Legal

Dismissal of legal challenge against ministerial approval Lancashire fracking site – more details and reaction

pnr 170410 Ros Wills 4

Preston New Road shale gas site on 10 April 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

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.”

“Terrible precedent”

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.”

Other reaction

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.”

Backing Fracking:

“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.

32 replies »

    • Well come on then Martin – what have you got that is better (apart from what looks rather like an over-optimisitc faith in the industry)

      George who?

  1. George Osbourne-he was the “futures” PM only a few months ago-until he peddled speculative cost estimates.

    At least you are consistent refracktion. You follow a distinct pattern, which is keep churning out speculative information as fact and expect that it will convince your audience. Maybe it will, but the wider public have discounted such tactics as they have seen that speculation can go awry very quickly (23rd June?). I remember your RECENT pronouncement on all shareholders in AJL having lost their shirts, all due to Cuadrilla! Two bits of really good “fact”! Well, that distant hum are the AJL shareholders who bought at recent prices laughing all the way to the bank.

    I have told you before examples of what I have got refracktion. A company who make billions of £s profit, spending hundreds of millions £s to build ships to bring fracked gas from USA, now willing to invest at least £500m into UK shale gas development. Perhaps you see that as over-optimistic, maybe a total gamble? I see it as experts in the market, with an army of specialist economists at their disposal, fully aware of shale gas production economics from the inside, including the added value they can place on the resource within their own factories. US fracked gas is economic to Ineos already. Why invest £500m in UK shale gas if they don’t calculate it will give them a further cost advantage?

    We will still be left with an unknown of what extraction rates can be achieved within the UK, hence test wells. But I have listened to Jim Ratcliffe referring to the geology in UK v US and he seems to have a pretty good handle on what results could be achieved, so I will go with him, rather than yourself. No disrespect intended, but he has a pretty decent record of making good investment decisions. I can only go by your posts refracktion, and on that basis economics are not your strong point. Which brings us back to George. My simple economics say that trading with 95% of the world is better than 5% of the world. Me, and the Footsie, we could both be wrong, and the emergency budget is around the corner, or the next corner, or the next one after that.

  2. Nice try Martin – I have only ever referred to estimates and forecasts in this UK viability argument – anyone (like you it seems) who thinks they can claim to have knowledge of anything more tangible is peddling snake oil I’m afraid.

    Jim Ratcliffe has a great record of making decisions that cost our exchequer dear, I’ll give you that.

    If you are getting on to Brexit now I’ll leave you to it – if your macro economic analysis is as shaky as your analysis of fracking you’ll be telling us how wonderful an opportunity it is LOL

  3. PLEASE READ FACE BOOK PAGE ..SCOTLAND AGAINST FRACKING..RATcliffe of INEOS is universally hated in scotland for interfering in a democratic election and blackmailing the local population with the threat to close the local refinery. His financing has been condemned as shaky and speculative by a GOLDMANN SACHS banker WHO WORKED IN THE FRACKING AND OIL INDUSTRY…please see decision of NORTHERN IRELAND government to have a policy against fracking but most people in BRITAIN r against fracking. WHY REFUSE TO FUND CLEAN ENERGY WHILE GREATLY SUBSIDISING unconventional and damaging ‘FRACKING’…companies have been given massive tax breaks and r hugely polluting in scotland have taken over rickety companies Regularly discharge pollutants into the local river and pollute the air with FLARING gases and have paid massive fines after investigation by the health and safety executive. R closing local roads against the interests of the local people.
    SCOTLAND obtain energy security by running on clean energy alone..the wind , solar and tidal power and the big fuel companies should not be paid NOT TO PRODUCE ENERGY….there is a disgraceful levelof fuel poverty in scoland and the rest of Britain with people returning tins to foodbank because they cannot afford to heat the food..the could be community kitchens and washing machines run off excess fuel..the have that on a canalin the manchester are where INEOS dis charged waste into a local canal…people have the right and will continue to protest agains this disgusting and POISONOUS industry.

  4. Martin – you said “I remember your RECENT pronouncement on all shareholders in AJL having lost their shirts, all due to Cuadrilla! Two bits of really good “fact”! Well, that distant hum are the AJL shareholders who bought at recent prices laughing all the way to the bank.”

    How funny then that the short term bounce, provided by this ruling, which pushed the share up from 25c to 30c seems to be over as they headed south back to 25c again.

    The only distant hum I can hear on the AJL Hot Copper board is the rumble of discontented stock holders whining about the fact that company didn’t release some information which suggests that the GIIP in Cuadrilla’s licence area may actually be significantly less than the 200 TCF figure that is being bandied about.

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