Regulation

Fracking company seeks relaxation of planning conditions for restoration at Becconsall

Becconsall2

Cuadrilla is seeking to raise the height of the rig and the volume of noise it can make at a Lancashire shale gas site next to an internationally-important bird reserve.

The company has asked Lancashire County Council to change restrictions on well abandonment and restoration work at Becconsall next to the Ribble Estuary.

Under planning conditions set in 2014, Cuadrilla must limit noise levels to 42 decibels (dB) (decision notice). The company had also said it would use a rig no higher than 22m.

But Cuadrilla has made a new planning application LCC/2014/0047NM1 to increase the rig height by 10m to 32m. In another application LCC/2017/0016, the company is seeking to increase the maximum noise limit by 13dB to 55dB. As well as increasing the noise level, Cuadrilla wants the limit to be set at the nearest home, not the boundary of the site.

A residents’ group has said current planning conditions should be adhered to and it would oppose the company’s new applications.

“Safeguard amenity and prevent disturbance”

In 2014, Lancashire County Council set a condition that noise shall not exceed 42 dB when measured at any point on the site boundary. The reason given was:

“To safeguard the amenity of local residents and to prevent disturbance to birds”.

It also said the condition was needed to conform with polices in the Joint Lancashire Minerals and Waste Development Core Strategy, the joint Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan and the West Lancashire Local Plan 2012-2027 Development Plan Document.

But in its application to change the noise restriction, Cuadrilla said:

“The wording of the existing condition (14) places an unreasonable restriction on the activity not consistent with Minerals Planning Policy.”

 “No material impact”

On the rig height, Cuadrilla said the original application was based on using its own rig but this has since been decommissioned. It now needed to hire a contractor’s rig.

In the application, Cuadrilla said:

“The landscape and visual assessment has been reviewed which concludes that a change from 22m to 32m has no material impact to the original conclusions of the assessment.”

People can comment on the noise application up to Wednesday 1 March 2017.

Reaction

In a statement, John Powney, of Ribble Estuary Against Fracking, said:

“Our members were aware of the proposals to vary condition 14 of P/A LCC/2014/0047 some time ago.

“We are in discussion with our planning and acoustic specialists and will be objecting on material planning grounds.

“We are presenting the case why the 50% increase in rig height should not be determined under s96A of the town and country planning act 1990.

“Conditions that are placed in consideration of the six-point test of the National Planning Policy Framework should be adhered to.”

Planning history

This is latest of several requests made by Cuadrilla’s for changes to conditions at Becconsall.

The first permission, granted in 2010 by a planning officer, acting under delegated powers, allowed Cuadrilla to drill an exploratory well. But the conditions required restoration after 18 months.

  • The company missed the deadline and asked for an extension in 2012. It missed that deadline and asked for more time again in 2013 and 2014.
  • DrillOrDrop reported last year that the wording of a planning condition in the 2014 permission had delayed the return of the site to farmland. Cuadrilla had said it would plug the well and restore the site by 31 October 2016. But it emerged that the condition allowed the company at least another year to carry out work at Becconsall.
  • A winter bird feeding area, established by Cuadrilla as required under the 2014 permission, had been leased to a wildfowl shooting club. DrillOrDrop
  • The company also breached the 90-day drilling limit which was a condition of the 2010 planning permission.

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

7 replies »

  1. I see that the reserve is so internationally important that the geese are shot during the shooting season. I wonder how many geese Cuadrilla have killed / will kill by raising the derrick a few meters? Zero is the answer. So why not protest about the shooting if you are worried about pink Footed Geese – look forward to your answer John.

  2. Fracking is yet another form of Ecocide produced by the Fossil Fuel industry who just don’t want to lose out on their fracking investments promised by Cameron + May’s Government. They are either too greedy or too old to adapt and to understand that clean, Renewables are the future. Other countries are successfully making that shift but why not Britain?

    • 64% of our electricity and 90% of our heating being produced by fossil fuels this evening. And 18% nuclear electricity. Solar zero and wind not much despite the huge installed capacity. Where are your renewables when we need them – sorry, I know where they are, they are just not contributing very much?

  3. Which countries would that be Jack? Please don’t say Germany, their renewables contribution as a % is similar to ours, the big difference is that they use coal and lignite to make up the other 50% and we use gas.

  4. Paul, did it escape you that the Government you probably voted for has given huge tax concessions to fracking and other FF industries to operate on these shores and is virtually strangling Renewables. Perhaps you are one of their key advisors, in which case, relax, everything’s going your way. The British Tory Government will never catch up with the Danes, for example, in Renewables because they are far too Conservative and have far too many investments in the FF industry and lack any real knowledge in Science. Lazy, ignorant and incompetent. Sad times for Britain but at least many people out there are trying change things for the better for future generations and dare I say it, The Environment with all its flora and fauna.

  5. N.b. FYI the UK Government has provided fossil fuel companies with £6.9 billion in financial support since 2000! In contrast, the total value of deals involving clean energy projects was just £39m – with the first deal for a renewable energy project being made in 2012! The market is totally warped and geared towards the dirty FF industry thanks to mass lobbying from huge FF Corporations and an unethical UK government Ministers.

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