Lancashire County Council has confirmed that it will have to pay only a “relatively small” part of Cuadrilla’s costs following the decision last week to approve planning permission for fracking at Preston New Road.
Local newspaper reports at the weekend had suggested that the council faced a bill of £330,000 for the company’s fees. But the council said the figure related to the costs it has had to pay to host and participate in the public inquiry earlier this year.
Last Thursday (6 October 2016), the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, allowed Cuadrilla’s appeals against the refusal of permission for four fracked shale gas wells and a monitoring array at Preston New Road.
The company had applied for the costs against the county council for both the Preston New Road appeals. But the council confirmed that Mr Javid had awarded costs on the monitoring array appeal only.
A council spokesperson said:
“Costs have been awarded against the county council relating to one specific part of the inquiry – the part of the inquiry which dealt with the monitoring array at the Preston New Road site.
“What is significant is that costs have not been awarded against the county council relating to the main site – the drilling and fracking operation – which took up the majority of time during the inquiry – so the costs relating to the monitoring array will be relatively small compared to what they might have been.”
The level of costs is not yet known, the spokesperson said. The company has yet to submit them to the council.
The Secretary of State’s decision letter referred briefly to the application for costs. It said:
“Two applications for a full award of costs were made by Cuadrilla Bowland Ltd against Lancashire County Council in respect of Appeals A and B [Preston New Road drilling, fracking and testing and the Preston New Road monitoring scheme].”
“These applications are the subject of a separate decision letter, also being issued today.”
The Planning Inspectorate told DrillOrDrop that the information was held by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). DCLG told DrillOrDrop:
“This information is not publically [sic] available.”
Since then, the costs letters have been published on the Planning Inspectorate’s web pages for the appeal.
Mr Javid said on Thursday he was minded to approve the Roseacre Wood site, against the recommendation of the planning inspector at the public inquiry. He has reopened the inquiry to give Cuadrilla another opportunity to provide evidence on highway safety issues. At the end of the original inquiry, Cuadrilla did not apply for costs on the Roseacre Wood appeals.
More details on inquiry expense
A Freedom of Information request revealed that the £330,000 expenses of the inquiry to Lancashire County Council included costs of consultants, legal support, venue and security.
In a recent report, researcher Anna Szolucha said the council had invoices of over £110k for consultants and £116k for security.
But she said the total figure:
“under-represents the full costs incurred by the council because it excludes officers’ time which would be “highly significant” in the calculation of the total sum. We must also add to this all the costs incurred at earlier stages of the planning process at the council.”
Updated 11/10/2016 to include quotes from Lancashire County Council, DCLG and Dr Szolucha
Update 18/10/2016 to include link to cost letters