Breaking: Cuadrilla fracking inquiry – date set for Inspector’s recommendation

Inquiry docs

Within the past few minutes the Planning Inspectorate has confirmed the date when the Inspector’s report on the Cuadrilla fracking inquiry will be submitted to the government.

In an email, Leanne Palmer, of PINS, wrote:

“The Inspector’s report is due to be submitted to the Secretary of State on or before 4 July 2016”.

She added:

“Following submission of the Inspector’s report, the timetable for the Secretary of State’s decision will be set and I will advise accordingly once this is known.”

The report, by the inspector Wendy McKay, will include a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark. But the recommendation won’t be publicly available until Mr Clark announces his decision.

This afternoon Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, said:

“We welcome the statement from the Planning Inspectorate that Wendy McKay, who oversaw the recent public inquiry covering our shale gas exploration planning appeals in Lancashire, will be submitting her report and recommendation to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government by 4 July.

“In our opinion the five week public inquiry has allowed a very full examination of our appeals and we remain optimistic regarding the outcome. Clearly the subsequent report requires due consideration and we look forward to a final decision from the Secretary of State as soon as feasibly possible.”

Dianne Westgarth, of Preston New Road Action Group, which opposed Cuadrilla’s appeal said:

“We are pleased to see the Planning Inspector will have assessed all of the evidence put forward to her during the six-week appeal hearing in Lancashire by the time she submits her report in July.”

“However, we remain concerned that we will not see Mrs McKay’s report until the Secretary of State, Greg Clark, gives his final decision. This is yet another example of democracy being dismantled and more uncertainty for our communities who have already suffered a great deal.”

“The UK government and David Cameron are completely out of touch with local governance. They have shown this by removing the decision for democratically elected officials to decide Lancashire’s own fate with regards to fracking.”

“But, we have strength in unity with so many other groups across the county and country. Our support network is extensive. If this appeal is overturned by the Secretary of State, we will proceed further to ensure that no drilling takes place in Lancashire. It’s been said before on many occasions that this is a David and Goliath fight, but now, we’re finding there are many Davids and our numbers keep on growing.”

“Cuadrilla will never gain social license on the Fylde or in Lancashire. We should use their previous operational records, which amount to a spectacular 100% failure rate and judge from thereon in. We fully believe in a Frack Free Lancashire and won’t stop until we achieve this.”

The inspector’s report will cover three appeals by Cuadrilla against the refusal of planning permission by Lancashire County Council for:

  • Drilling, fracking and flow testing at Roseacre Wood
  • Drilling, fracking and flow testing at Preston New Road
  • Monitoring scheme at Preston New Road

The report will also recommend whether Cuadrilla’s appeal should be allowed against conditions on a monitoring scheme at Roseacre Wood.

The public inquiry, which lasted 19 days over five and a half weeks, ended on 16th March 2016. Link to our Inquiry page for posts on the hearings.

Updated to include quotes from Cuadrilla and Preston New Road Action Group, as well as clarification that the recommendation won’t be available until the final decision is announced.

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

10 replies »

    • Hi Alan. The recommendation won’t be available until the SoS decision is announced. You’ve made a really good point – I’ve updated the post to reflect this.

      • Thanks Ruth. There seems a bit of confusion on that point as what the programme officer said to one of my friends was at variance with understanding from the lawyers, that nothing would be issued until the SoS decision was issued. Also the idea that Rule 6 parties might get an advance look at the report before the full Inspector report and SoS justification for decision are made public.

      • I understand that the Inspectorate has now been prompted to post on their site to clarify the process. My comment on this is that as a public body the Planning Inspectorate decisions should be made public domain information as they occur. By calling in the appeals the SoS has not only subverted local democracy and the planning appeal system but extended the timescale of the decision, with an unacceptable effect on the local community who will be further on tenterhooks pending the outcome. I wonder what a response to an FOI request would be on 4th July? What reason can there be – of course there will be one – for refusing to make the report available.

  1. Also impacts on Cuadrilla whose applications are the subject of the appeals. They are incurring costs while waiting for the decisions. Does the SOS have a timeframe or is it ope ended?

    If the appeals are refused Cuadrilla can downsize or try for judicial review. Do they have outstanding licence commitments or can they walk? Drill or drop?

    • Leave it out, Paul. Costs? They stand to make a fortune and stack it away in the Cayman Islands if this is refused. If they lose it will only have cost a few million in gambling money. They fulfilled their first term obligation on PEDL165 if that answers your question.Downsizing from NOTHING? Yes they can wrap up their business and frack off. If you seriously believe the SoS will refuse their appeals and they would then go to judicial review you are living in cloud-cuckoo land

  2. Alan – I think you mean they will make a fortune if they win the appeals? Not sure if anyone has taken a SOS decision to JR but this is an available (and final) process. They can walk away if the appeals are refused as they have fulfilled their obligations – perhaps this is what they will do. Or they may apply for another site(s) where the reasons for refusal are addressed.

    If Cuadrilla win the appeal(s) via the SOS decision will FOE et al not seek Judicial Review?

    It seems there are examples of developers going to JR after refusal by a SOS with wind farms.

    Also not sure how they will make a fortune if shale gas is not commercial as I keep reading on here?

    • Correct re refusal/win of appeal Paul sorry for the confusion.
      Re the further issues I think you are probably aware that Cuadrilla have no long-term interest in developing shale gas only in showing enough viability to sell off their interest to a major player to recoup their gambling stake.

      Re Judicial Review let’s wait and see, But I think we can be confident that whatever the inspector’s recommendation, if the SoS is minded to grant the appeal that will not be the end of the matter. Cuadrilla have no further obligations and can walk away. It would be incredibly surprising if they challenged a SoS refusal. Basically they would just pack their bags, take as much as they could gather back to the Cayman Islands and shut up shop. Their company depends on this decision. Frankly at this point it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the whole inquiry and appeal procedure is a farce and the SoS is minded to grant the appeal regardless. That would to my mind be a recipe for disaster. It is not only judicial review that would result.

      • Forgot to say re timescale Paul I think there is no prescribed timescale for a SoS decision. I think we can take it that in their rush to get fracking started it will be sooner rather than later. These processes under less pressured circumstances can take ages, as witnessed the Halite underground storage cavern fiasco.

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