Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at Roseacre Wood are neither safe, sustainable nor supported, a parish councillor told politicians yesterday.
Gordon Smith, a member of Treales, Roseacre and Wharles Parish Council, made his comments during evidence to a session on community impacts at the All Party Parliamentary Group on shale gas regulation and planning.
He said councillors had “initially in ignorance” supported a shale gas application in 2010, which received permission but was not implemented.
Members changed their minds, he said, when Cuadrilla applied to drill, frack and test four wells at Roseacre Wood in 2014.
“As a council, we have worked hard to understand the benefits and adverse impacts arising from fracking.
“We concluded that the applications before us are not sustainable, they are not safe and they are not supported. They unacceptably adversely affect our community.”
The Roseacre Wood proposals were refused in 2015 by Lancashire County Council and this year were recommended for refusal by the inspector at a planning inquiry. Last month, the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced he was minded to approve the application if concerns about road safety could be addressed and he reopened the inquiry.
Cllr Smith said the parish council believed the application was not safe because the government had not implemented all the safety recommendations made by the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, along with others made by Public Health England, the Committee on Climate Change and the Director of Public Health for Lancashire.
He said the application were not sustainable because the approval of heavy industrial processes in the countryside was against the National Planning Policy Framework. He said the application did not follow the government’s strategy of siting shale gas developments in areas supported by the local authority.
“Dismissed and ignored”
Cllr Smith added:
“[The application] is not supported because we’ve not been asked about whether we want it. Despite our attempts to communicate, we get no engagement. We have been dismissed and ignored.”
“We know that the government shale gas strategy indicates that it wants to engage local community and have transparency.
“Despite making multiple attempts to engage with government, through the efforts of our MP, Mark Menzies, we have found that we have been denied any reply or these replies do not answer the questions.”
The APPG’s chairman, Kevin Hollinrake (left), asked Cllr Smith whether the council would support shale gas if safety recommendations had been implemented and the site locations were appropriate.
Mr Smith said there was a lack of trust and confidence in regulators.
“We know that the government is directing regulators to promote shale gas. We know that local authorities are not in a position to enforce and manage the conditions. There is not a sound regulatory framework.”
He said the regulator should be answerable to parliament, rather than government.
Mr Hollinrake, whose North Yorkshire constituency includes the fracking site at Kirby Misperton, asked if there were any conditions under which the parish council would support shale gas exploration.
Cllr Smith replied:
“If you are saying that there’s a magic wand that makes everything perfect then of course it would go ahead. But we are talking about reality. As things stand today, there are things that could be controlled by the government that haven’t been. It is not supported and it is not safe.”
Mr Hollinrake put it to him: “In a perfect world, you would support shale gas?”
Cllr Smith replied:
“In a perfect world, any development would be supported if it complied with the regulations but we don’t have that world.”
He said shale gas companies had shown that they could drill horizontally for up to 11km. They were no longer constrained by geology, he said, and it was no longer necessary to drill for oil and gas exactly where it was found.
He said the parish council had identified alternative suitable sites to Roseacre Wood. They had direct access to the motorway network, connections to utilities, communications infrastructure, 24-hour operations and planning permission for heavy industry. But he said:
“None of these have been considered, never mind rejected, by the applicant.”
- Campaigners from Cuadrilla’s other fracking site at Preston New Road – approved by Mr Javid last month – attended the APPG but said they were disappointed that they had not been asked to speak.