The decision on the transport plan for Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton looks likely to be delayed for at least a week because of concerns about the routing of delivery lorries.
Officers at North Yorkshire County Council had said they would reach a decision on the plan by this Thursday (20 July 2017).
But Friends of the Earth objected last week and the council’s transport department has asked for clarifications. The local campaign group, Frack Free Ryedale, is calling for the decision to be made by councillors not, as expected, by officials.
Key concerns include Third Energy’s plan to use laybys as holding areas for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and alternative roads if its designated route is blocked.
DrillOrDrop understands that some villages that could be on the alternative routes are expected to write to the county council.
Yesterday, the council’s head of planning services, Vicky Perkin, wrote to Third Energy saying:
“It is likely that the 20th of July target determination date could be subject to postponement and therefore a suggested date of 27th July 2017 is considered reasonable?”
Third Energy’s revised traffic management plan (TMP) is a condition of the planning permission granted by North Yorkshire’s planning committee in May 2016. It is one of six outstanding conditions that need to be met before work can start.
The revised plan specified a route for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) from the A169, into Kirby Misperton Road, Main Street and Habton Road. It also said vehicles may be held in laybys on the A169 and A64 to ensure there was enough space on the wellsite. Staff would be onsite to coordinate the arrival and departure of HGVs.
But the plan also suggested that the designated route could change:
“There may be occasions where access to the wellsite may be restricted. In such an event, North Yorkshire Police will be consulted and North Yorkshire Police may require Third Energy to use an alternative access route, thus deviating from this plan.”
“No proper assessment of alternative routes”
Gerald Kells, a transport consultant employed by Friends of the Earth, said the traffic management plan was inadequate to meet the planning condition because it did not “remove risks inherent in HGVs using the route”.
He said there had been no proper assessment and consultation on the use of alternative routes.
“Could it be enacted for day-to-day problems or only something more catastrophic?
“How long would such a delay be countenanced before the police were contacted?
“As well as the uncertainty about when this might occur, there is also nothing in the TMP which identifies what the ‘alternative access route’ referred to might be.”
Steve Mason, a resident of Great Habton and campaigner against Third Energy’s plans, said:
“This could lead to hundreds of HGVs, some carrying toxic waste, rolling around Ryedale.
“I would question if there been any assessment or safety surveys done on the alternative routes? And if this is to be allowed what other parts of the original planning decision will be allowed to slide?”
Laybys as holding areas
On the use of laybys, James Kennedy, of the council’s highways department, asked:
“How is it intended to direct traffic to use the waiting laybys when required?”
Mr Kells said there was limited space on some laybys on the route.
“There is the question of what will happen to HGVs who have already passed those points when they are alerted to an issue, or what will happen if the holding areas are already occupied.”
He asked whether the laybys would be used only during a blockage or accident or routinely to avoid school pick-up times or peak hours at the Flamingo Land theme park, opposite the fracking site.
What is an emergency?
Third Energy said HGV movements would avoid the time periods 8.05am-8.35am and 3.40pm-4.10pm, except during emergencies. But Mr Kells said there was no definition of “emergency” and further work was needed to show whether these restrictions were enough to ensure pedestrian safety.
The company said:
“Where possible, the delivery/collection of wellsite equipment and materials will avoid peak times as discussed with the local community.”
But Mr Kells said
“It is vague as to when this might mean beyond those school pick up times and also how this ‘avoidance’ will be enacted in practice. It is hard to see how such ill-defined ‘avoidance’ could be monitored.”
He asked whether regular events, such as weekly drop-in Toddler Group, should also be avoided.
No daily HGV limit
The plan suggested that the operation at the Kirby Misperton site would generate more than 500 HGV movements. But there was no daily limit on the number of HGVs, as has been imposed at other shale gas sites. There was also no discussion of how convoys of HGVs might be brought onsite, as happened at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road and Rathlin Energy’s West Newton A well pads.
Ian Conlon, of Frack Free Ryedale, said:
“Already, residents of Kirby Misperton, who are worried about the safety of crossing the road for the toddler group or passengers waiting at the bus stop on the roundabout, have had their concerns ignored. Now this traffic plan opens the way for unassessed alternative routes through narrow lanes and small villages to be used by hundreds of enormous HGVs.
“There is also no limit placed on the daily number of HGVs or the size of convoys, which raises serious questions about safety, residents access to emergency services, as well as serious inconvenience for residents.”
James Kennedy, of the council’s transport department, also asked for clarification about how HGV movements would be organised:
“Whilst the plan proposes the banksman on site will coordinate the movement of HGV’s to the site, could the applicant provide further details on how this will be managed to ensure the appropriate timing of deliveries?”