Breaking: Judge blocks resident’s legal challenge over second Cuadrilla Lancashire fracking site

Roseacre horse

The road to Cuadrilla’s Roseacre Wood shale gas site

A Lancashire resident has been refused permission to take court action against the Communities’ Secretary, Sajid Javid, over Cuadrilla’s second shale gas site at Roseacre Wood.

Jules Burton, who lives 500m from the site, heard this morning that his challenge had been blocked by the Honourable Mr Justice Dove. This is the High Court judge who on Wednesday dismissed two local challenges against Mr Javid over the Preston New Road fracking site. (Breaking newsdetails and the judge’s ruling)

Mr Burton said he was astonished by today’s news. He described the ruling as “not merely questionable but worrying in the extreme”.

He said it had “rendered the democratic decision process to nothing more than window dressing”.

Reopening the inquiry

Mr Burton’s challenge centred on the decision by Mr Javid to reopen the public inquiry on Roseacre Wood.


Sajid Javid

The Communities Secretary said on 6 October last year that he was minded to approve planning permission for the site. This was despite objections from parish and district councils, refusal of planning permission by Lancashire County Council on road safety grounds and a recommendation to reject Cuadrilla’s appeal for the same reason by the inspector at a 19-day public inquiry.

Mr Javid said Cuadrilla had failed to provide adequate evidence that it had properly addressed the safety issues. The reopened inquiry would, he said, give the company the opportunity to “provide additional evidence on this point.”


Jules Burton, who sought to bring a legal challenge against the Secretary of State

Mr Burton argued that reopening the inquiry was “irrational”, “tainted by bias” and amounted to an abuse of power”.

He said it was “inconceivable” that the Secretary of State would allow an unsuccessful objector an opportunity to present new evidence after an inquiry had closed.

He added that the Secretary of State had not consulted with parties at the inquiry about whether the proceedings should be reopened and had not considered the financial impact and distress this would have on local people.

In his ruling on Mr Burton’s challenge, Mr Justice Dove said:

“I am satisfied that it would not be appropriate to grant permission in this case.”

He said there was no legal requirement for the Secretary of State to consult before reopening the inquiry. Although the minister had not expressly taken account of the financial burden on objectors in reopening the inquiry, this did not give rise to any error of law, the judge added.

Mr Burton had criticised the decision by Mr Javid to replace Wendy McKay, the inspector at the original inquiry. He said:

“The new planning inspector will have no prior knowledge of evidence previously submitted and will, therefore, be completely unfamiliar with the issues around the Roseacre Wood site.

“This will mean yet more stress and uncertainty for the community and more cost and effort for the local campaigning group.

“The Secretary of State can no longer be seen as impartial in this matter and his proposed re-opening of the Public Inquiry is, in my opinion, an abuse of process.”

But the judge said:

“It was not necessary for the reopened inquiry to be before the same Inspector, and there is no reason to infer bias from the proposal that another, entirely independent, Inspector should be commissioned to hear the reopened inquiry.”

Mr Justice Dove ordered Mr Burton to pay the Secretary of State’s costs of £2,055 within 14 days but turned down Cuadrilla’s claim for costs.

When asked if he would pursue the case, Mr Burton said: “I cannot afford to”.

“Democratic process nothing more than window-dressing”

Mr Burton told DrillOrDrop this afternoon:

“I find this decision not merely questionable but worrying in the extreme.

“Never before has a Planning Inquiry been re-opened simply to allow one side to have another go – having, in Cuadrilla’s, case already had two and a half years and four attempts to come up with a suitable traffic mitigation programme.”

As a result of the ruling, he said he believed British democracy had been replaced by “a wholly autocratic dictatorship”.

“The Roseacre Wood application was refused by the Parish Council, refused by the Borough Council, refused by the County Council and refused by an independent Planning Inspector.

“For one man to so skew the planning process and to overrule all those decisions without so much as looking at the site, declaring that he knows better than all the experts put together, renders the democratic decision process to nothing more than window dressing.”

Mr Burton described the timing of the ruling, designed to reach him over Easter, as “fortuitous for both Sajid Javid and Cuadrilla”.

He said the decision to reopen the inquiry and the restrictions imposed on it called into question the minister’s impartiality.

“Firstly this re-opened inquiry will be held at a venue decided by him for his convenience.

“Secondly, a different Planning Inspector is to be appointed since Mrs McKay (who chaired the original Inquiry) has clearly made up her mind.

“In the interests of democracy (the phrase used by the Secretary of State when explaining his decision and seemingly oblivious to any implicit irony) a new Planning Inspector would be appointed whose decision would not be swayed by any of the original findings.

“Finally, none of the evidence presented at the first half of the Planning Inquiry is to be made available to or referred to at this re-opened hearing.

“Surely since this is therefore new evidence to be heard by a new Inspector it must qualify as a completely new hearing – something completely without precedent in the annals of planning decisions.”

Inquiry arrangements and Cuadrilla reaction

The Planning Inspectorate has confirmed that the inquiry will reopen on 10 April 2018 and is expected to last six-eight days at a venue to be decided.

BBC News quoted Cuadrilla’s chief executive, Francis Egan:

“We shall be using the time between now and the re-opened public inquiry to undertake further traffic surveys and assessments which will inform updated transport plans for the proposed Roseacre Wood exploration site.”

Roseacre Wood: key facts and timeline

Updated: 19/4/2017 with inquiry arrangements quote from Francis Egan

11 replies »

    • Hi Kathryn,
      Put this to the authorities and demand a reply, i hope you get a response

      Repairing road surface is not going to repair the damage to unsuitable roads. Why? Because a designed road construction is based upon the impact of imposed forces from slewing and tearing from the tyres and the load imposed is based upon how many equivalent million standard axles movements from HGV’s of particular combinations of loaded axles.
      Problem 1, The average country rural road was usually a dirt track, used by carts and horses and foot traffic, many of these date back to Roman times and earlier tracks. The construction would have been earth and rocks, only later paved and widened in the 19th and 20th centuries. Often the old track was only the width of one cart, 2-3 yards at most. The widening would be usually created by infilling the old drainage ditches and paving that over often, just soil with tar macadam surface. A modern HGV will have a wheel base of 3.5m or so, maybe more with double tyres.
      Problem 2. The structural capacity and design load will be low, it may be suitable for slow moving cars, but not multiple regular HGV’s, consider the marching across a footbridge problem, it has to be out of step, or the vibration of in step marching will collapse the bridge, multiply that to regular loaded HGV’s a d you see the problem.
      The structural element of a designed road will be the sub base, upper and lower, and the base which used to be called the road base. The upper layers take the slewing and tearing motions and are called the binding course and the wearing course.
      A rural road will have a narrow carts width with some sort of ageing sub base and a wearing course. What looks like a 3-4m wide road therefore is in fact a narrow strip of actual road and the wheels of an HGV will travel mainly on little more than earth topped with wearing course, being the widening into the verges.
      It can easily be seen that many vehicular movements of 30 to 40 tonne HGV’s will quickly destroy both the road surface and what little sub base there is and collapse the widened sections.
      Multiple regular HGV movements will cause a ripple shock wave effect and the sub base will break up at
      each movement.
      Simply filling pot holes will not make the road suitable for HGV’s. The impact upon wearing course and sub base is that both will suffer a rapid structural failure, further movements will collapse unsuitable roads and the sub base and wearing course will break up and vehicles may even sink up to their axles and have to be hauled out, stopping all traffic for months because the road will be unsafe and should be condemned a d rebuilt with conventional sub base, base, binding course and wearing course suitable for the number of equivalent million standard axles.
      Only total design load and reconstruction will prevent this.
      So we need to know the weight, the frequency and the design specification load capacity of any new movements before considering if a road is suitable or not for the new loading.
      If you are in any doubt about this, ask the army or any HGV delivery company which roads they use to transport vehicles and why other roads are not used.
      The only way to assess an existing roads suitability for an extra loading of how ever many million equivalent standard axles is to take core samples and test the layers (if any) with their CBR% capability, a sub base thickness, 600mm for an underlying soil CBR of 2% or above, a base of perhaps 300mm, a binding course of say 30mm and a wearing course of 25mm should do the job.
      What you will find in a rural road and only in the middle third, will be at best a subsoil of compacted earth 0%CBR, a sub base of at best 300mm and probably all ready ageing and failing, and a wearing course of, if you are lucky, 40mm of ageing cracked tar macadam. At the edges, where most of the wheel loading, tearing and impact will occur will be maybe 150mm cobbles (if you are lucky) and 40mm wearing course or less.
      Suitability for HGV loading? Maybe 5 HGV movements per day at best, and that very slowly.

    • Road damage is a serious consideration.

      A professional US study into the damage and costs to the transport network that could be expected in NYS if fracking was allowed to develop. Along with reports on health risks and shaky economics is it any wonder they said no. Bottom of page 7 regarding full field development if you do not want to read through. Neither investors or UK Tax payers would want to pick up this tab for road repairs.

      Click to access Transportation-Impacts-Paper-LEAKED%5B1%5D.pdf

  1. Please remind me that judges are supposed to be independent, not subservient to misguided goverment dictat and dilatory ministers.

  2. The roads are the least of your imminent problems. Your health and that of your children are surely more important!! Road are crap all over Britain; yet they can fund Trident and the myriad wars they keep getting involved in. Would be interesting to see if our Govt. is getting kickbacks from America’s arms sales. There are quite a few who are certainly financially gaining from Fracking; see my timeline! This Justice Dove seems very biased.

  3. I agree that the condition of roads is not the whole issue, however it has been highlighted as grounds for refusal and is a structural part of the planning conditions and on that basis can be easily demonstrated that the roads are totally inadequate, therefore the roads are not even capable of supporting the massive increase in HGV traffic, the ripping and tearing action of HGV turning movements, the structural deformation and collapse of sub base, base and wearing course, and so on. That is a starting point for challenging the development on purely engineering grounds, permissions and overturning refusal in government does not magically create suitable roads or make existing inadequate roads adequate, the totally unsuitable highways issue still stands and structural engineering facts cannot be overturned in planning, parliament or anywhere else?
    There is another twist to this aspect too, it is that of who pays for the strengthening or repair to catastrophically damaged roads? Should the council tax payer, the local authority budget pay for it? Absolutely not, it is a private company who are forcing this through, it is central government which has rubber stamped it through, primarily it is the private company who should foot the bill for all of the road repair and strengthening works, not the council tax payer, not local government either, and since central government have no money of their own, only tax payers money, not the tax payer as a centralised tax base either, that’s just passing the buck, it must be government out of its budget or Sajid Javid himself as he made the ruling.

    That’s not even mentioning drinking water depletion, disposal of contaminated fluids, accidents, spills, hidden operation inadequacies, lack of real regulations and presence for monitoring, earthquakes, cavitation, sub strata weakening and collapse, and of course pollution, air land and water, destruction of peace and quiet, noise pollution, light pollution, danger to children, danger to wild life and farm animals, partitioning off whole tracts of our countryside to private ownership, the list goes on.
    Taken as one it all gets too complicated, the best way to handle the ruling is it seems to take each aspect individually, roads are just the first one.

  4. So, when building a new housing estate, solar farm etc. the lorries magically hover above the road surface and cause no wear or damage?

    My own road-a minor road featuring some housing and at least six sets of stables-has seen several hundred extra HGV lorry movements in the last two weeks as one of the stables want to level one of their paddocks (probably other motivation than that, but time will tell.) The road surface has only recently been repaired following the building of a housing estate that required large volumes of soil to be removed.
    The stable soil comes from other local housing estate construction. The council have already been out and marked the areas of road surface that will now need repairing-again. There is no traffic plan and the only control is that the road is to be kept clean.

    Good luck with that.

  5. Unsuitable is unsuitable, it doesn’t matter how you spin it, all the damage made to your local road proves is that the roads are unsuitable for HGV’s, i suggest you photograph the damage and repair areas, and write to the local council, and tell them that you refuse to pay for the damage through your council tax, tell them to bill the stables and demand a reply.
    20.000 vehicular movements for a fracking operation are hardly comparable to, what? 100 vehicular movements or so to your local stables? Damage has been done from just those, its a matter of degree, unsuitable is still unsuitable, and its not just structural damage its unsuitable camber, speed limits, passing clearance and sight lines, width restrictions, creating accident black spots, danger to walkers horse riders (who have priority still) and cyclists, fumes, vibration, noise, and so on.
    With HGV movements, its not just the structural damage effects of one HGV, its that the road will deform and partly recover from one movement, but frequent movements of tens or hundreds a day have an effect on the roads ability to recover from the ‘bow wave’ effect of a heavy load the road wasn’t designed to withstand, its that frequency which amplifies the damage effect and causes structural failure just from the frequency alone.
    like i said before, its not the effect of one person marching across a footbridge that cause the damage, its when a whole battalion march in step across a footbridge which sets up a resonance and that causes catastrophic failure. There are a whole slew of effects on road structural integrity from rutting and corrugating, to bleeding and pumping effects of ground water too, that leads to further frost damage and softening the sub grade, sub base, base and wearing course.

  6. This is becoming like Carry on Fracking!

    Posts about such huge development of fracking in UK the country will disappear. Then, we have posts about it will never be economical, as there are huge supplies of gas about to be supplied at knock down prices (unless you are an EDF customer). We have posts that everyday situations when linked to fracking are somehow totally unique. (I will raise you a Polish worker from the Solar Farm site leering at a young lady dog walker against your fracking site worker urinating on someone’s land.)

    To be honest, I’m not convinced Cuadrilla will push too hard for a second site until they know what the results are from the first test site. If they achieve good results, then all that damage that has been done with criticism of the politicians, the judges, ASA, PR companies, main-stream press, councillors (the ones who voted in favour), police, local businesses-(have I missed someone?) will come back to haunt your cause. Then you can try all the delaying tactics you can find but you will find that public opinion is totally uninterested. I suspect Cuadrilla will have a plan to utilise that possibility.

    And, whilst I appreciate your little classics PhilC, we had the road resurfaced outside the Solar Farm entrance a couple of years ago. That was required because the council could not bother to keep the ditches clear and the surface was eroded from running water. Then they started on the Solar Farm.Now the ditch is blocked again and the road surface has been messed up again-damage from lorries to the Solar Farm-but at least it is alternative damage.

  7. Rosearce local need not to worry. Cuadrilla is behind schedule at PNR and had a hand full with protestor there. They also have a trouble get things done with their Balcombe site. They certainly have no money or human resources to carry out work at three different site. And their management is not up to tasks and not competent enough to coordinate and manage such conplex operations of multiple site. They are pulling out at least two of these operations. So need not to worry.

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