A group campaigning to prevent fracking at a field at Little Plumpton near Blackpool has said it is surprised at plans by Cuadrilla to drill four groundwater monitoring boreholes on the site.
The company has notified Lancashire County Council that it will drill the boreholes at the site next to Preston New Road – even though it does not have permission to frack. The site featured last month in a Bake-Off style anti-fracking protest by Emma and Sophie Thompson.
Cuadrilla has also said it plans to submit a similar notification for another proposed fracking site at Roseacre Wood.
A planning inspector is currently considering appeals by the company to frack at both sites. A decision by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is not expected until at least July.
Cuadrilla’s Chief Executive, Francis Egan, said:
“Whilst we wait for the outcome of our appeals for planning permission for both exploration sites, we want to ensure that if we do get the go ahead we are fully prepared to meet our obligations on baseline monitoring of the ground water. This will allow us to reassure and demonstrate to the local community and our regulators that the groundwater will not be adversely impacted by our operations.”
But this morning, Pat Davies, chair of Preston New Road Action Group, said:
[The group] is surprised to learn Cuadrilla intend to drill the water boreholes in advance of any decision by the Secretary of State about their appeal. The monitoring planning application for Cuadrilla at Preston New Road site was rejected by Lancashire County Council.”
Elizabeth Warner, chair of Roseacre Awareness Group, said:
Francis Egan, CEO of fracking company Cuadrilla wrote to local residents today to inform them that Cuadrilla would seek to drill four groundwater boreholes around Roseacre Wood. He will do this because he wishes to allay residents’ fears!!! The fact that Cuadrilla has been refused planning permission for the fracking site and the outcome of their appeal (which will surely uphold Lancashire’s decision) is unknown, is apparently no barrier to their plans.
However, Mr Egan really cannot adopt a posture of concern for residents as he marches on.
- Cuadrilla refused to listen to residents’ pleas for the company to properly assess the impact of noise from its proposed 24 hour a day drilling.
- Refused to assess in any way the impact of all night lighting at the site.
- Refused to assess honestly the impact on walkers, horse riders and cyclists who use Fylde’s rural lanes around the site.
- Refused to use best practice to measure landscape harm preferring methods which minimised the damage which the site (with its rigs, security fencing, storage containers, 9metre wide access road and flaring stacks) will inflict on the countryside and……
- Even ignored its own industry guidance which expects Cuadrilla to assess the impact on road safety of a 200% increase in 44tonne, 17.5 metre long articulated lorry traffic travelling along roads where two cars passing each other must take care.
And yet, where it is required to monitor, as in groundwater, Cuadrilla adopts the pose (and given all that was exposed at the Public Inquiry that’s all it is) of responsible neighbour.
It is hard to choose which is the greater affront: the hypocrisy or the arrogance
The council refused Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood in June 2015. It also refused permission for a monitoring scheme at Preston New Road. But two months later, the government announced plans to changed the rules on permitted development rights to allow monitoring boreholes to be drilled without the need for planning permission.
Under the 2015 Infrastructure Act, the level of methane in groundwater has, or will have, been monitored in the period of 12 months before the associated hydraulic fracturing begins
Cuadrilla said the boreholes would be 30m deep and drilling for four boreholes would take 16 days using two truck mounted rigs. It said the rigs would be less than 12 m high.
A council spokesman said:
“Cuadrilla has notified the county council of its intention to exercise the company’s right to permitted development for water monitoring at Preston New Road.”
“This means that planning permission would not normally be needed. We will assess these proposals and respond to Cuadrilla within the statutory 28 days.”
“Gas by mid-2017”
In an interview with Reuters, Mr Egan said first supplies of fracked shale gas from Lancashire could enter the UK market by mid-2017. He is quoted as saying:
“If we get good results from the wells … gas could go into the system next year.”
“With the general environment and where the North Sea industry is going we are determined as ever to press on and secure a new gas source.”
Updated at 20.03 to clarify the requirements of the Infrastructure Act on groundwater monitoring.
Updated 9/5/2016 to include Roseacre Awareness Group reaction