National need versus local impacts


The Cuadrilla public inquiry which closed this week defined the arguments that are likely to be rehearsed across the country when new fracking applications are decided.

The company said its shale gas plans in the Fylde area of Lancashire should be approved because of the national need for gas. This was backed by government policy, Cuadrilla argued, particularly a statement made by the Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd, in September last year.

Opponents including Lancashire County Council and residents’ groups said there was no national policy to explore for shale gas at unsuitable sites. They said the impacts of the proposals at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood would be unacceptable. The effect of noise and light pollution, increased traffic and the impacts on landscape outweighed the benefits.

DrillOrDrop has looked at the local and national planning guidance referred to in the inquiry and you can read our detailed review here.

Need for shale gas

Cuadrilla said its exploration plans were supported by the statement made by Amber Rudd on 16th September 2015. In it she said:

“The Government therefore considers that there is a clear need to seize the opportunity now to explore and test our shale potential.”

The company also argued that its plans complied with paragraph 91 of the Planning Practice Guidance on minerals development:

“There is a pressing need to establish – through exploratory drilling – whether or not there are sufficient recoverable quantities of unconventional hydrocarbons such as shale gas”.

The opponents argued that the written ministerial statement did not seek to:

  • Displace local planning policy
  • Impose outcomes in individual cases
  • Alter existing policy

Roseacre Awareness Group told the inquiry:

“It is not national policy to encourage shale gas exploration in unsuitable locations. Safety and sustainability are key considerations. Even assuming a national need for exploration, there is no such need for exploration at Roseacre Wood”.

And Friends of the Earth concluded:

“The written ministerial statement does not favour high volume hydraulic fracturing in the United Kingdom above other methods of obtaining shale gas. Nor does it operate to create a presumption in favour of developments such as these proposals. Nor does it displace the Development Plan. Nor does it reduce the statutory duties under the Climate Change Act 2008. Nor is the Ministerial Statement akin to policy that has been tested by formal public consultation.”

Local impacts

Cuadrilla argued that the impacts of the proposed sites were: “of short duration and strictly controlled and limited by conditions.”

Opponents argued that impacts would cause demonstrable harm and had not been eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels.

On noise impacts, for example, Cuadrilla said the levels predicted for the two sites complied with national planning policies and would set a precedent for future shale gas developments.

Nathalie Lieven, Cuadrilla’s barrister said:

“We consider that the appropriate noise level to ensure no adverse effects on health and quality of life are those set out in PPG [Planning Practice Guidance] Minerals. We have demonstrated that with mitigation measures these limits can be achieved, therefore complying with the second criteria of the paragraph 123 of the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework].”

But the opponents said the 55 decibels proposed during the day and 42 at night were too high. The predictions, they argued, did not properly take account of background levels, duration, noise characteristics or the impact on local people.

Ashley Bowes, the barrister for the Preston New Road Action Group, said:

“A project which produced noise at a level which was significant and adverse for 14 months would be demonstrably unsustainable and the only proper response to such a proposals is to withhold planning permission for that reason alone.”

On traffic impacts, Cuadrilla had estimated that each site would generate 50 two-way movements by heavy goods vehicles each day at peak times.

At the inquiry, Cuadrilla argued that the transport implications of the Roseacre Wood proposal had been overstated by the council and it was not possible to say the impacts of traffic would be severe or that they conflicted with national and local planning policy.

Lancashire County Council said the company had not reduced harmful impacts of traffic to acceptable levels, in breach of local planning policy. The council said Cuadrilla had not created safe and suitable access and the residual cumulative impacts of the development were severe, both of which breached the National Planning Policy Framework.

Alan Evans, the barrister for the council, said:

“Need and economic benefits are not sufficient countervailing factors in the planning balance. The appeal should be recommended to be dismissed.”

We have reviewed the planning guidance on all the impacts discussed at the inquiry and other issues. Link here for our detailed report

What happens now?

The inquiry inspector, Wendy McKay, is expected to announce within the next two weeks when she will complete her report. This will go to the Local Government Secretary, Greg Clark, who will make the final decision. There is no statutory time limit for the inquiry report or Mr Clark’s decision.

Background to the inquiry and links to posts

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

16 replies »

    • Salt water disposal is not a lot to do with fracking. Its to do with oil production. Please watch

      • Watch that then read this:
        talks of human induced earthquakes
        see article states He said induced earthquakes are far more like to be triggered by disposal wells than by hydraulic fracturing.

        Then consider a more responsible approach to weighing up how much more life has to be sacrificed to feed oiligarchs?

        Kills and drills—how much does a new pod of dolphins cost and can you buy replacements on ebay???

        US oil spills—-
        A massive response ensued to protect beaches, wetlands and estuaries from the spreading oil utilizing skimmer ships, floating booms, controlled burns and 1.84 million US gallons (7,000 m3) of Corexit oil dispersant.[14] Due to the months-long spill, along with adverse effects from the response and cleanup activities, extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and fishing and tourism industries was reported.[15][16] In Louisiana, 4.6 million pounds of oily material was removed from the beaches in 2013, over double the amount collected in 2012. Oil cleanup crews worked four days a week on 55 miles of Louisiana shoreline throughout 2013.[17] Oil continued to be found as far from the Macondo site as the waters off the Florida Panhandle and Tampa Bay, where scientists said the oil and dispersant mixture is embedded in the sand.[18] In 2013 it was reported that dolphins and other marine life continued to die in record numbers with infant dolphins dying at six times the normal rate.[19] One study released in 2014 reported that tuna and amberjack that were exposed to oil from the spill developed deformities of the heart and other organs that would be expected to be fatal or at least life-shortening and another study found that cardiotoxicity might have been widespread in animal life exposed to the spill.[20][21]

  1. How can national need be greater than the needs of the planet – climate change does not recognise international boundaries, we all share one planet. This is about ignoring climate change science for short term greed and scaremongering. The UK imports gas in the main from Norway, there is a glut of hydrocarbons in the world and if the UK is serious about using gas to bridge to a sustainable energy mix there is no place for a fracking industry. Imported gas should be the solution to provide a bridge and to avoid gas lock in. Yes it will take time to phase out fossil fuels, it isn’t going to happen over night, but we have to start now and not further invest in recovering new reserves of gas/fossil fuels. There is no energy security issue – other than one the government likes to use to scare the public into accepting fracking.
    Furthermore with the economics of shale, the environmental impacts and questions about health impacts – fracking is a backwards step. Investment needs to be made in sustainable energy and the UK needs to have a clear energy policy – rather than the complete mess and lack of strategy there is now. Look at Sweden – this is possible with investment and political will.

      • WOW….never read so many myths and legends, thanks ken, hilarious read of how the blind lead the blind, glad to have you giving support to intelligent anti frack debate…..

      • Shale gas is the dearest, most dangerous and dirty gas there is. That is exactly why it is the last gas to be exploited. Our home grown North sea output is in decline from a crippling tax regime. Not because the reserves are not there. Compare these gas prices.
        The December 2015 landed price for LNG is just 37p per therm.

        Centrica have stated that the lowest operational price for extracting shale gas in Europe is 46p per therm while the Oxford Institute of Energy Studies suggest it may be a high a 102p per therm. Ernst and Young and Bloomberg both suggest the average price is 62p per therm.

        Our own home-grown North Sea gas is produced for just over 25p per therm being half the cost of the lowest estimates for European shale. This relative calculation does not change with the fluctuation of global market prices.

        So there we have it. Our North Sea Gas Industry (employing 375,000) is the cheapest. Alter the production tax down from 60-80% to the same rate offered to onshore (30%) and new fields will be opened up.The infrastructure is in place and there is 60,000 skilled workers who have had to be laid off because Osbourne thinks it is a good idea to cripple one of our largest industries.
        If you want to know how viable the North Sea is take a look at just one project (Laggan-Tormore) which has just come on line and note it is making money even at today’s low price.

  2. I do wonder sometimes if it is me not fully understanding a situation, or wether I think of things in a different way. (Please don’t all tell me I’m just odd, lol) The way I see it we have the option to frack, which brings traffic problems, noise pollution, possible water pollution, the release of noam’s, the problem of waste water treatment and that’s without considering what it does to the Planet all together. Yet we have an easy solution as far as I see it. As far as I can understand a great deal of our gas use is it’s used to generate electricity, WHY, we can make electricity in a nice clean environmentally good way with renewables. For the other gas needs we have the technology to make gas in a clean renewable way which would benefit the Planet and farmers from growing the crops. So WHY aren’t we going that way? or is it purely that the money isn’t in it for the Government, their crony mates and the oil and gas companies?

    • You are not odd but not in touch with reality. Renewable is currently not and will not be able to meet the energy demands. Gas is not used just for electricity but for heating cooking and chemical industry. Importing gas is ok but it costs us money and tax revenue.

      • I’m not in touch with reality? I know renewables are not currently capable of meeting our needs but if all the billions that was going to be put into Hinkley was put into renewables I’m pretty optimistic it would meet our needs or go a long way towards it. Next all gas does not have to be imported, we can make our own with renewable sources (please check this out on the internet, Ecotricity does it and a new plant is being built in Hull) and finally Gas is used to make electricity

        Natural gas, a fossil fuel consisting mainly of methane, is used to generate electricity. There are two approaches to generating electricity from natural gas: using a steam turbine or using a combustion turbine. By the first method, the natural gas is fired to create heat, which then converts water to steam. The steam turns the steam turbine, which generates electricity. The other, and more common, approach is to burn natural gas in a combustion turbine. Some electricity generation plants also use combined cycle technology, which uses both approaches. Firstly, gas is burned in a combustion turbine to generate electricity. The hot exhaust that is released heats water and creates steam, which turns a steam turbine and generates more electricity. This is the most efficient method.
        Please feel free to check this out on the internet.

        Perhaps it is you that is not as informed as you believe.

    • Offshore oil drilling brings in over 95 billion pounds in corporate tax. Our government hasn’t got a clue how they are going to wage wars, prop up sycophantic regimes, help their mates get rich quick in offshore tax havens, or even spend our tax more sensibly, thus they need to keep up a free pass to pollute regime in the UK, ensure all water is heavily polluted, and then roll out a massive tax and VAT on water, which of course we can’t live without, to bring in corporation tax from water, equivalent to what it will lose from oiligarchs and gasigarchs once these blokes get stoned off the planet.

      Most investors in oil and gas in the UK are major tory supporters, they want payback for putting OSSIE in number 11, and Murdoch especially wants payback for helping with election returns. Murdoch is partnering Cheney and Rothschild the banker in setting out to frack the Israeli occupied part of Syria, which is why Dave is spending our tax, helping to shore up their interests.

      These people don’t care about the planet’s future they want a quick get richer quicker scheme short term, and don’t care about anything else.

  3. The amount of oil and gas that can be produced onshore in the UK is miniscule and its extraction would have a low return on investment. There is no formation in the UK analogous to the Bakken Shale in the US, and even there the ROI is such that many of the companies are going bankrupt.
    Britain’s housing stock is the most inefficient in Europe. If conservation efforts were put in place to improve insulative properties, along with more efficient home heating, renewables could go a long way toward supplying enough electricity for home use over the long term. Strides are being made toward developing electric transport as well. Conservation and renewables would provide both skilled and unskilled local employment over a longer term than fracking. There is no business case to be made for fracking in the UK at present other than the short term profits to be gained by selling and reselling leases and licenses.

  4. The final countdown is the fact, as pointed out by Alan Watson and Estelle Lehon that the EA doesn’t have a plan for wastewater disposal Currently lack of funds leave local people assaulted by air, noise and land and water pollution on a grand scale, with the new EA guidelines, written by industry for industry, delivering a wild west cowboy approach to keeping our shores heavily polluted for millennia to come.
    It’s bad enough that offshore oil spills and drills are killing off certaeans, but killing off river and freshwater species onland, by introducing fracking to produce trillions of gallons of high radioactive and heavily polluted waste is the last straw.

    This government can’t even properly set up an EA regulatory framework for slurry and sewage disposal, so how can it be trusted to deliver appropriate regulations and enforcement for radioactive waste, let alone nuclear leakage at DRIGG during the storm Frack episode?

    I note with horror, to avoid the public’s condemnation of hazardous waste disposal facilities for highly hazardous waste, the new
    regs state no registering of premises for this purpose will be needed in future.

    So, let’s hope when the radioactive waste is stored KW never finds out it is destined for premises near his garden eh?

    Clearly Dick Turpin rides again and we all need to watch for where new premises get taken over by surreptitious characters or commerce, because clearly Cuadkilla are on the lookout for secretive hideaways for their toxic dump.

    • Mar g, its a bit [athetic listening to your ill informed ramblings. Odd that real experts have no issues, but you do. Perhaps you should advise surgeons how they could improve their performance, or help design new technologies for satellites? Or do you know absolutely zilch about them as well.

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