Minister defends consent for Cuadrilla’s fracking site on second day of legal challenge

pnr 1703315 Ros Wills

Site work at Preston New Road yesterday. Photo: Ros Wills

Lawyers for the Communities’ Secretary have been defending his decision to grant planning permission for Cuadrilla’s fracking plans near Blackpool.

In October 2016, Sajid Javid approved the company’s scheme to drill, frack and test up to four wells at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton.

A residents group and a local campaigner went to the High Court in Manchester this week to challenge the decision, arguing that was unlawful and should be quashed.

Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) said Mr Javid had misunderstood or misapplied local and national planning policy in approving the fracking scheme.

Campaigner, Gayzer Frackman, from Lytham, argued that the minister’s decision failed to consider climate change and gaps in regulations to protect public health.


PNRAG said Mr Javid had incorrectly concluded that Cuadrilla’s plans complied with a strategic minerals policy in Lancashire called CS5. This is designed to protect and enhance culturally-important landscapes from being harmed by minerals developments.

But this morning Rupert Warren QC, for Mr Javid, said the Secretary of State’s approach had been “unimpeachable”. He said the minister had noted there would be harm to the landscape in two-and-a-half years of the scheme but that the harm would be mitigated and reduced to an acceptable level.

PNRAG had also argued that Mr Javid should have refused permission because he mistakenly found the scheme complied with paragraph 109 in the National Planning Policy Framework. This says the planning system should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by protecting and enhancing valued landscapes.

Mr Warren said the Secretary of State had accepted the reasoning of the inspector at the public inquiry who had recommended approval of the project. She had said there would be harm to valued landscapes but it would temporary and the landscape would be restored.

Yesterday, the court heard how PNRAG also challenged the inspector’s view that the fracking site would not breach another Lancashire planning policy, DM2, aimed at protecting local residents.

This says minerals operations would be supported where harm could be eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels or where the operations made a positive contribution to residential amenity.

The inquiry inspector had said the site would not make the outlook for local residents so “unpleasant, overwhelming and oppressive” that it would become an unattractive place to live.

David Wolfe QC, for PNRAG, said this was a very high threshold and the wrong test to apply to the policy.

But Mr Warren responded:

“There is no regulation or legal test which has a threshold on it beyond which the impact on residential amenity is unacceptable.”

PNRAG had also said Mr Javid had treated the group unfairly by not taking into account another local planning policy – EP11. This was used by Lancashire County Council to refuse the planning permission in June 2015 and says developments in the countryside should reflect the local vernacular style.

Nathalie Lieven, QC, for Cuadrilla, said:

“It would be impossible to make a drilling rig meet that policy and it was very plain that this policy was never intended to apply to the development in question.”

Climate change impact and regulatory gaps

The second challenge to the Secretary of State focussed on regulation and climate change impacts.

Mr Frackman, a Lancashire anti-fracking campaigner who changed his name by deed poll, said Mr Javid should have taken account of all the greenhouse gas emissions from the shale gas development at Preston New Road.

The court heard yesterday how Cuadrilla had given estimates of emissions from initial flow tests on the four wells. But it had not calculated the greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of gas produced from extended well tests, which would be piped into the gas main.

Marc Willers QC, for Mr Frackman, had said the exploration scheme was “production in disguise” and the emissions from gas produced in the extended well tests should have been accounted for in the environmental impact assessment.

Without this assessment, he said:

“It would leave the government’s climate change policy, the carbon budget set down in the Climate Change Act, and the Paris Agreement in tatters.

“We would have unassessed, unabated production of shale gas – and even other fossil fuels because you could extend the argument – without any regard to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive or our climate change obligations.”

But Ms Lieven said this was a “completely flawed” argument. She said:

“The whole assumption is that this is new, additional gas that is being burned.

“There is no evidence on the degree to which Cuadrilla gas going into the network is additional gas being burned, producing additional greenhouse gas emissions. That calculation would be simply impossible to do.”

Whether shale gas should be a substitute for other gas was an issue for national energy policy, she said, not an issue for planning or environmental impact assessments.

Mr Willers had also argued that the Secretary of State should have applied the precautionary principle and refused permission because there were gaps in the regulatory system for shale gas. He said the argument by the inquiry inspector that there were no risks to health from the shale gas scheme was “irrational”.

Mr Warren replied:

“I don’t accept the Secretary of State failed to have regard to the precautionary principle.”

And Ms Lieven said the inquiry inspector, accepted by the Secretary of State, had concluded there would be no unacceptable impacts on human health and that the regulatory system would operate to control them.

What happens next?

The hearing closed at just before 5pm, exactly a year after the final day of the public inquiry into the plans.

The judge, Sir Ian Dove, said he would produce his judgement as soon as possible but was unable to give an estimate of when that would be. He told the legal teams, which comprised eight barristers, as well as solicitors and advisers:

“You have all raised a great deal of interesting food for thought. I need to give my time to do justice to them.”

He said he was pleased the hearing had been held in Manchester, closer to the area of Cuadrilla’s site. He added:

“I will knuckle down now. You can go away having finished your hard work. Mine now starts.”

Report from morning session, Day 1: Cuadrilla’s Lancs shale gas exploration plans were “production in disguise” – High Court told

Report from afternoon session, Day 1: Shale gas regulation is not “up to scratch” and Cuadrilla fracking permission should not have been granted 

Categories: Legal

34 replies »

    • The above commentators choose to ignore evidence of fugitive methane emissions from fracking sites, which is many times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. On such evidence fracking is WORSE than coal for global warming. Only renewables, efficiency and battery storage, all existing technologies, can reliably reduce emissions at the scale needed. Oh, and renewables are MUCH more popular and long term sustainable.

      • You need to understand what fugitive emissions really are, how they come about, and why with current shale drilling and completion technology they are no worse than modern conventional wells. But the longer the transportation distance, the more complex the transport process, the higher the fugitive emissions will be. LNG / long pipeline systems with huge compression stations (Norway to UK) exhibit higher fugitive emissions than home produced gas including shale wells.

        And if you understand petroleum geology (and marsh gas) you will also know that the source rocks (and bogs) are continually producing methane and it is coming to surface constantly in areas with no geological seal and has been for millions of years. Also look at hydrates.

        Fugitive emissions is a concept developed by Enemies of Industry and Greenpeace etc. as another way to try and attack the oil and gas industry.

        But if you really are worried about fugitive emissions you need to go vegetarian – stop eating meat. We all do. As this BB knows full well, livestock contribute enormously to fugitive methane emissions in the UK and globally but no one seems worried about this? Remember the notorious leaky well report – areas were found around old UK wells where methane was present in quantities equivalent to less than two sheep farting.

        Renewables are much more popular? Perhaps, but then most of those that like them don’t understand where their electricity and heating comes from. Or what powers their cars and transport systems. And how they get to their holiday destinations…..

        Too late to save the planet – learn to adapt. Gas is there to stay for at least another 30 years, oil hasn’t even peaked yet. Look at the increasing demand forecasts for all hydrocarbons globally for the next 20, 30 years,

        • Well Trump sure is trying to stem the FALL in demand for fossil fuels by attempting to reduce fuel efficiency measures and our own UK government is attempting to kill jobs in the solar industry with punitive tax hikes, to please the fossil fuel lobby it is undercutting as solar panels prices plummet. Lets face it Paul, your comments betray PR speak for fossil fuels, labelling me a capital “Enemy” of industry, when you know very well the science shows the evidence that fracking is causing a spike in methane emissions in the US. And now, having an industry that suppresses the now overwhelming evidence of human induced climate change, you say it is too late!!!!! Fracking is also bad for local residents health (unlike solar), we don’t have an energy crisis, fracking won’t displace gas produced elsewhere, banning fracking is a win win for local communities. The barriers to a sustainable future with renewables are not technological, they are political and cultural ie our addiction to fossil fuels. Oh, and I do know about how good vegetarians are for the environment, being one myself. And I haven’t flown in a plane for many many years nor do I intend to. We all need to reduce fossil fuels rapidly, opening up new supplies of gas is a bridge to nowhere. How’s AJ Lucas’ share price doing?

          • FOE, not you Ian (Enemies of Industry), unless you are member? My points are quite simple, we, and the rest of the world will depend on gas for a long time to come, global gas demand is forecast to continue rising until 2040/50. This is reality. I am not advocating shale gas in the UK but trying to address myths and untruths spread by FOE etc. Personally I don’t think there will be a shale gas industry in the UK due to planning issues with traffic / population density etc. but not because of sub surface issues or “fugitive emissions” or poisoned water (farmers and water companies are already pretty good at that).

            Many antis seem happy to import gas with higher fugitive emissions somewhere else but moan about fugitive emissions at home.

            And you are in the minority regarding not eating meat or flying planes. Human nature is exactly that. Expanding middle classes in India, China, the rest of South East Asia have an insatiable demand for motor bikes, cars, TVs, holidays, meat, in fact everything we westerners take for granted. That is why demand for oil and gas is forecast to continue rising. Have you noticed how many Chinese tourists come to the UK now? No, probably not, because there is nothing of interest in the Fylde – although they may go to Blackpool but I doubt it.

            So I expect we will not have a shale gas industry in the UK but we will continue to import more of our gas from Norway, Qatar and increasingly from the US (shale LNG). I wonder what the total fugitive emissions of US shale gas LNG are from source to grid? Fracking is already displacing gas from elsewhere, but the fracking happens to be in the US at the moment.

            I have no idea about AJLucas share price although I have seen on this BB that they are something to do with Cuadrilla. I can tell you what Shells share price is and how much dividend they pay me? I can also tell you the share price of Renewables Infrastructure shares and how much dividend they pay me? Perhaps there is some solar FITs in there somewhere, anyway the returns are good.

  1. Sorry for any repetition good people. There doesn’t seem to be much about the incalculable risk to children’s health posed by the chemicals that cause the earthquakes when mixed with expensive fresh potable water in order to potentially release some gas, or anything about the many concerns of medical experts or the effect on the sales of some thousand new homes which are being built on land that may well have all this dangerous action happening right underneath their foundations or the fact that local residents won’t be able to insure their homes or sell them or gas flares burning 24/7 churning out particulates. Call me stupid but shouldn’t these things be being discussed a bit more or perhaps democracy. I am not an activist but this looks like yet more greed at work to me. With a stuff the consequences attitude. Very foolish for the future of all our children and grandchildren.

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