehon said for a development plan to be judged not silent it had to have a body of policies relevant to the application. Cuadrilla’s witness had accepted this under cross-examination. She said:
It is wrong to say that the development plan is silent if it does not have criteria-based policies on specific developments.
Ms Dehon also said it was wrong to say that the development was out of date. It had been approved only three years ago, she said.
Approach to deciding the appeals
Ms Dehon said the appeals should be decided by referring them to the development plan, unless there were material reasons not to do so.
She said policy DM2 in the Lancashire mineral plans said proposals should be refused unless economic, social and environmental harms could be reduced or eliminated. This included emissions, noise, traffic and health issues, she said.
DM2 tells the decisionmaker it should have information available. If that information is not provided to reduce impacts to acceptable levels then permission should be refused, Ms Dehon added.
Ms Dehon says waste disposal, health and climate change are all planning issues and relevant considerations in deciding the appeals. The inspector can recommended refusal of the appeals on these grounds and it is open to the Secretary of State to refuse them, she says.
North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce – Babs Murphy
Ms Murphy said supporters of shale gas had been subject to intimidation. There had been a case of aggravated trespass at the Chamber’s office. But she said:
“We will not bow down to this unrelenting abuse.”
“Someone somewhere will be inconvenienced”
Ms Murphy said “Someone somewhere will always be inconvenienced. It is our responsibility to ensure that the economic benefits will come to local business.”
We do not disregard local communities she said.
“We owe it to future generations not let this opportunities pass by”.
Babs Murphy for the chamber said the supply chain was ready to develop to serve the shale gas industry in Lancashire. The infrastructure was available and skills were already here, she said.
We have a long and proud history of extractive industry, she said. It is already a centre for the nuclear industry and high technology jobs. The energy hub in Blackpool was already in place. Skills shortages were being addressed to ensure necessary skills were available to the industry.
Lancashire is very well placed to be a centre of excellence for shale gas. But Ms Murphy warned:
“The window of opportunity is not infinite.”
“We should get out there to prove that the region could be a centre of excellence in Europe. We must be ready to kick start an important new industry”, she said.
This needs to be considered in the appeal, Ms Murphy added.
Babs Murphy said if exploration was not allowed the shale gas industry could go to another part of the UK.
The risks of production should not be considered now, she said. Future sites would be considered by other planning applications.
She added that the Bowland shale did not need the density of the wells that had been suggested by opponents and anyway this would not be allowed by the planning system.
Babs Murphy, for the Chamber of Commerce, said other industries would benefit from shale gas. There was support for the initiative from Stay Blackpool and from some farmers who wanted to diversify.
Appropriate conditions and other regulations would mitigate any effects, she said. Shale gas should not be treated as a special case.
Babs Murphy said new skills and jobs could be created if shale gas went ahead in Lancashire. Careful judgement needs to be used to decide how much weight should be given to this issue. It should not be ignored, she said.
Babs Murphy said Aberdeen had become one of the richest cities in the UK. It had embraced the opportunities of North Sea oil and gas. Unemployment was below average and salaries above.
A sophisticated supply chain had developed, she said. Not just oil-related companies had benefited. Other energy companies had developed, including wind farms, she said. All sectors had benefited from the wealth of Aberdeen.
Lancashire is better placed to benefit from gas than Aberdeen was in the 1970s. There is already a history of exploratory drilling in the county.
Babs Murphy defended the use of reports commissioned by the shale industry to predict the impact of fracking on jobs and the economy. The research companies had too much to lose to be influenced in their conclusions by a modest contract, she said.
Babs Murphy, for the chamber of commerce, said: ”
“If shale is found to be commercial viable we would want local companies to be at the head of the supply chain”.
The potential of the Bowland shale is a material consideration, she said.
“If we could get a fraction of the shale gas, the prlze would be tremendous”.
Ms Murphy said the chamber had never made claims about the jobs likely to be created from exploration. No one knows how many jobs would be created, she said, but the exploration would be a way to find out. If production became a reality tens of thousands would be created, she said.
Preston New Road Action Group – Ashley Bowes
Costs versus benefits
Dr Bowes for PNRAG said there was “an unmistakeable conflict” between the Preston New Road scheme and the development plan for Lancashire. He said the scheme was not a sustainable development. For these reasons it should be refused.
He said the known benefits of the scheme were:
- Commercial shale gas potential would be understood
- 11 jobs would be created
But he said Cuadrilla accepted that harm would be hard to mitigate. Dr Bowes said:
“We say the level of harm from the scheme reaches the threshold to refuse the scheme.”
The effects are not easily reversible, he said. The effects of 14 months of sleep disturbance, the effects on the tourism industry and public concerns about the health effects of fracking need to be taken into account.
Dr Bowes said the health impacts on both sites were likely to be similar at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood when demographics were taken into account.
The benefits were not sufficient to outweigh the costs. The scheme was not sustainable and should be refused.
Dr Bowes said national policy sought to avoid adverse impacts. 14 months of adverse noise would be unsustainable, he said. For that reason alone the Preston New Road scheme should be refused.
Dr Bowes said local planning polices said developments should deliver a good level of amenity for local residents.
Night time noise levels Developers should take account of all sources of noises and they should consider the characteristics of noise, he said. NIght time noise should be reduced to a minimum and must not exceed 42 decibels. Dr Bowes said any night time noise above 30 decibels would have adverse impacts
Conflict There is a fundamental conflict between the noise expert who gave evidence, Dr Bowes said. Cuadrilla argued that as long as it does not exceed an absolute level of 42db people’s sleep would not be disturbed. But consideration should be “more nuanced” than absolutely levels, Mr Bowes said.
Noise character Dr Bowes said noise character and the level of noise above background should be considered. Cuadrilla had failed to deal with noise character and this meant its noise case was “hopelessly misconceived”, he said.
Dr Bowes asked: “Can the nature and character of noise justify a level below 42 decibel. Yes, he said.
“Cuadrilla’s noise case collapses because it has failed to consider character of noise.”
Cuadrilla used the World Health Organisation guidelines on noise, Dr Bowes said. But the values in the WHO were designed to deal with noise that had no specific characters, particularly transport noise, sometimes called anonymous noise, Dr Bowes said.
“It is not appropriate with noise with character from the appeal scheme”.
Industrial versus construction noise Dr Bowes said the noise from the fracking sites should be considered industrial, not construction noise as claimed by Cuadrilla. It could therefore not be compared with the A14 or HS2 schemes, referred to by Cuadrilla as relevant examples, he said.
Low frequency noise Cuadrilla had not adjusted for low frequency noise, Dr Bowes added.
“This is perverse and does not comply with the guidelines”.
Dr Bowes said the low frequency noise would exacerbate sleep disturbance.
Health effects The characteristics of the noise and the low frequency impacts on sleep disturbance meant there should be a lower night time noise level than the 42 suggested by Cuadrilla, Dr Bowes said. 30db was the right level. Above that there would be adverse impacts.
Defective survey The Cuadrilla’s noise assessment was defective, Dr Bowes said. It failed to put measuring equipment downwind of the source or near properties. This was contrary to guidance. It was also shorter than guidelines. As a result, the company had overstated the background noise level, Dr Bowes said. He added that the Preston New Road Action Group case was based on a five week survey.
Harm to the landscape
Policy EP11 of the Fylde Local Plan said new developments must be in keeping with the Fylde landscape, Dr Bowes said.
He said Lancashire’s landscape strategy said the Preston New Road area felt within the Fylde landscape character type. Cuadrilla accepted that the development would introduce new features.
Dr Bowes said the scheme would exacerbate urban intrusion. It would introduce vertical dominant features. It conflicted with the development plan policies on landscape.
He said the landscape strategy identified positive features in the landscape around the scheme site that should be protected. This rendered the landscape as “valued.” This is the first warning sign that the scheme is unsustainable, he said.
Dr Bowes said the Preston New Road Action Group had added further five sensitive receptors that should be taken into account when the application should be considered. They had been accepted by Cuadrilla, he said, and showed that the adverse landscape effect of the scheme was more widespread than had been suggested by the company.
He said the project threatened to undermine the attraction of tourists to the area and this should not be underplayed.
The existing pylons and motorway could not be used to justify further intrusion, he added.
Dr Bowes concluded: The scheme would have an adverse effect beyond the immediate area. It failed to secure a good level of visual amenity for local residents and threatened the vitality of the tourist economy of Blackpool and the Fylde.
Ashley Bowes, for Friends of the Earth, said the appeal should be judged against the development plan – the local waste plan and strategy and the Fylde Local Plan.
He said Cuadrilla argued that the development plan was silent, absent or out of date. Dr Bowes said case law said absence, silence or out-of-date development plans should be a matter of fact. It was wrong in law to say the development plan was silent, Dr Bowes said.
He rejected Cuadrilla’s view that the development plan was not relevant because it did not refer specifically to shale gas. Dr Bowes said the plan was consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework. They were not absent, silent or out of date. The appeals should, therefore, be judged against the development plan.
Amber Rudd written ministerial statement
This is a material planning matter, Dr Bowes. But it support sustainable developments and he argued that it would not support Cuadrilla’s plans. One that conflicted with the NPPF would not attract the support of the ministerial statement.
Newton-with-Clifton Parish Council – Cllr Peter Collins
Cllr Collins tells the inquiry the preferred lorry route to the Roseacre Wood site through Clifton is a mistake.
It is 18.1 km long and is the longest of all those considered. A shorter route was rejected as being indirect, he said. It was 17km longer than an alternative through Broughton, he said. But he added that both routes were unacceptable.
He said there were problems with all routes that had been considered. He had suggested, when giving evidence, that the route could go through Inskip. But he said there more tight bends and other problems than he had remembered.
“A transport assessment cannot come up with a suitable route if there is not a suitable route in the first place.”
Cllr Collins said the road network in this part of the Fylde had been developed for horses and carts. The roads were already at a tipping point, he said.
HGVs going to the Westinghouse nuclear plant would be in conflict with Cuadrilla’s vehicles, he said.
“Is it in the national interest to ruin the Fylde countryside with a technology that so far in the Fylde as been unsuccessful.