Politics

Key details on government decision on Cuadrilla’s Lancashire fracking sites

Preston New Road with balloon

Preston New Road, with a 56m drill rig marked

This morning, the Communities Secretary announced he was giving the go-ahead to Cuadrilla’s plans to frack for shale gas at one site in the Fylde near Blackpool.

sajid-javidSajid Javid also said he was “minded” to approve a second Cuadrilla site nearby but was recalling a public inquiry before making his final decision. He said he wanted to give the company another chance to make its case on highway safety. See DrillOrDrop report on the decisions

The announcement follows Cuadrilla’s appeal against refusal of planning permission by Lancashire County Council for fracking at Preston New Road (pictured below) and Roseacre Wood. It also covered the company’s appeals against refusal of permission for a monitoring scheme at Preston New Road and the conditions attached to a similar proposal at Roseacre Wood

DrillOrDrop has compiled this guide to the Community Secretary’s decisions and the reasons he gave for them.

Granted appeals

He upheld Cuadrilla’s appeals and allowed planning permission for:

  • Drilling, fracking and testing for shale gas at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton
  • Monitoring scheme around Preston New Road, Little Plumpton

He also upheld the company’s appeal against conditions on the monitoring scheme around Roseacre Wood.

On all three of these appeals, he accepted the main recommendations of Wendy McKay, the planning inspector who chaired a public inquiry held in February and March 2016.

lorry on roseacre road 2

The lorry route to Roseacre wood

Traffic at Roseacre Wood and recalled inquiry

On the Roseacre Wood fracking appeal, Mr Javid did not accept the inspector’s recommendation of refusal on highway safety grounds.

He said the increase in heavy traffic on narrow roads near the site would:

“Result in a real and unacceptable risk to the safety of people using the public highway, including vulnerable road users”.

But he said Cuadrilla had failed to provide enough information to prove that roads could be made safe. If these problems were addressed satisfactorily, he said, he was minded to grant planning permission.

The Communities Secretary said Cuadrilla had not supported its proposals for the lorry route with a detailed analysis or assessment and it had not satisfactorily rebutted concerns about the risks.

In his formal letter he said:

“The above conclusions largely rest on the failure of the Appellant to provide adequate evidence that they have properly considered and addressed the safety issues, and the failure of the Appellant to demonstrate that the proposed mitigation is workable in practice.

“The Secretary of State wishes to give the Appellant and other parties the opportunity to provide additional evidence on this point.

“He therefore proposes to reopen the inquiry to allow the Appellant and other parties to put forward any further evidence on highway safety and for parties to respond to any such evidence.

“Subject to being satisfied that the highways safety issues identified by the Inspector have been adequately mitigated, the Secretary of State is minded to allow Appeal C and grant planning permission, subject to conditions.”

Other key issues for both sites

Reduced rig height

At both fracking sites, Mr Javid accepted the inspector’s opinion that the height of the rig should be reduced from 56m to 36m.

He said this would not cause Cuadrilla “any genuine difficulties” or place an “undue burden” on the company.

But he said the change to a lower rig for people living near both sites would be “exceedingly obvious” and the difference would “constitute a distinct and real improvement in their visual amenity”.

Waste

The Communities Secretary concluded that the Environment Agency had not left a gap in environmental controls on waste, as had been claimed by opponents at the inquiry.

He agreed with the inspector that there would not be adverse impacts from the treatment of flowback fluid or capacity of treatment facilities to deal with it. He said Cuadrilla had demonstrated that:

“All impacts associated with the production of flowback fluids by the projects would be reduced to an acceptable level.”

Wildlife

The Communities Secretary agreed with the inspector that neither fracking operation was likely to have significant effects on internationally important sites at Morecambe Bay and the Ribble and Alt Estuaries. The letter said:

“He is satisfied that the necessary mitigation measures have been identified and can be secured by planning condition and those measures would operate effectively and as envisaged.”

Public health

Mr Javid also agreed with the inspector that:

  • The regulatory regime system would operate effectively to control emissions
  • There would be no health impacts from potential exposure to air and water pollutants
  • Operations would be regulated, monitored and “appropriately controlled”
  • Public concerns about health impacts carried “little weight in the planning balance”
  • Available evidence did not support the view that there would be profound socioeconomic impacts or climate change impacts on health.

Climate change

The way shale gas affected the UK’s climate change obligations was “a matter for future national policy and not for these appeals”, Mr Javid said.

National need for shale gas

Mr Javid said in reaching his decision he had given “great weight” to national need.

“The need for shale gas exploration is a material consideration of great weight in these appeals”.

His letter said a Written Material Statement, made by Amber Rudd in June 2015, on shale gas – widely quoted by Cuadrilla at the planning inquiry – made it clear shale gas could help the UK government achieve its objective of secure energy supplies.

Water

The Communities Secretary agreed with the Inspector that the schemes would have no significant impact on flood risk, surface water run-off, drainage or water supplies. They would also have no material impact on exiting water supply or quality.

Economy

Mr Javid said he agreed with the inspector that the benefits to the local economy of either Preston New Road nor Roseacre Wood at the exploration stage would be “modest”.

In coming to his decision, he said he had attached no weight to the national economic benefits which could come from commercial production in future.

He also concluded there wold be no “material adverse impact” on the local economy including tourism and farming or harm to sustainable economic growth.

Planning policy

The Communities Secretary concluded that the local development plan was not absent, silent or out of date, also suggested at the inquiry. As a result, Mr Javid said the appeals should be decided by development plan policies, and not solely on national policy.

Environmental standards: Environmental information provided by Cuadrilla met standards required and was enough to assess the impact of the schemes.

Seismicity: “The risk of induced seismicity would be reduced to a minimum and an acceptable level and that monitoring would be effective and enforced”.

House prices and insurance: The protection of house prices or insurance were not planning issues.

Air quality and dust: There would be “no material adverse effects” on air quality or from dust.

Light pollution: The effects of light pollution would “not be unacceptable” with mitigation secured by planning conditions.

Vibration: He was satisfied there would be no material adverse impacts from vibration from the sites.

Heritage assets: Planning conditions would protect archaeological assets and all listed buildings would be preserved.

Additional conditions

The Communities Secretary supported a new condition requiring Cuadrilla to report material breaches of planning permission to Lancashire County Council in 24 hours.

But he did not support a call for a baseline health survey of local residents or a requirement for Cuadrilla to provide information on waste treatment capacity.

Other points on Preston New Road

The Communities Secretary said Cuadrilla’s plans at Preston New Road represented sustainable development and were supported by Amber Rudd’s Written Ministerial Statement on shale gas.

In making his decision, he said he had given great weight to the national need for shale gas exploration.

On landscape, the Communities Secretary said he agreed with the Inspector’s conclusion that with a reduction in rig height any cumulative landscape and visual effects would be very limited and would certainly not be of any significance.

On traffic, he said:

“The proposed development would not have a significant adverse impact on highway safety, and that safe and suitable access to the site could be achieved.”

He said Cuadrilla’s proposals had either eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels any problems caused by traffic from the Preston New Road site.

He also accepted conditions on noise levels and working hours.

Other points on Roseacre Wood

Mr Javid said the Roseacre Wood fracking proposals did not comply with local or national planning policy because of highway safety problems.

But he said apart from these concerns he believed impacts from the site could be made acceptable by planning conditions.

With a reduction in rig height, Mr Javid said landscape impacts had been reduced to “an acceptable level”.

On noise, he said he was satisfied with Cuadrilla’s assessment and that the company could meet levels set in the planning conditions. He said he also agreed that noise could be “readily monitored” and conditions, if necessary, enforced.

On recreation, he said he agreed with the inspector that the general perception of visitors about the Fylde as a holiday destination would be “little changed” by the fracking sites.

“There is likely to be some degree of economic disbenefit to local businesses in close proximity to the site, but that any such impacts would be localised and of relatively short duration. He further agrees that the social and economic impacts would be reduced to an acceptable level and the harm to the local community would be minimised.”

Legal costs

Cuadrilla has applied for costs against Lancashire County Council. The government letter said: “This application is the subject of a separate report”

DrillorDrop will cover this report when it becomes available.

Challenge

Any challenge to the  ruling must be done by applying to the High Court within six weeks from today.

Links

Communities Secretary’s ruling

Breaking news about the announcement

Reaction from Lancashire groups and opponents of fracking around the UK

Industry reaction


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

Categories: Politics

32 replies »

    • And exactly how will fracking lift anyone out of fuel poverty? It has been agreed that fracking will not lower energy costs in the UK and given shale gas production, of any impact on UK consumption would be several years away, how does that help those in fuel poverty now? And given the climate change issues – fracking cannot be justified.

      • Oh, but you are wrong, KT. It can be justified and the majority government just signaled such.

        Domestic shale gas will be cheaper than international gas and this will be reflected by wellhead differentials. It’s just a matter of time.

        Also, shale gas will be much less expensive than wind/solar that you favor so highly. Those “clean” sources are very expensive and they kill people who are impoverished. But you can go back to your cozy little home and “feel good” because you pushed for “clean” energy. Congrats!

        • which abacus are you using? Send it back it’s faulty!
          ‘Those “clean” sources are very expensive and they kill people who are impoverished’ you are sooo funny kleine bloem

            • Numbers my love, numbers. Put the numbers up and that’s fact, otherwise just hearsay (and I know you don’t like hearsay…..).

              I am ‘dying’ to read your source on ‘casualties’ from clean energy sources. I feel it may make me think again…

            • I think the point that Hballpeen was making is that each winter about 3000 people die from the effects of cold (Greenpeace article) but if we rely more on subsidised renewables then the price of energy will rise driving more people into reducing heating etc. It is often the elderly who worry most about rising fuel bills. Also on a freezing cold, still night in February the only electricity source available would be from the burning of wood pellets at Drax and elsewhere. That could result in massive power shortages and cuts., leading to loss of life. Actually I cannot see the government allowing that to happen, they would close industry down first but it’s a possibility. Overall we’re trying to solve the classic energy trilemma, energy has to be sustainable, affordable and secure, the problem is finding an energy system that balances those three factors.

            • Source please Mark, and of course context, otherwise just a transference strategy and another scaremongering tactic by pro shale supporters.

              How many times must I answer this with reality? People die through lack of money caused by austerity measures by the government, lack of money management and other factors such as isolation and lack of community or family care.

              If you bothered to read the posts on the many serious topics discussed on drill or drop you will see the real evidence showing pound for pound the fossil fuel industry is subsidised to a much higher rate than renewables.

              Direct investment in renewables has never caused deaths from cold.

          • As the CEO of Cuadrilla said if he can’t produce gas cheaper than from the N Sea when all he has to do is extract the gas and connect it to an existing pipeline which is 200metres away then he really shouldn’t be in business.

            • Think you might find that the gas in question needs a bit of ‘work’ before it can be put in that existing pipeline. As the costs are proven to be in excess of gas from the N Sea, maybe he should take his own advice and leave now.

            • No comment Mark? This is a typical ‘throw a stone and run away’. I am not surprised as the majority of your comments do not include the truth, only speculation and thoughts.

              If anyone is insulting it is you. Implying that I am not showing adult behaviour is in itself infantile. I hope next time you think before you make rash comments about people and also apply this to your pro fracking dogma.

        • Its the same spin used by the high level lobbyists – to get the wide eyed politicians on side and try and get the initiative locked into a national energy policy before they wake up to the dirty reality. I imagine Teresa May will be hoping for windfall revenues (which seem to be part of the sky high promises) like those North Sea Oil revenues that benefited Maggie T’s era.

          • You can throw all the propaganda you want at the issue, but I don’t care. The FACT is that the shale in the UK won’t be dramatically more expensive to drill than it is in the US once the Service industry has scaled. Because it costs 2-3x to produce gas that is shipped to the UK, that offers UK suppliers a high price umbrella from which they may operate. Good luck!

  1. if I were LCC, I would be seeking compensation and costs back from the way the SoS has ruled on this appeal – the comments regarding Roseacre are unacceptable. Cuadrilla has had numerous attempts to tackle traffic issues and was finally refused on highway grounds. The Planning Inspector upheld those grounds – I think the government’s obsession with fracking is leading them on to very legal thin ice.

  2. I’ve lost count of the number of anecdotal stories recorded (usually by amateur or semi-professional video) by people needing to tell their stories. Many involving health issues: hair loss headaches, feelings of asphyxiation, skin and teeth problems, sleep and neurological disorders – all since fracking started in their area. Nearly all mention changes to their water – most often it becoming undrinkable and smelling bad; kids screaming from effects of bath and shower water; pockets of really bad air that coming and going… overall health deterioration and so it goes on.

    While the fracking companies can fudge their way around all these things by saying there’s no proof (that these weren’t pre-existing conditions) there must come a point where anecdotal evidence becomes actual evidence – and there’s plenty of it out their. Does Britain really need to put its people through all that? When issues get raised with the companies responsible they just get hit with a wall of denial and often getting intimidated for complaining. It is interesting how preprogrammed the whole spin machine is and how quickly defense turns into attack. Communities get divided. Some people get jobs with the gas companies and a few, who have title to the mineral rights on their land are smiling all the way to the bank, but they’re just the one’s with so much land that their new wealth allows them to live elsewhere.

    There must really be a law somewhere that gets the Gas culprits in court for making false claims. It’s serious stuff. Last week (27th Sept Radio4 – around 7.20am) Jim Ratcliff, founder and head of INEOS, and one of the richest men in Britain, stated (regarding fracking) “there haven’t been any safety issues and environmental issues in America” . Those were his exact words. Incredible!

    Starting with a mild example here are a few accounts to carry on with (food for thought) – 2 rural homestead cases, 1 citizen’s fact-finding mission and one frack-fluid trucker’s story… most link to other cases

    • Great post Philip .Thank you .You are right to point out Radcliffe – [edited by moderator] this is how we will defeat them .[Edited by moderator] Egan stated that there had been not one single case of water contamination in the U.S. .Considering there has been hundreds two of which received damages of over 3 and 4 million dollars [edited by moderator]. He also likes to say on a regular basis that LCC only found problems with noise and traffic not environmental issues .Government machinations took away LCC s right to judge on those issues .

      • Thanks Eileen. The moderator won’t allow the ‘L’ word (aimed at particular people) to be used … I’ve practically run out of synonyms!

        How can deception and lies be defeated when they’re employed on an industrial scale and institutionalised at the highest levels (i.e. this is rapidly being made out to be a matter of national energy security)?

        Law cases in the States have been controlled by selective manipulation of evidence e.g. declaring much of it as inadmissible whenever it suited. Prejudiced observations are orchestrated and public officials are simply bought (or heavily leaned on) to get predetermined outcomes. Several local officials end up with directorships or stakes in the companies along with pre-packaged mantras on how much good the industry is doing – for energy independence, jobs for locals, investment in the area etc etc. This has been happening in Australia too. Meanwhile the EPA in the US has practically been eviscerated by the republican dominated congress, it became little more than a toothless political tool in this case. Sad that this could happen on Obama’s watch. https://newrepublic.com/article/120228/what-expect-gop-war-epa

        I think it would take very experienced and conscientious lawyers at the highest level (probably from both sides of the Atlantic) to raise an effective challenge here. But there may be a constitutional angle too .. crown land and mineral rights being handed over under dubious ‘selling’ techniques and false promises on environmental protection and so forth. I couldn’t think of a better case for crowd funding to get this rolling though (if needed).

  3. We see these words every time, ‘No significant Impact’ on any of the considered points, the really salient points such as climate change are of course carefully excluded from consideration, because that would open a whole can of worms. What about the Accumulated Impact of all these pads and wells? Is that considered? No, of course not. Its all just spin and NLP new speak, it says nothing real, because reality is not where these people live, cloud cuckoo land for the hard of hearing.

    • Phil C – the climate change debate is so muddied by claim and counterclaim that it’s probably worth taking different angles on this.

      It’s clear that methane emissions are seriously impactful on the greenhouse gas tally but the new data on end-to-end industry leakage still needs to be aligned and brought into the picture. Meanwhile it counts as a real pollutant which, along with other noxious fumes and chemicals from the process have direct impacts on air and water quality – affecting human, plant and animal well being beyond stated safety limits (firmly denied by the industry of course). It’s harder to say anything like that about CO2 (the favourite GHG subject of debate) – a downstream byproduct of the NG industry after methane is burnt as fuel, although that should also figure in any total GHG audit also.

      The other big environmental impact is of course the industrialisation of the landscape. I have a strong hunch that people aren’t being made aware of how prolific these wells need to be to make the industry viable at any scale that would satisfy ‘energy security’ needs.

      • Just trying another tack Philip, i agree with you, it is about the poisoning of the residents and eventually all of us. The industrialisation of the landscape is perhaps the most pernicious effect since it destroys tourism, growing unpolluted vegetables and browsing of animals in clean safe fields, able to drink the water and eat unpolluted fodder. Walkers and horse riders will be endangered by massive stinking noisy traffic growling along totally unsuitable roads. We can expect myriads of new planning applications to turn small unsuitable roads into dusty highways, destroying hedge rows and trees in their path. It has all ready been monitored in other countries that these highways will be used as dumping grounds to dribble polluted waste water onto the roads poisoning waterways and poisoning aquifers. Children cant walk safely, animals will be killed and run over, noise and smell and light pollution will make the environment uninhabitable. Pollution of water courses and and aquifers will kill thousands of small creatures and birds normally living in trees and fields and streams everywhere. I don’t want to argue or disagree with anyone, i prefer co-operation to conflict, but this industry is so pernicious it beggars belief that ANYONE would not object to it. These greedy profit seeking agents of destruction have attacked us in our homes and our environment, and they leave us no choice, we have to fight this evil, and we cannot and will not lose, not under any circumstances.

        • That pretty much sums it up. Co-operation is better than conflict, yes agreed. Public knowledge and awareness is very important but I think it has to be done very coolly and systematically. While the risks and hazards can hardly be exaggerated we have to be careful not to use language that can be dismissed as emotive or exaggerations e.g. there have always been places where children can’t walk safely and animals get run over and its very hard to prove the degrees by which these things may change. The industry is very good at dismissing anything other than hard facts and data – usually by tarring protests and protesters all with the same brush: as cranks, loonies, greenies and even eco-terrorists.

  4. Maybe you are right, maybe i should stay calm and carry on. I used to be exactly that, calm and reasonable. Where did that get me? It hasn’t worked so far. ‘Peace in our time’ didn’t do it, appeasement of an aggressor never does, so where does that leave us?
    Like the Professor Fate character played by Jack Lemon said in ‘The Great Race’, ‘When the water reaches my bottom lip, I’m gonna tell SOMEbody!’

  5. Just to say that the “industrialisation of the landscape” will be one oil rig 39 metres tall, about the size of one electric pylon which, while not pretty, we have come to accept as necessary for electricity transmission at a reasonable cost. As I’ve said before here before please compare the visual impact of the rig with the hundreds of wind turbines around the countryside. In any event the rig could be removed after exploration finishes leaving just a “Christmas Tree” well head which is less than 20ft tall. Wind turbines of course pose a threat (allbeit a small one) to wild birds.

    Regarding proliferation, each new development will be subject to planning consent, please note the interesting parallels between permisssion for housing development where sometimes local decisions are overruled by central government in the national interest. But granting planning permission for one small housing development does not mean you will be overrun by housing.

    Regarding methane emissions there are no doubt occasional leakages in the gas system. Given that the system heats 80% of homes and produces about 50% of our electricity it is a pretty huge network. One needs to be careful in making comparisons with US data on emissions because in the US a lot more pipelines run above ground.

    Just to say that it beggars belief that people cannot see that all the time we need a fossil fuel backup to the developing, but still mostly intermittent and weather dependent, renewables industry, then home grown shale gas, even just in so far as it just replaces imported LNG, will make a contribution to both climate change targets and economic development.

    By the way the frustration you obviously feel about the government decision is similar to the frustration I feel when I see protesters allowed to slow walk in front of lorries at oil production sites, preventing people going about their lawful business.

    • You really do live in a propaganda bubble Mark.

      I’m sorry you are frustrated from your comfy armchair miles from the action waiting for your ship to come in at the expense and well being of a group of lovely, hardworking caring people who’s lives have and will continue to be hell whilst your ‘christmas tree’ lights up the sky!

  6. There are far more intelligent ways Mark of seeing out the remaining years of fossil fuel dependency than building a whole new infrastructure and being sucked into this shale gas frenzy. Reliable output will last far less than a single generation. I doubt that you’ve watched any of the case studies from the USA and you seem not to understand that the economics of frac rollout in the UK just won’t work to achieve any kind of independence and sustainable supplies without monstering the landscape with wells and pipe networks.
    The exploratory sites are just paving the way for that.

    While I admire your faith in due planning process it looks like the government is already locking into place precedents for over-riding local objections. They have bought the lobbyists hype and will no doubt be borrowing those brazen corporate techniques, well practiced in America, of overriding regional planning and sidestepping the responsibilities of accurate monitoring (of emissions and contamination etc). If the larger fracking companies (stepping in if/when things scale up) were truly held accountable for meeting the high standards that they claim of themselves they would go out of business straight away. Denial and cover ups just escalate because they know that reversing the contamination of even a single aquifer would mean incalculable costs. The monitoring and inspection authorities just get roped into collusion with the scheme (money and power politics overrule). I am not making this up. Why not try and nip it in the bud? OK, too late for that, but it has the potential to leave the population feeling a massive betrayal of trust – by the government and by the institutions responsible for custodianship of the land, air, water …

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