The recommendation of the inspector at Cuadrilla’s public inquiry into fracking plans in Lancashire has been sent to government.
The Planning Inspectorate confirmed that the report went to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark, by yesterday’s deadline.
Mr Clark recovered the appeal, which means he will make the final decision on the recommendation by Wendy McKay, the inquiry inspector.
According to the Planning Inspectorate’s bespoke programme that decision will be issued on or before 6 October 2016. Bespoke Programme Only then will Mrs McKay’s recommendation be published.
The inquiry sat for 19 days in February and March this year to consider whether Cuadrilla should be allowed to frack up to four wells each at sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. The company also appealed against the refusal of seismic monitoring plans at Preston New Road and conditions imposed on a similar scheme at Roseacre Wood.
The appeal sites are in Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence area 165. Its terms were formally updated last week, creating three retention areas (DrillOrDrop post).
Under the new licence terms, the central area, where the appeal sites are probably located, Cuadrilla is required to drill and hydraulically fracture a horizontal well by June 2019.
Recovered appeals are unusual. Of the 10,201 appeals from April 2015-March 2016, just 67 were recovered.
In the Cuadrilla case, Mr Clark justified his decision to recover the appeal by describing it as a “development of major importance” and “more than local significance”. More details
The Secretary of State can, and does, take a different decision to planning inspectors.
In an announcement last week, Mr Clark dismissed an appeal for four wind turbines near Newark in Nottinghamshire, against the recommendation of the inspector. He accepted the impacts were limited and would not result in unacceptable harm to people living nearby.
But he attached “substantial weight” to a written ministerial statement on planning for wind turbines made in June last year. This requires planning authorities to be satisfied that they have addressed planning impacts identified by affected local communities and that a scheme has their backing.
Dismissing the appeal, Mr Clark said some of the planning impacts identified by affected local communities had not been addressed in the wind turbines case.
The written ministerial statement on wind turbines does not apply to local communities affected by fracking.
The Secretary of State’s decision can be challenged in the High Court by the company or an interested person who has played a part in the planning application and the appeal.