Regulation

Live updates from the final day of the Cuadrilla fracking inquiry

 

 

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Anti-fracking campaigner outside Blackpool Football Club this morning

Live news as it happens at the last day of the inquiry into Cuadrilla’s fracking plans for the Fylde area of Lancashire. Check our Inquiry page for more information, posts and links.

This is the 19th day of the inquiry, held at Blackpool Football Club. The inspector, Wendy McKay, will hear the closing statements from Elizabeth Warner for Roseacre Awareness Group/Wharles, Roseacre & Treales Parish Council, Alan Evans for Lancashire County Council and Nathalie Lieven for Cuadrilla.

Cuadrilla is also expected to make an application for the costs of its appeals over the refusal of plans to frack at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road, Little Plumpton.


Inquiry closes

5.50

Wendy McKay, the inspector, thanked people who monitored the inquiry’s  audio and video, Blackpool Football Club, the programme officer Yvonne Parker, and all participants in the inquiry.

Nathalie Lieven and Alan Evans thanked Ms McKay for chairing the inquiry.

Ms McKay formerly closed the inquiry.

Cuadrilla responds on costs application

5.43

Ms Lieven said the appeals were on the basis that the refusal of the planning permissions had been unreasonable.

Ms Lieven defended her emphasis on the lack of designated landscapes at the appeal sites. The council’s expert could not point to any feature in the landscape that should be valued in the planning balance, she added.

Lancashire opposes costs application

5.22

Alan Evans for Lancashire County Council opposed Cuadrilla’s application for costs on the Preston New Road appeals.

Mr Evans said the application had been put on the basis that there were no grounds to refuse the application. He said “that was then, and this is now”.

He said: At this inquiry the council has called substantial evidence in justification for its refusal on noise. There would be no necessary link between the refusal and the inquiry.

The council’s expert  had proposed a decibel level of 37 and the council had offered 39 for night time noise condition.

Mr Evans said even if the noise reason for refusal had been rejected these issues would still have been considered at an inquiry because Cuadrilla had changed its proposal for night time noise limits from 39 to 42 decibels.

On landscape reasons for refusal, Mr Evans said there was an issue of subjectivity and the council was entitled to disagree with its advisers. He said Cuadrilla had unduely relied on the absence of designations in the cost application. Policy now recognised the value of ordinary landscapes. Substantial evidence had come forward in the course of the inquiry about landscape impacts, Mr Evans said. He added:

“A national need will not always trump local impacts and local impacts could trump a national needed.”

He invited the inspector to reject the application for costs on the exploration application for Preston New Road.

On the monitoring application, he said the disagreement between councillors and officers at the development control committee had been reasonable.

Cuadrilla application for costs

5.07

Ms Lieven turned to Cuadrilla’s application for costs of the appeals about the refusal of permissions for exploration and monitoring works at Preston New Road. She said Cuadrilla accepted that there was evidence before the planning committee against the Roseacre Wood applications.

Ms Lieven said national guidance states that costs should be awarded if a party had behaved unreasonably and if the unreasonable behaviour has directly caused another party to incur unnecessary or wasted expensive.

She said at the time of the application, Cuadrilla had agreed to a night time noise limit of 39 decibels at Preston New Road. The application was refused, even though the council’s noise consultant had said 39 decibels was acceptable at the nearest property.

Ms Lieven said the refusal  on noise was unreasonable.

Ms Lieven said the refusal on landscape grounds “involved preventing development which should clearly be permitted in the light of national policy, and on vague generalised assertions which were not supported by Lancashire County Council’s own evidence.”

She said

“The council had failed to apply national policy and carry out anything that approximated to a reasonable planning balance”

“They appear instead ot have opposed this shale gas application in principle, in plain breach of national policy and relied on two wholly unreasonable and unsustainable grounds in do so.”

On the Preston New Road monitoring application, Ms Lieven said they were refused because they failed to comply with EP11 because they would lead to industrialisation of the countryside.

She said the decision was “wholly inconsistent with the decision to grant permission for the Roseacre Wood monitoring works”.

She added that it was unreasonable to refuse the application when the development would have negligible impact.

Questions from the Inspector

4.57

In response to a question from the inspector, Ms Lieven said the monitoring and exploration applications should be dealt with on their merits. Ms McKay questioned the accuracy of Ms Lieven’s figure of 3-hours for fracking. Ms Lieven said 3 hours would be an average. It is not the minimum, nor the maximum either,she said, but she added that the duration of fracking was not a condition.

Ms McKay asked about the enforceability of the Parish Agreement. Ms Lieven said to be enforceable in domestic law it would have to be incorporated into legislation. There is no legal enforcement mechanism within it.

Ms McKay asked about vehicles on Dagger Road turning into farms. Is that is an assumption, Ms McKay asked. Ms Lieven said there was evidence of a contractor’s vehicle going down Dagger Road would be going into a site locally. But she said the farm vehicle comment was an assumption.

Cuadrilla: planning balance

4.55

Ms Lieven said the appeal sites fulfil the core sustainable principles in national planning policy.

She said the sites were “extremely good ones for shale gas exploration”. They are in lightly populated areas, with no national landscape designations and the traffic impacts at Roseacre would be mitigated.

The planning balance is clear, she said, “an can only result in allowing the appeals”

Cuadrilla: Roseacre monitoring condition

4.53

Lancashire County Council imposed a condition on the Roseacre Wood monitoring work to protect over-wintering birds on all the sites. Cuadrilla proposed this should be reduced to eight sites and the council has withdrawn its objection, despite continuing opposition by Roseacre residents.

Ms Lieven said if the Roseacre Wood exploration was allowed then the monitoring should be allowed.

Cuadrilla: monitoring at Preston New Road

4.51

Ms Lieven described Lancashire County Council’s refusal of monitoring at Preston New Road as “wholly unreasonable and unsustainable”.

She said the construction would take four days and the impact would be extremely low and extremely localised.

Cuadrilla: economic costs and benefits

4.48

Ms Lieven said Cuadrilla had not sought to place much weight on the economic benefits of exploration. She said the 11 jobs estimated would last for 10 years.

But she added:

“Lancashire will never get the potential benefits of shale gas extraction if the exploration phase is now allowed to go ahead. It is therefore not possible to wholly divorce the two.”

The disbenefits are “extremely speculative and hard to assess”, she said.

“It is difficult to see why there should be any material change in the perception of visitors to the Fylde. If there is a negative perception it is likely for the vast majority of people to be very short term”

Cuadrilla: waste treatment

4.43

Ms Lieven said “This has become the most overblown issue at this inquiry.”

She said the onsite storage and offsite treatment were subject to an environmental permit and “wholly controlled”.

Friends of the Earth had suggested Cuadrilla had underestimated the quantity of flowback fluid. If this had happened the impact on HGVs would be minimal and would amount of an additional five two-way movements.

Ms Lieven addressed an error in the environmental permit about the volume of flowback fluid. But it was “not an operative or material error”, she said.

She added that the capacity of off-site treatment is “not a matter for this inquiry”. If there were not capacity, Cuadrilla would have to store flowback, slow down the operation or find somewhere else to treat it.

“There is no risk that flowback fluid will not be properly treated”, she said. Treatment capacity would take up a maximum of 65% of regional capacity. Outside peak times it would bemuch less.

Cuadrilla: public health and concern

4.37

Ms Lieven said: “There is no doubt that local residents and wider members of the public are concerned and worried about the developments”

She said direct health effects were dealt with by the Environment Agency. There is no basis to find otherwise that the regulatory system would work properly.  She said:

“The EA will be assiduous in checking and controlling any emissions. This is going to be an exceptionally highly monitored and controlled development”

“For many people the anxiety will not be dissipated unless and until they can see and feel confident that hydraulic fracturing the UK does not cause problems which they have been led to believe may occur.”

Ms Lieven said public anxiety and stress related health effects can only be dispersed by allowing the development. She said proposals by Friends of the Earth for a health baseline and monitoring would be “scientifically worthless”.

“The unfortunate truth is that local residents who find themselves close to nationally needed development will have some impacts caused by that development. “

She said the Human Rights Act had no separate issues for the development.

Cuadrilla: traffic conclusions

4.36

The traffic and trsnsport implications of the proposal have been very overstated by Lancashire County Council.

It is not possible to say the impact of traffic will be severe

Cuadrilla: Roseacre Wood traffic

4.14

Ms Lieven said planning policy said applications should be turned down only on traffic grounds if the cumulative impact was severe. She said the key issues was the quantity of HGV and the duration.

HGV numbers The maximum number would be capped at 50 a day, which over a 10 day would be five an hour. This would last for 12 weeks. For 28 days there would be 30-40 a day and for the remainder of 30 months there would be less than 30 a day. After 30 months number fall to 2-3 a week.

Ms Lieven challenged concerns by the opponents of accident risks. The traffic management plan would prevent two HGVs meeting on the lorry route. INbound HGVs can be held on a layby on the A583. She said:

“There is no prospect of a Cuadrilla HGVs meeting between the A583 and the site”

Monitoring She said there would be a daily log of vehicles coming in and out of the site. They would be fully monitored and controlled, she said. If the management plan was breached this would be taken up with the contractors, she added.

Ms Lieven said the chance of one of Cuadrilla’s HGV meeting another HGV on Dagger Road was low. They would be able to see each other . Drivers are completely used to these manoeuvres, she said.

Accident There is no accident data for the route and the fear of accidents is over-stated, Ms Lieven said.

Ms Lieven said there would be no material impact on Wharles, because there would be only  2-3  HGVs a week in stages when they did not travel through the Inskip site.

Cyclists Ms Lieven said the road was wide enough for an HGV to overtake a lorry. But she said this would happen now.

Pedestrians There are no obvious pedestrian destination and no network of footpaths. The survey showed very low levels of pedestrians on the lorry route. The survey had been criticised, she said, but its findings were consistent and had not been challenged by the council. She asked again why Roseacre Awareness Group had not done its own survey.

Horse riders Ms Lieven said Cuadrilla’s survey showed very low numbers of horse riders on the route. All the stables had access to alternative roads to the HGV route. Riders on the roads at the moment could meet an HGV and be able to deal with it safely.

These hazards exist at the moment.

Cuadrilla: Roseacre Wood landscape

4.09

Ms Lieven said Lancashire County Council was not refused on landscape ground

“This must have been because the Development Control Committee took the view that the impacts were not unacceptable”.

She said the site was more rural than Preston New Road and was valued by residents. But she said there were no special characteristics which would accord greater weight than other rural landscapes.

There would be significant impacts, she said, but they would be temporary.

The owner of the nearest property had not objected and any future occupier would know of the site. The next nearest property was occupied by the landowner leasing the site.

It is virtually inevitable, she said, shale gas exploration would be in rural areas. It could not be hidden and would be visible from a wider area. But it would be temporary, landscape impacts would be short term and wholly reversible.

Cuadrilla: rig height

4.07

Ms Lieven said “It is important that operators of shale gas proposals have  operational flexibility in order to deliver the nationally needed development in the most efficient and effective manner.

She added “There is simply no reasonable basis to limit th rig height to anything below 53m”

 

Cuadrilla: landscape issues at Preston New Road

4pm

Ms Lieven turned to the other reason why Lancashire County Council refused planning permission for the Preston New Road application – the unacceptable impact on landscape and the industrialisation.

Ms Lieven said the site was not designated and there were visible features such as the M55, A589, pylons and buildings on the edge of Blackpool. She said:

It is impossible to describe the location as deeply rural or tranquil.

The site had no particular scenic quality, rare features, conservation interest, recreational value or historical and literary associations, she said.

Ms Lieven said “there will be a significant temporary impact on the immediate landscape”.This was inevitable product of the form of development, she said. But the significant impact would be short term and wholly reversible.

The drilling rig of up to 53m would be on site for 14 months. There would also be a coiled tubing tower up to 36m for 8 months and a service rig of up to 36m.

“There will be no times when all three are erected together, except perhaps for the odd day when the servicing rig is erected”

“The physical extent of any landscape is very limited”, she said. In both landscape and visual terms, Preston New Road is a very good site, she said.

Cuadrilla: noise conclusions

3.39

Ms Lieven said the night-time standard of 42 decibels met national and international guidance. There were precedents for it. The condition ensure the standards must be met.

Cuadrilla: Unreasonable burden

3.33

Ms Lieven said reducing noise below 42 decibles would involve very significant additional work and cost.

The cost of the noise barrier around the drilling rig would cost £1.46m per site. It would reduce the number of houses where drilling noise was 40 decibels or more from 3 to zero at Preston New Road and from 13 to 1 at Roseacre Wood.

She addressed the issue that Cuadrilla had been prepared to accept this mitigation in June. But it had incurred costs and delay from the council’s decision to refuse.

Ms Lieven said the onus was on the developer to ensure the 42 decibel limit was abided by. Good design would be done at hiring and purchasing stage.

Cuadrilla: Noise limits

3.10

Ms Lieven said the night time noise is from drilling. This would be for 8 months, followed by a four month gap, with a further six months.

It is not short-term but not comparable with a permanent scheme, such as a wind farm.

The properties affected is very limited, she said. At Preston New Road there are 15 properties within 500m of the site and 19 at Roseacre Wood, she said.

Night-time noise levels Ms Lieven defended Cuadrilla proposed limit of 42 decibels for night time noise. Planning Practice Guidance Minerals required noise to not exceed 42 decibels at a noise sensitive property. Mr Lieven added:

Policy does not require noise levels above significant adverse observable effect noise cannot be allowed

She said there is no evidence of adverse impacts if the night-time noise is limited to 42 decibels.

“A condition should not be imposed on shale gas exploration which is lower than for other forms of development with similar noise profiles because shale gas is perceived to be unpopular”

Ms Lieven said the World Health Organisation community noise guidelines says 42 decibels is where sleep disturbance begins. She said the site noise was temporary and could not be compared with traffic noise, which was permanent.

42 decibels had been adopted for HS2, the Thames Tunnel and the A14. The drilling was more comparable to these projects, than to transport noise, she said.

“There is no rational basis for the Secretary of State to apply any different Lowest Observable Adverse Effect Limit to be temporary night noise impacts from shale extraction.”

Ms Lieven criticised the argument that people didn’t like the appeal schemes and may be annoyed by it.

“A different standard should not be set because of the perceived acceptability of the use in question, particularly given the national need for shale gas exploitation.”

She also dismissed the argument that the level at night should be lower because of elderly people nor low frequency sound.

Ms Lieven said the objection case was based on one phrase in planning practice guidance mineral which is not explained and departs from universal practice. She said

“Whatever noise standard is set here will become the precedent for shale gas exploration permissions.

Given the obvious challenges in finding sites in any event, to set a noise standard which is lower than any of the precedents would be to create a significant barrier to future shale gas exploration.”

Cuadrilla: Fylde Local Plan

3.08

Ms Lieven said the Fylde Local Plan was not relevant to the shale gas applications.

It’s policies SP2 and EP11 would make it impossible to approve a shale gas application.

It is possible to to design a drilling rig in a “vernacular style or to assimilate a 53mm rig into the landscape

It should be given minimal if any weight.

Cuadrilla: National need for shale gas and ministerial statement

3.02

Ms Lieven said the National Planning Policy Framework has strong support for mineral extraction.

This is expressed in Amber Rudd’s statement of last September. This makes clear that exploration has the potential to meet national need and have climate change benefits, she said..

Ms Lieven challenged arguments that weight given to the statement should be reduced. These include the Paris Climate Agreement. But Ms Lieven said the statement said shale gas has an important part to play in helping the UK meet its climate change obligations. Ms Lieven said the government’s response to Paris were not an issue for the inquiry.

“The inspector should continue to give the statement very great weight as the government’s stated position.”

Ms Lieven said the Paris Statement was not enforceable in domestic law.

She said the withdrawal of support for carbon capture and storage did not change Amber Rudd’s position on shale gas.

Cuadrilla: Development plan

2.54

Ms Lieven begins with the issue of whether the Lancashire development plan is absent or silent on shale gas.

She says the local policy framework is silent on shale gas on:

  • Supply of clean energy
  • Importance to the economy
  • Opportunity for exploration

The development plan does not distinguish between shale gas and other forms of minerals, she said. It does not take account of the fact that shale gas developments will inevitably be in rural areas.

Lancashire’s development plan has not followed national guidance on “setting clear guidance  and criteria for the location of hydrocarbon extraction”, she said.

Ms Lieven said:

“The Development Plan is so plainly out of date in relation to national policy that it should be afford little weight in the planning balance.”

 

Cuadrilla closing statement begins

2.50

Lancashire County Council: conclusions

2.47

Mr Evans recommended refusal of the Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood exploration works appeals and the Preston New Road monitoring scheme.

Lancashire County Council: Roseacre Wood highways

2.25

Mr Evans said the Roseacre Wood application for fracking had been  refused on the grounds that it would generate traffic causing an adverse impact on the rural road network and local users.

He said the HGVs generated by the site would not be appropriate on the roads from the A583. National planning policy requires sites to provide safe and secure access. They should also not result in unacceptable cumulative impacts.

Extra numbers Mr Evans said the traffic generation of the appeal site was likely to be greater than Cuadrilla had predicted. The council had regarded the scheme as unacceptable on Cuadrilla’s figures. The increase on one section of the proposed route would be 200%, he said.

Conflict risk Mr EVans said there was a risk of conflicts between HGVs and other cars or HGVs and cyclists, pedestrians and car drivers. The risks are unacceptable, he sai.d

“Narrow county roads are no place for a big increase in HGVs.”

The laissez faire approach that it is alright for HGVs  to cross the central line when navigating junctions should not be countenanced, he said.

“Unacceptable impacts do not become acceptable because they are temporary”.

The unpredictability about peaks and troughs could make problems worse. He said:

“An unacceptable route does not become acceptable because of good driver behaviour”

Cuadrilla’s road safety audit was not carried out across the whole route, he said. And he added that the council contested whether Cuadrilla’s proposed mitigation – passing places on Dagger Road – would make the route acceptable. It is not sufficient to overcome the problems effectively and has not been shown to be workable, he said.

The passing places may could cause driver confusion on Cuadrilla’s evidence, Mr Evans said. A mitigation measure that might give rise to new accident risks is not a satisfactory solution. He said:

“It is a hallmark of an unsuitable route”

The traffic management plan does not provide an “adequate solution” either, he said. Cuadrilla does not have control over drivers. The access to a layby for parking is not in the control of Cuadrilla either, he said.

Mr Evans said the enforcement tools available to the council on traffic numbers are blunt.  He said:

“The potential to block the stable door after the horse has bolted is clear”

He recommended the appeal be dismissed.

Lancashire County Council: Preston New Road monitoring

2.19

Mr Evans said Lancashire County Council had refused the application on the grounds that it would industrialise the countryside.

Cuadrilla had challenged the council’s estimates of total construction duration for the monitoring arrays, saying it was an over-estimated. Mr Evans said Cuadrilla had given no evidence that it had installed monitoring arrays within four days. There was, however, evidence of sites that took four days to drill, he said.

Lancashire County Council’s estimate of 80 days for the total construction period should therefore still be considered, Mr Evans recommended.

Lancashire County Council: planning balance at Preston New Road

2.17

Benefits Mr Evans said there is a need to establish there are sufficient recoverable quantities of shale gas. At Preston New Road, Cuadrilla estimated 11 full time jobs including supply chain benefits.

Planning policy said the benefits of production should not be considered for applications for exploration.

The benefits of the Preston New Road scheme are outweighed by impacts.

Lancashire County Council: mitigation of noise

2.12

Mr Evans said Cuadrilla’s claim that it would cost £1.46m to reducing noise from the Preston New Road by 3 decibels was meaningless. There was no context to the figure, he said.

Cuadrilla’s comparison with £6m value of the gas produced in the extended flow test was not verifiable, Mr Evans.

The 3 decibel reduction from 42 to 39 decibels by using acoustic screens would be noticeable. But even 39 decibels would not avoid sleep disturbance for local people.

It has not been demonstrated that harmful noise levels had been reduced to minimum levels.

 Lancashire County Council: More on noise

2.03

Alan Evans continues to sum up the case for Lancashire County Council. He challenged Cuadrilla’s argument that night-time noise would not be a problems because of the noise from traffic on Preston New Road.

Mr Evans said site noise would stop people getting back to sleep if they had been woken by a car passing. Site noise would exceed background levels for most of the night.

He said people living near Preston New Road would not get used to the site noise because it was different and out of context.

Inquiry resumes

2pm

Inquiry adjourns

1.09

The inquiry adjourns at 2pm

Lancashire County Council: Preston New Road noise

12.46

Mr Evans turns to  noise – the second reason for refusing the Preston New Road shale gas planning application.

He said national noise policy recognises that noise can have an impact on health and quality of life. Noise exposure can cause annoyance and this, along with sleep disturbance, can have an impact on quality of life. National policy requires development to contribute to a good quality of life and a good standard of amenity.

National policy Planning Practice Guide Minerals (PPGM) was the most relevant policy for the schemes, Mr Evans said. This takes account of conventional and unconventional operations. It requires noise to be reduced to a minimum any adverse effects.

Mr Evans said policy guidance of 42 decibels for night time noise was an upper limit. Adverse effects can occur below 42 decibels he said. 42 is the significant observable adverse effect level for night time noise.

He said Cuadrilla had a “fundamental misunderstanding” on the need to reduce to a minimum any adverse noise effects.

British Standard Preston New Road is not an open site, Mr Evans said, and so Cuadrilla used an inappropriate British Standard on noise assessment.

This is not simply a point of definition, Mr Evans said. There is a distinction between changing noise from a construction and the static industrial drilling noise in the appeal case, he said.

World Health Organisation guidelines Mr Evans turns to the World Health Organisation guidelines for community and night-time noise. Cuadrilla used the community guidelines with a night time decibel level of 42.

But Mr Evans said the guidance said lower levels may be annoying. And he said the nigh-time noise – which recommended a limit of 40 decibels – had more recent guidance.

Night-time noise levels 42 decibels cannot be argued to be the right level for night time noise, Mr Evans said. Sleep disturbance could be caused at 42 decibels.

Complaints about night time noise can begin at 35 decibels, according to the WHO guidelines, he added. Many more people complain about industrial noise than traffic noise because there is no one to complain to about traffic, Mr Evans said.

Cuadrilla sought to down-play the 35 decibel complaint because it was based on aircraft noise. But the county council’s noise expert said in his professional experience, people do begin to complain at 35 decibels.

Lancashire County Council: Preston New Road rig height

12.42

Mr Evans said if the appeal were allowed, a condition should be imposed limiting the rig height to 36m (Cuadrilla wants the freedom to use up to 53m).

Cuadrilla had argued that there would no greater impact on landscape if the rig were 53m. Mr Evans submitted there was a material difference between the two heights.

CS5 of the minerals and waste core strategy said harm to the community should be minimised through sensitive working practices, he said. The 36m rig height limit would meet this policy, Mr Evans, said if the appeal were refused.

Lancashire County Council: unavoidable and temporary claims

12.37

Mr Evans turned to Cuadrilla’s claim that impacts of a shale gas site would be inevitable on the landscape.

It is not inevitable that every development would generate major adverse effects, as this one does, he said.

Unacceptable developments do not become unacceptable because they are temporary, Mr Evans. He said there was a difference between temporary and short-term. Unconventional onshore oil and gas schemes were likely to take longer than conventional ones. Cuadrilla’s scheme is not short-term, he said.

Mr Evans said landscape and visual effects should be considered over six years.

There are demonstrable adverse effects that have not been minimised. It therefore conflicted with policies DM2 and EP11.

Lancashire County Council: visual impact at Preston New Road

12.25

The impact of the infrastructure on the landscape and the visual amenity of residents was one reason for refusing the fracking scheme at Preston New Road.

Mr Evans said the landscape provides a buffer between Kirkham and Blackpool. It had a value and sensitivity to change. The fact that the landscape is not designated does not mean it does not have a value, he said.

The presence of the motorway and lighting on the A583 and the edge of Blackpool should not be regarded as a justification for more “out of character” development, Mr Evans said.

He added: “The proposed features of the development would be out of scale and character with the features and result in a loss of landscape amenity.”

Mr Evans said Arup for Cuadrilla may have looked only at the loss of landscape elements in its assessment, rather than the addition of new features, to reach its conclusion that there would be no change.

Mr Evans added that the company had not included the impact of lighting in the landscape and visual assessments. He also questioned how the company could argue that a 53m rig would have no more impact than a 36m rig.

The proposal will give rise to significant visual effects, Mr Evans said.

He said: At four view points, the impact is major adverse, the highest category, and represents a substantial deterioration  in the quality of a view. At one view point the impact had been underplayed by Cuadrilla.

The number of people affect is “far from insignificant”, Mr Evans said.

He said Cuadrilla’s photo montages underplayed the impact and revisions, requested by the council, had never been produced. They had a flattening effect on what is seen and did not use best practice.

Lancashire County Council: written ministerial statement

12.22

Mr Evans said Cuadrilla had “placed exaggerated weight” to the statement on shale gas, made by Amber Rudd in September last year. It is material, he said, but it does not displace the development plan. It continues to require sustainable development, as the National Planning Policy Framework does, Mr Evans said.

He said the benefit that could potentially be brought about by exploration and production are not additional factors that should be counted again in any planning balance. Mr Evans said the ministerial statement carries due weight but no more.

Lancashire County Council: reasons for refusal

12.19

Mr Evans turned to the weight to be given to the policies used to refuse the applications at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.

Policies DM2 of the Minerals Plan and EP11 of the Fydle Local Plan were consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework.

EP11 could be applied to temporary developments, Mr Evans said.

Lancashire County Council: development plan

12.06

Mr Evans said Lancashire’s Development Plan is not absent, as Cuadrilla claimed. It includes the Minerals and Waste Local Plan and the Fylde Local Plan, he said.

The development plan was also no silent, as Cuadrilla had also claimed. It contained a body of general development control policy relevant that allowed a judgement on the development to be made, Mr Evans said. This meant it complied with a ruling in the case of Blore Homes.

Policy DM2 of the Minerals Plan provides a sufficient basis for the inquiry and defeats the claim that the development plan is absent or silent, Mr Evans added.

Mr Evans said the development plan was not out of date either, as Cuadrilla had argued. It did not specifically deal with shale gas or the infrastructure but that did not make it out of date.

The generic nature of policy of DM2 meant it could deal with shale gas – and other mineral applications, he said.

Mr Evans turned to the Fylde Borough Local Plan. He said this was not out-of-date. There is nothing in the plan that suggests policy specifically apply to minerals or waste. But they don’t say they cannot be applied either, he said.

He said the FBLP should be read in conjunction with the Minerals and Waste Plan and Core Strategy. It is relevant, he said.

Lancashire County Council: introduction

12.02

Alan Evans begins his closing statement. The county council argues that the Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood exploration plans are against the development plan and should be refused. The Preston New Road monitoring scheme should also be refused, he said.

Roseacre Awareness Group: conclusion

11.39

Mrs Warner said given the level of widespread public concern one might have expected the appellant to go out of its way to do detailed surveys, based on the best information and the most up to date methodology.

In reality it has been rather different, she said.

The proposals had been based on incomplete surveys, predictions and assessments. The company’s own witness had admitted the visualisations did not follow best practice.

Cuadrilla’s witnesses may have been dong their best, Mrs Warner said, but none appeared to have a grasp of the process, timetable and equipment.

Mrs Warner said it was telling that Cuadrilla’s own employees did not give evidence. A cynical observer might this think was

There still remained much uncertainty, she said.

A range of conditions had been suggested, Mrs Warner said,  but she said

“RAG [Roseacre Awareness Group] doubts they will be effective, relying on constant vigilance by  hard-pressed and under-resourced local authority.”

“The burden will fall on local residents to monitor and prompt enforcement action.”

Mrs Warner said: those most affected will have to put up traffic, noise and lighting and they will have to police it.

“It is for Cuadrilla to show that the operations will be safe and sustainable.”

But she said the opposite was true.

The development will cause susbtantial harm. There is nothing in local or national planning policy that supports shale gas exploration in these circumstances.

The Secretary of State is respectfully invited to dismiss the appeal”

Roseacre Awareness Group: monitoring

11.37

Mrs Warner said if the exploration site appeal was refused then the monitoring scheme appeal should be refused.

“The two appeals stand and fall together”.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Energy policy

11.31

Mrs Warner said Cuadrilla placed great weight on Amber Rudd’s statement. She said the benefits of the scheme will arise from production. The benefits had been exaggerated and the costs overlooked.

Government policy does not override the development plan. The statement does not encourage development in unsuitable places.

The weight to be given to the exploration is not as great as it would be if the location were more limited.

Benefits in terms of jobs and the cost, including disturbance and loss of tourism, she said. Any local economic benefits would be limited. National economic benefits would be restricted to production at which stage the costs would be greater, she said.

This location is not safe nor sustainable, Mrs Warner said.

Resources are abundant and widely dispersed.

“There is no support in national policy for exploration at this specific site at Roseacre Wood and the overall planning balance weights heavily against allowing the exploratory work appeal”

Roseacre Awareness Group: planning policy

11.24

Mrs Warner said the scheme at Roseacre Wood was in conflict with local and national policy.

She said the development plan did not specifically mention shale gas but policies in the plan were relevant.

There would be conflict with DM2 of the minerals plan. The scheme did not contribute to residential amenity and  landscape character and it did not reduce journeys. It also failed to comply with policies EP11, EP27, and EP28 in the Fylde Local Plan because it was in conflict with the landscape.

The development plan was not absent or silent. The impact of the scheme would outweigh the benefits. Safe and sustainable locations had to be found for shale gas.

With references to the National Planning POlicy Framework, Mrs Warner said it could not be regarded as sustainable. The impacts would not support community wellbeing. It conflicts with paragraphs 32 and 35: the transport proposals would generate HGV movement on suitable road and does not create a safe entrance. It would also be in conflict with the NPPF over noise and disturbance to local people.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Community and amenity

11.19

Mrs Warner turns to the impact of the Roseacre Wood site on recreation and communities.

The greenspace between towns and villages is even more valuable as they grow.

Cuadrilla had claimed the community infrastructure was limited.

Mrs Warner said it was, in fact, thriving. She listed community hubs and activities.

There is a strong sense of community spirit.

The local area is known for its excellent farming and food production.

She said the neighbourhood was well used for recreation and it was visited for local businesses.

There are three footpaths near the site, well-used by dog walkers and bird watchers. The quiet rural lanes and low traffic volumes makes the area popular with cyclists and horse riders.

There were more than 13,000 objections to the Roseacre Wood and many local people opposed the scheme, as witnessed by the many signs in the villages.

There will be significant adverse impacts on the community, recreation and amenity value of the area.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Noise

11.02

Roseacre Wood is the more sensitive of the two proposed sites, Mrs Warner said. Cuadrilla had estimated that background levels were lower at Roseacre Wood. She said predicted noise must be compared with background levels.

The 42 decibel level for night-time noise, proposed by Cuadrilla, should not be treated as a target, Mrs Warner said. Planning guidelines require the developer to demonstrate they have reduced noise to a minimum and related them to background noise, she said.

The company should take account of the physiological consequences of noise. She said:

Cuadrilla pre-selected maximum values and threshold below which no impact had been considered to occur.

It had first said the lowest observable adverse effect level of noise would be 45 decibels. Then it moved to 42 and later 40. In January 2015 it suggested the level could be reduced by mitigation to 37 – but it had now said this would be an unreasonable burden.

It has failed to assess noise against background levels but it has done so in breach of the PPG minerals by failing to demonstrated it had reduced to a minimum.

It had not demonstrated it had used good acoustic design throughout the development.

There is no evidence the appellant had done this, she said. The process had been adhoc and after the event.

It had failed to demonstrate it had reduced noise to a minimum to accepted levels.

No proper survey of background noise levels had been taken. They took only single night samples for 30 minutes at two locations.

The appellant’s survey plainly fails to take proper account of the variability of background noise levels, Mrs Warner said.

She said the survey should have lasted at least week, including both week day and weekends.

The typical background level was 30 decibels, the lowest observable adverse effect was 30-35, and the significant adverse effect was at 40.

There would be adverse impacts on residents at 37 decibels. The site would be operating at 10 decibels above background, leading to significant impacts.

The development was likely to produce distinctive industrial noise, out of keeping with the neighbourhood. local residents would focus and become sensitised to it.

37 decibels would be the highest acceptable level from the site, Mrs Warner said. It will not eliminate noise disturbance but it will reduce it by half.

It is “untenable” for the appellant to claim it is an unreasonable burden because they had already committed to it, Mrs Warner said.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Local homes

11.01

The impact of the development on local houses would be severe, Mrs Warner said.

The nearest house Old Orchard Farm would be converted into an unpleasant place to live, she said.

The fact that the occupier has not objected does not diminish the objective assessment of the impact.

She listed six other properties and the camp site that would be affect. Their experience as a tranquil rural places would be spoiled.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Lighting

10.55

This would be 24-hour security and this would have a serious impact on the neighbourhood , Mrs Warner. This would be most serious during drilling but it would continue throughout the development period.

She said the Cuadrilla had accepted that the comparison with lights on the Inskip masts was faulty.

The presence of the masts cannot be used to justify the lighting at the site.

“This will transform a dark and tranquil field into an industrial installation. The impact will be severe”

The impact would spread up to about 700m away. It will be the dominant feature in the landscape.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Landscape character and amenity

10.44

Mrs Warner said the nearest property was 27om from the site. Lanes connect to footpaths and are well used by local peole and visitors.

The landscape is slightly undulating, with open views and hedgerows.

“There is no development in the locality which is similar to the proposed development in appearance, activity and noise. “

The impact of the development would be at least as great as at Preston New Road, she said.

Mrs Warner said Cuadrilla’s landscape assessment was not objective or balanced and the supporting evidence had not be produced. She said:

“The impact has been underplayed”

The visualisation produced by Cuadrilla had not been produced in accordance with best practice, Mrs Warner said.

They give a misleading impression of the scale of the development and downplayed its impact.

Limited weight should be placed on them as a result, she said.

Cuadrilla had refused to update the visualisation using best practice. As a result, the council had made judgements based on those visualisations.

“Had officers and members had different visualisations then different judgements may have been made on the impact on landscape.”

Mrs Warner added:

There is no material on which to judge Cuadrilla’s assertion that a 53m rig have no greater impact on the landscape than a 36m rig.

She said Cuadrilla did not take account of lighting or the introduction of industrial features in the landscape assessment. She said:

No attempt has been made at any level of detail to assess the effect of visual amenity for local residents.

It was of paramount importance for Cuadrilla to do this, she said.

Mrs Warner turned to Cuadrilla’s claim that there would no significant character change to the field in which the site was based. She said

This is so obviously wrong

She said the site was not designated but it was valued. It would transform a pasture field into an industrial site. The tree planting would reach only 2m and would have little effect on screening and do nothing to mitigate the most serious impact in the early stages.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Road condition

10.42

Mrs Warner said the edge of the carriageway cannot be relied on by 44 tonne lorries. Pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders used the verges as a refuge.

Cuadrilla had failed to take account of these users, she said.

“It relied on driver behaviour and education to demonstrate the risk to vulnerable users would be minimised. It is unclear how it would be monitored or enforced. it is treated with a considerable degree of scepticism by local residents”.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Residents’ road safety survey

Mrs Warner said a survey commissioned by the residents showed there were significant problems with the route.

At one junction there was a risk of head-on collision. At another, traffic would not be able to tell that an HGV was in their lane, creating a serious risk of accident. There would also be traffic conflicts at three sections of the route.

There was a risk of low-speed roll-over, she said, particularly when the load was unstable.

Cuadrilla had not provided evidence that the junctions on the route would be safe, Mrs Warner said.

The risks cannot be dismissed as being (in the words of Cuadrilla) unlikely, she said.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Hedge height and visibility

10.37

Cuadrilla relied that hedges would be 1m and allow visiblity for HGV drivers. The company’s witness said the hedges would not suddenly become higher.

But Mrs Warner said Cuadrilla could not control hedge heights. The hedges could grow during the project to become higher and prevent visibility.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Safety audit

10.31

Mrs Warner said there had been no safety assessment, apart from the access road. A safety audit looked only at three locations, including access. Two of them had since been changed so its value was only for the passing places on Dagger Road. But it had been presented as an audit of the whole route.

This is disingenuous, she said.

She said residents were concerned that Cuadrilla’s witness had been dismissive of safety of local roads.

The road safety audit were duty bound to advise only on what they were asked to look at. Cuadrilla said accident data had been provided but Mrs Warner said mere consideration of accident data would take no account of the geometry or condition of the road or the nature and volume of proposed traffic.

There is no adequate evidence to support that the junctions were safe for HGVs, she said. Cuadrilla’s claim that they were was based on OS data, rather than visual surveys, she said and the OS data was unreliable.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Passing places

10.29

Mrs Warner said Cuadrilla proposed to add five passing places on Dagger Road. This would allow two HGVs to “uncomfortably” pass each other.

There was likely to be congestion with local traffic. Cuadrilla would be able to control outbound movements and little on inbound and no control over existing users, she said.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Traffic

10.15

Mrs Warner, for Roseacre residents said one might have expected the developer to undertake a thorough review of the proposed route and traffic figures.

“Unfortunately the evidence is superficial and incomplete.”

The route is 18.3km from junction 3 of the M55 and Cuadrilla accepted it was direct. It included 8.8km on minor and unclassified rural roads, some of them little under 4m wide. They are unlit and have no pavement, and the quality of the surface is varied, she said.

These rural roads were never designed to accommodate the biggest HGVs, weighing 44 tonnes and measuring 16.5m long that would serve the site for for six years.

Mrs Warner said Cuadrilla had obscured the “true picture” of the traffic generated by the site by combining all HGVs over 3.5 tonnes.

She gave figures for current HGV movements on the proposed route: Dagger Road 2, Church Road 6, Roseacre 2, Inskip Road 6. It is only Clifton Lane that sees a significantly greater number of HGVs.

Mrs Warner criticised Cuadrilla’s survey of pedestrians on the proposed route. It is difficult to say what statistical value this survey has, if any at all, she said.

It failed to record most of the users of the route most of the time and ignored peak pedestrian use in Clifton, she said. She estimated:

“There would be at least six times the number of pedestrians using the route than Cuadrilla had record.”

A large number of pedestrians and cyclists using the route and are likely to be affected by the large number of HGVs using the route.

Cuadrilla’s forecasts of traffic generated by the development.

They suffer from the same inadequacies as the survey data, she said. They don’t distinguish between sizes of HGV. There was no evidence about the  number of the largest HGVs apart from saying most of the HGVs

Even now, at the close of the inquiry we are left to speculate how many large lorries will be travelling to and from the site, Mrs Warner said.

There is also the mystery about the 7,000 tonnes of sand that will be needed but doesn’t appear to be included in the calculations.

It appears there will be peaks of 36-50 two-way HGV movements per day, Mrs Warner said.

It will far exceed the number of the largest HGVs using the roads today

Roseacre Awareness Group: Development plan

10.13

Mrs Warner said the county council’s approach to evolving shale gas was sensible, Roseacre’s witness had concluded.

She said Cuadrilla’s argument that the development plan was absent and out of date. This was a bad point, Mrs Warner added.

She then went on to describe some of the problems with the Roseacre Wood scheme

Roseacre Awareness Group: Ministerial statement

10.10

Mrs Warner refers Cuadrilla’s interpretation of the statement by Amber Rudd on shale gas.

Mrs Warner said the government’s view was that shale should be explored in a safe, sustainable and timely way. Developments should be responsible and environmental standards should be highest.

The statement provides no support for the idea that the need for shale gas trumps safety. It promotes safe and sustainable exploration. Where they make roads more dangerous or have an impact on rural residents they would not be support.

The area for potential for shale gas  exploitation is very large. The idea that minerals can only be exploited where they are found has much less weight, she said.

Roseacre Awareness Group: Key Roseacre issues

10.08

Elizabeth Warner, for Roseacre residents, identified the issues about the Roseacre Wood fracking scheme:

  • Impact of traffic on rural roads
  • Impact on rural landscape and visual amenity of residents
  • Implications of development on the health of residents, particularly noise and light

Roseacre Awareness Group

10.06

Elizabeth Warner tells the inquiry that Robin Green for Roseacre Awareness Group has been unable to travel. Mrs Warner said she would read the closing statements.

Extra information

10.04

The inquiry hears that extra information has been submitted to the inquiry.

Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, says a composite list of conditions has been circulated for comment.

Inquiry opens

10am

This report is part of DrillOrDrop’s  Rig Watch project.  Rig Watch receives funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. More details here

8 replies »

  1. Excellent summing up by Natalie Lieven. What a waste of time! Its all legal, planned, following guidelines, safe, and monitored. Who would have guessed???

    It seems fair that costs should be awarded as the ridiculous rejection by incompetent councillors, which was against planning and legal advice. The comments on traffic were very obvious. Trucks a pedestrians and horses deal with each other up and down the country. Why is it any different here?

    The council should reimburse Cuadrilla for all of the extra costs a years delay has incurred. What about the 38 laid of drillers, and the staff cuts at Cuadrilla? The nimby and totally ill informed protestors have a lot to answer for.

    • Agree. The argument for refusal was conjecture and perceived risks of impact rather than measure to meet consistent guidance and standard.

  2. Totally agree Johnson.

    And as a footnote, how this site can claim to be independent is beyond me.

    In my opinion it’s proven to be nothing other than food and fodder the protester groups. Pandering to their respective crap, claims and suggestions, this site and the running commentary has been anything but independent.

  3. Well we’ll see shall we? The comments above don’t seem to reflect the experience of those of us who bothered to attend and speak at the Inquiry.

    “food and fodder” Michael? That sounds like rubbish and crap to me 🙂

  4. It appears to me the whole planning application has got off on the wrong basis. The County Council were told that they could only refuse the application on limited grounds, national policy was the order of the day. Unfortunately the powers that run the country had no idea at the time of the dangers of vertical fracking. ( I’m trying to give them the benefit of doubt). The inquiry has revealed evidence from around the world on the danger to the environment, damage to health and lots of other issues which we hope the guardians of our country will take notice of. Lancashire county council should be applauded, because of their rejection of the planning application, none of this information would have come out before drilling was allowed. Fracking over most of the country is government policy and the country now knows all the dangers involved, even the Government will be hard pressed to give it the go ahead without further investigation. If it gives the go ahead, human rights and the European Court will become involved. Cuadrilla’s claim for costs is not sustainable as the County council were forced into this situation.

  5. Ruth — I just wanted to say thank you for your heroic efforts on DoD in keeping us up to date with every day of this enquiry. It’s greatly appreciated by those of us who could only be there sporadically.

    The environmental and financial case against fracking couldn’t be any clearer now, and I I know that the various anti-fracking groups won’t let this one lie.

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