A community group has begun a legal challenge to the Government’s decision to grant planning permission for fracking at a site in Lancashire.
In an initial letter to the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Preston New Road Action Group has said his decision to overturn Lancashire County Council’s refusal of permission for the site at Little Plumpton was unlawful.
Sajid Javid announced on 6 October that he was following the recommendation of a planning inspector and granting consent to Cuadrilla to drill, frack and test up to four wells.
Preston New Road Action Group, represented by the law firm Leigh Day, said today the decision was “fundamentally flawed” because it breached the local development plan.
The group said the decision “misapplied planning laws and policy” and the Government had not “properly considered the disproportionate effect that fracking on the site would have on vulnerable residents such as the elderly and school children nearby”.
On 29 June 2015, Lancashire County Council refused permission for the site, along with a similar proposal for Roseacre Wood. Cuadrilla appealed and the case went before a five-week public inquiry in Blackpool in February and May this year.
Today’s letter before action from Leigh Day asks Mr Javid to reconsider his decision.
If he refuses, Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) said it would consider bringing a statutory challenge to the decision under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
A spokesperson for the group said:
“PNR Action Group are appalled at the decision of the Secretary of State to overturn local planning decisions in this manner. It was clear at a local level this application was rejected by both the Planning Committee and local residents. There is no social licence to frack Preston New Road.
“The dismantling of local democracy to facilitate this industry is a travesty of justice and begs the question of whether democracy exists any more at a local level. This decision by Westminster is troubling on a number of fronts.
“Lancashire said ‘no’ loudly and clearly and in line with local planning policies, that decision should stand.”
Rowan Smith, of Leigh Day, said:
“We believe that the Government’s decision to overturn the Council’s refusal of planning permission to allow fracking on the site is fundamentally flawed.
“The decision appears to have been taken in breach of the Council’s development plan, which restricts these types of developments, as well as contrary to the correct planning law tests.
“We will also argue on behalf of our clients that to allow fracking on this site would have an adverse affect on the health of local people and would ruin the much-loved local landscape.”
This is the second legal challenge to the approval of planning applications for fracking in the past few months.
Leigh Day is representing Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale in its request for a judicial review of the decision by North Yorkshire County Council to allow fracking by Third Energy at Kirby Misperton. That case will be heard in the High Court in London, starting on 22 November 2016.
The action that may be taken by PNRAG is different from a judicial review.
Section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act allows people to seek to quash the decision of a planning inspector or the Secretary of State following an appeal over a planning application. If the PNRAG case were to go ahead it would be heard in the High Court.
A spokesperson for the Department of Communities and Local Government said it was unlikely that the government would make a public response to Leigh Day’s letter.
A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said:
“We understand the Secretary of state has until this Friday to respond. Clearly we believe that all proper appeal processes were followed for him to reach his decision and really up to DCLG to make any additional comment at this stage.”