Councillors relax some conditions on Cuadrilla’s Becconsall shale gas site – but refuse other changes


Councillors in Lancashire have increased the rig height and the noise limit for restoration work at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near the Ribble Estuary. But they refused the company’s request for longer working hours and an extended finish date.

The company had argued that conditions set in 2014 on the planning permission for the site at Becconsall were unworkable and unreasonable.

Since January 2017 it has asked for several changes to the conditions:

  • Increase the rig height from 22m to 32m
  • Raise the noise limit from 42 dB measured at the boundary of the site to 55dB measured at the nearest home
  • Extend the working day for some operations to 9pm
  • Work through the night
  • Extend the deadline to complete work from 31 August to 31 October 2017.

After advice from county council planning officers, the company agreed to reduce the noise limit to 50dB and this was approved by the development control committee this morning.

But the committee said the work must be completed by 31 August and work on all phases of the work must be carried out from 7.30am-6.30pm on weekdays and 7.30am-1pm on Saturdays, with no work on public holidays or Sundays.

The votes were nine to five in favour of the higher rig and 10 to two with two abstentions on an amended motion on noise limit and working hours.

The committee heard Cuadrilla was asking for a 32m rig because its 22m rig had been decommissioned.

Cllr Michael Green (second left) said he wanted evidence that a 22m rig was not available. And Cllr David Howarth (second right) said:

“When they submitted the original application one presumes they knew what size of rig was available and what type of rig was appropriate. So why they suddenly now need to come back with all these rigs suddenly disappeared certainly from this area I don’t know.

“Given the size of the commercial operation of Cuadrilla the fact that this rig not being available is questionable at the least.”

Councillors were also concerned about the increased limit on noise from the site. Cllr Keith Sedgwick (right) said he saw no reason to change the original 42 dB conditions.

But planning officers said this condition was “badly written” and did not comply with government guidance.

Cllr Alan Schofield (left) said the aim of the application was to restore the site as soon as possible. He did not want the committee to do anything that would delay restoration for another year.

Cuadrilla was first granted planning permission for Becconsall in 2010 by a council officer working under delegated powers. That included a condition that the site should be restored within 18 months of the start of development. Work began in March 2011 so the site should have been restored by September 2012.

Ribble Estuary Against Fracking, which opposed the change of conditions, submitted an independent noise assessment. This concluded that increased noise limits of 55dB or 50dB would not comply with government noise guidance for mineral developments.

“Conditions should be enforced”

After the meeting, a spokesperson for the group said:

“Although residents will be subjected to more noise in the short-term, the application to extend the time limit for work has been refused.”

He said the group had hoped to hold Cuadrilla to the original conditions. But added:

“We sent a clear message to Lancashire County Council planning committee that conditions, when approved by councillors, should be enforced.

“Lancashire County Council’s planning department needs to think very carefully about how it addresses this in future”.

The spokesperson added that the committee had been “silent” on the impact on birdlife on the Ribble Estuary, a site of European importance, meters away from Becconsall. The original 42 dB limit had been imposed partly to avoid disturbing the birds.

John Hodson, who spoke against the proposal as a local resident, said the planners had under-represented the possible increase in noise by advertising it as 55dba (an absolute limit) rather than 55db laeq (I hour) (free field), which represents an average.

Helen Rimmer, north west campaigner Friends of the Earth, who also spoke against the application, had urged the committee to defer the decision so that Natural England could be consulted. She said:

“Drilling should never have been permitted at the site in the first place, which is in green belt and close to the Ribble Estuary, an internationally important habitat for wildlife.

“Cuadrilla say they are unable to abandon and restore the site without significantly increasing the height of the rig used and the noise at the site. Whilst we want to see the site restored it is very concerning that the safeguards placed on Cuadrilla’s operations, to protect the local environment and residents, are so easily altered at their convenience and without proper assessments.

“Councillors were clearly unhappy to be put in this position by Cuadrilla, and it does not bode well for their ongoing operations in Lancashire.”

A Cuadrilla spokesperson said:

“We are pleased that today Lancashire County Council’s Development Control committee has given consent to vary one condition on our existing planning permission to plug the well and restore our Becconsall well. The new condition ensures that the noise level, as is the norm, will now be measured at the nearest residential property rather than at the red line of the site boundary and that a day time noise limit of 50dB noise limit be applied.  This is in line with planning guidance on noise limits and measurement criteria.  We will of course keep local residents informed on when we plan to start the restoration work.”


On the 22m rig, the spokesperson added:

“We can confirm that the 22m rig we had originally intended to use to plug the well is no longer available and to suggest we are misleading on this point is nonsensical as the higher, 32m rig is a less cost effective solution for us.”

Updated at 17.08 on 1/3/2017 to include comments by Cuadrllla

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

28 replies »

  1. Pathetic. And I assume it’s Hobson not Hodson aka refracktion?
    Will advise Cuadrilla they can legally challenge time constraints due to the breaking of protesting agreement ie no lock ins, an easy one to win in court.

      • LOL – Got to love Peeny’s silly assumptions but his new sock puppet ID ain’t fooling us 😂

    • Interesting to see Cuadrillas response. They don’t seem to know their own working requirements. They agree conditions and then propose new noise levels which are in conflict with the NPPF and PPG-minerals. A peer reviewed noise impact by REAF is submitted to LCC. They revise their proposals. These new proposals are still in conflict with Government Guidelines relating to background noise and impact assessment. Their last minute attempt to gain extra time to try and compensate for their failure to get longer working hours was thrown out. Good webcast to watch. See how Cuadrilla are falling out of favour with the people who are making the decisions. Still time for speculators to get out.Just.

    • Hmm I’d call it 70/30 in our favor but I only like 100% results. That being said if there is demonstrable noise to nearby residents I’m against night time working. If the noise doesn’t affect people but only wildlife then it should be allowed. And before the green brigrade criticises that statement let me remind them their wind turbines kill near 1 million bats and half a million birds each year.

        • I don’t know Gotta, but I gotta say I like the way he/she thinks!

          I gave up the hballpeeny name because Ruth decided to censor me. If you’re not part of the anti-frack mafia, you are subject to strict censor here. ;0)

          • Oh Peeny – you got banned so you came back with another sockpuppet ID – that’s so sweet!

            .. and you think you won’t fall foul of the moderation criteria because you’ve changed your ID? Ooooo K! 🙂

    • You go figure, Bard/ Peeny, whatever. This article refers to Becconsall where John HODSON is a resident.I suppose it’s difficult to tell The Ribble Estuary from The Fylde all the way from America but we know who and where we are.

    • Peeny – I knew it – ANOTHER sock puppet for you here, but your normal one over on the Blackpool Gazette.

      Using two different ones on the same page is a bit infra dig though old thing 🙂

  2. So lets get this right, and measure it against the “gold standard regulations” ensured in written statements by dear old HMG.

    “The committee heard Cuadrilla was asking for a 32m rig because its 22m rig had been decommissioned.”

    “Councillors were also concerned about the increased limit on noise from the site. Cllr Keith Sedgwick (right) said he saw no reason to change the original 42 dB conditions.

    But planning officers said this condition was “badly written” and did not comply with government guidance.”

    “Ribble Estuary Against Fracking, which opposed the change of conditions, submitted an independent noise assessment. This concluded that increased noise limits of 55dB or 50dB would not comply with government noise guidance for mineral developments.”

    However the limit on 42db to 50db and the limit on a 22m rig to a 32m rig seem to be just given away, just like that?

    22m/32m=45.45% increase.
    So, the original Cuadrilla planning application was fraudulent, Cuadrilla must have all ready known their only? 22m rig was being decommissioned when they made the application? On what grounds was it decommissioned? Cuadrilla must surely have a couple of those lying around, if not, they should be told to go hire one and the planning conditions will not be changed.

    42db/50db=19.1% increase.
    Again, Cuadrilla must have all ready known that they could not operate at 42db, and why was the original wording “badly written”? if that was indeed the case, then, why not just say “tough, we will reword it so it well written and then enforce it”

    Gold standard regulations? Or just hot air for public consumption?

    That list of Cuadrilla porkies is getting very long these days, we are all smelling rotting bacon, or is it something else?

    • SafetyCatch. I I understand that 42/50db is eight times the noise level when measured at the receptor. Therefore an increase of 800%

      • Thanks, Sherwulf, i forgot decibel measurement is an exponential increase, not a linear one.
        Wow 800% increase! do the planning regulators know this?
        Could you tell us what the discomfort and pain threshold limits are enforceable for human hearing in a rural environment?
        I’ll look it up anyway.
        If anyone in Lancashire is in contact with the council, perhaps this could be raised with them to reconsider their blunder?

        • Safety Catch. 50db is like listening to your fridge. So no one will have hearing damage at that level. It is more around nuisance noise and this compared to the background noise near the site.

          • The application is not 50dB max. It is 50dB Laeq (1 hour) (free field) measured at any sensitive receptor. A very different story. Actual sound emitted from site will be way in excess of 50dB. The revised proposals do not meet the requirements of paragraph 19 of PPG – minerals.

            At the Becconsall site Cuadrilla have avoided an environmental impact assessment by leasing a 0.99 hectare site, compulsory at 1 hectare or over.They have breached planning conditions by drilling into the wintering bird period and publicly stated they would restore the site by Oct 2016 but did not. And now we find out the original application was passed with Cuadrilla misinforming the Council of it’s operational requirements. No wonder no one wants them as a neighbour.

            • John. It was the comment about hearing damage that caught my eye. At 50db Laeq at a distance it is unlikely drilling produces a single noise which exceeds 80 dB from past experience. I have had accountability for monitoring and complying with noise levels at fence lines for power stations and terminals. 40 dB Laeq was the standard, with alarms and blowdown valves operating being the noisiest problems. Re compliance issues with Cuadrilla, specific regulations drive specific behaviours unfortunately. I would have thought the company would have carried one as a good idea. Just out of interest, if their operations are delayed by planning issues and / or protests, are those delays considered material in law sufficient to extend the operations timescales?

  3. What’s with your infatuation with “Peeny” you strange people.
    You’re about to lose your HC appeal, won’t be able to afford to raise anymore court action now your benefits cap has been removed, and are annoying the avg working man/woman that isn’t a NIMBY with road closures etc etc.
    You preach that you democratically said no to fracking but that’s only at local level. National democracy has overruled and you simply can’t accept it. Snowflake remoaners I bets. If you don’t like it then vote for a political party that wants to ban fracking nationally, once you win the general election then you can stop us. But we all know the Labour party is a basket case so I won’t be losing any sleep over it.

    • Gotta, You gotta understand that Hobson has this weird infatuation with me. He’s had it for awhile now. Ever since I embarrassed him so thoroughly when he was trying to make a case against fracking, he has not been the same. He is famous for making ad hominem attacks when he realizes he is beaten! Any time you start getting too factual he will become increasingly uncomfortable and attempt to deflect attention elsewhere.

      Oh John, BTW, did you ever find any conclusive evidence that fracking is causing systemic harm to human health? Thought not! LOL

  4. Just a note to say that while the discussion here is on the height of one exploration rig, in the States Exxon will spend half it’s investment up to 2020 on shale production, shifting away from large long-term exploration projects, that is probably 100’s of millions of dollars being put into shale. The USA is set to become one of the world’s biggest oil and gas exporters. So the net result of your protests will be increased revenue to the U.S. (and increased taxes to Trump) for our imported oil and gas, which we could be producing ourselves with of course a reduced carbon footprint.

    Please don’t think we can survive on renewables. Just look at periods in December and January recently when renewables were hardly 10% of our energy supply because of short day length and low wind speeds. Many greens even seem to be turning against wood chip biofuels, the only source of low carbon uninterruptible supply.
    So “keep it in the ground” and watch this country degenerate into an economic no-hoper.

    • Just to say this is proof that the fracking industry is not to be trusted with regards to it’s operational requirements. They originally presented 42dB as their requirements for noise levels. Now they say that level is not achievable. Nothing has changed at the site to justify that change. So it was either a lie or they are incompetent with regards to noise levels to restore a site.
      What do you think shale watcher. Lying or incompetent?

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