Campaigners have described as a “terrible precedent” the dismissal of their High Court action against the ministerial approval of fracking at a site in Lancashire.
Judge Sir Ian Dove, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London this morning, rejected the challenges against the Communities Secretary brought by Preston New Road Action and local campaigner, Gayzer Frackman. Breaking News
They had argued that Sajid Javid had acted unlawfully and unfairly in granting planning permission to Cuadrilla to drill, frack and test up to four shale gas wells near Blackpool.
But Sir Ian Dove rejected all the grounds of both challenges.
Cuadrilla has welcomed the decision and said it was “great news” for local businesses and workers in Lancashire.
The ruling appears to clear the way for the company to continue its operation at Preston New Road. It also brings to an end the Cuadrilla’s planning battle over the site. Lancashire County Council refused permission in June 2015, despite the recommendation to approve by planning officers. The inspector at a 19-day public inquiry also recommended approval, which was adopted by Mr Javid.
Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan, said this morning:
“We are very pleased that the Planning Inspector’s recommendation and the Secretary of State’s decision to grant planning consent has been upheld by the High Court. We respected the democratic right of those opposed to this consent to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision.
“However we always remained confident that that the planning consent would stand, particularly after such a lengthy and thorough review of the application and positive recommendations for approval by both the professional Planning Officers at Lancashire County Council and subsequently an experienced Planning Inspector.
“This is also great news for all those local businesses and workers in Lancashire that are currently and will in the future be benefiting from the increased revenue and job opportunities that our operations are bringing to the county. Work continues on the construction of the exploration site and we look forwards to progressing to the drilling stage of our operations within the next couple of months.”
Campaigner, Gayzer Frackman, from Lytham, had argued that the minister’s decision failed to consider climate change and gaps in regulations to protect public health.
Preston New Road Action Group had argued that Mr Javid had misunderstood or misapplied local and national planning policy in approving the fracking scheme.
In a statement after the ruling, Preston New Road Action Group said its members had “reacted with heartfelt disappointment” that Mr Justice Dove has ruled in favour of the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid MP.
“The group challenged the lawfulness of Sajid Javid’s overruling of Lancashire County Council’s solid decision to refuse Cuadrilla planning permission to frack at the Preston New Road site. The group sought to have Sajid Javid’s determination declared unlawful, weighing on five points of law having being breached.
“Today’s decision also sets a terrible precedent for other communities facing the unconventional gas industry. The fracking industry does not constitute as sustainable development and is a backwards step for the UK’s commitment to mitigating climate change and upholding the Paris Agreement.”
Pat Davies, Chair of Preston New Road Action Group said:
“The ramifications of allowing an unwanted industry to proceed, against the express wishes of the democratically-elected local planning committee and local community’s wishes, are immense.
“Residents are suffering ill health and overwhelming anxiety about their future, with concerns for the the environment they and future generations live in. The Fylde Coast will become the guinea pig for this dirty industry and no longer be a safe or desirable place to live, work or retire to.
“For residents to have no say in shaping the community they live in, is also against the overarching commitment outlined as a key aim within the government’s own National Planning Policy Framework.
“This contradictory approach smacks of muddled thinking at best, or autocracy at worst. If a planning process can be controlled by external corporate interests and the government policy of the moment, it is neither fit for purpose and begs the question whether local democracy now plays any valid part in the planning process.”
Claire Stephenson from the group said:
“Justice and democracy have not been observed in Lancashire. We are truly dismayed at this decision. We will now take time to reflect on the ruling and liaise with our legal counsel to advise us further. We said no and we will continue to say no. This is not the end.”
Elisabeth Whitebread, Greenpeace UK Energy Campaigner:
“Lancashire said No to fracking from the start but the government overruled local people and the local council. In this legal challenge Preston New Road Action Group has represented thousands of people. Ordinary members of the community have been peacefully opposing fracking for six years and they won’t stop now.
“Lancashire needs clean, reliable energy, innovation and job creation, not disruptive drilling, noise, air and light pollution. Our government should listen to the public, stop prioritising fracking, and instead support cutting edge renewables and battery storage, which can meet our energy needs.”
Gareth Redmond-King, Head of Energy and Climate, WWF:
“This government is keen on people having the final say on wind farms, but not so much when it comes to fracking. This decision clearly flies in the face of the will of local people in Lancashire. Their voices have been loud and clear on this issue – that unconventional oil and gas are neither good for people nor the planet – and this view has been woefully ignored. Rather than fracking, the UK Government needs to focus investment in innovative, low carbon technologies to provide for our energy needs.
“They really have to set out how we will reach the UK’s emissions targets – they need to publish their plan to reduce emissions. Fracking will not help us reach these carbon targets – in fact, it hinders it, by opening up a new source of fossil fuels when what we most need to do is leave most of the world’s remaining gas, coal and oil in the ground.”
Lancashire For Shale:
“As far as we are concerned, the High Court has vindicated the previous decision of the Secretary of State and it is the only sensible and logical decision they could have reached.
“We believe that this decision underpins the planning consent granted, and that shale gas exploration will continue to be beneficial for the people and economy of Lancashire
“We call on the activists to stop disrupting Cuadrilla’s supply chain and local road users near to the site, by accepting this democratic decision. Let’s move forward, based on the fact that justice has been served.”
“We are delighted that Justice Dove, who we understand is very experienced in these matters, has concluded that the Secretary of State was right to approve Cuadrilla’s shale gas plans on appeal in October last year.
“This decision will no doubt disappoint some local campaigners, but we hope that they will accept it and choose not to pursue any further form of appeal just like their fellow campaigners in North Yorkshire when they lost a similar legal challenge last year.
“We hope it also sends a clear message to the national protestors that have been involved in weeks of disruptive direct action at the site itself and the premises of local suppliers to Cuadrilla: the democratically made laws of the land have been complied with in full, it’s time to pack up and find another cause to oppose. They never really had a social licence to protest in the manner they have been anyway, but this High Court decision removes any last remaining justification for their actions. It’s now time to let Cuadrilla get on with finding the answers we’re all looking for: can this gas be extracted in sufficient quantities to enable a viable shale gas industry to grow in Lancashire, creating jobs and boosting the economy?
This section will be updated with other reaction as it comes in. DrillOrDrop has also reported in more detail on the judge’s ruling.