Nesting birds prompt fifth delay for restoration at Becconsall shale site, Lancs

Little Ringed Plover Andreas Trepte,

Little Ringed Plover. Photo: Andreas Trepte,

The shale gas company, Cuadrilla, has applied for more time to restore an exploration site near the Ribble Estuary in Lancashire because it said the latest attempt has been prevented by nesting birds.

Little Ringed Plovers laid four eggs within 12m of the well head and work would have disturbed the nest, the company said.


Cuadrilla now wants another year to plug and abandon the well and restore the site at Becconsall, near Banks.

If the application is granted, this will be the fifth extension of planning permission at the site. It also means that restoration to farm land will have been delayed by more than six years.

The local campaign group, Ribble Estuary Against Fracking (REAF) said:

“Yet again we see Cuadrilla unable to work within their time conditions”.

Internationally-important wetland bird site

The Becconsall site is 700m from the Ribble Estuary, which is internationally-important for wetland birds. The estuary is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area and a Ramsar Site. The wellpad itself was part of a Biological Heritage Site.

Because of this, planners prohibited work on the well and restoration during the winter bird season, between October and the end of March.

Cuadrilla had between 1 April and the current deadline of 31 August to abandon the well and restore the site.

In its application to Lancashire County Council (LCC/2017/0064), the company said the nest was spotted in mid June. Cuadrilla said there would not be enough time to complete the work by the deadline after the eggs had hatched and the young were old enough to fly.

The company now proposes to plug and abandon the well and return Becconsall to farm land by the end of October 2018.


Cuadrilla’s drilling compound at Becconsall

Multiple deadlines

Local people have become suspicious about Cuadrilla’s intentions for Becconsall following the multiple extensions of planning permission.

The first application for the site, granted by a planning officer under delegated powers, required the company to complete restoration by 27 September 2012.

Since then the deadline has been reset to 28 March 2014, 28 September 2014, 31 October 2016 and 31 August 2017.

The well and a sidetrack was drilled between August and October 2011. But since then, no substantive work has been carried out at Becconsall.

The company announced plans in 2013 for a mini frack but withdrew them the next year. REAF said this followed its evidence of “functional links” between the site and the Ribble Estuary and a recently-extended RSPB reserve.

In November 2015, Cuadrilla said it had no plans for Becconsall and would restore the site by what was then the deadline of 31 October 2016. But, because of the wording of a planning condition, that date was also extended  (DrillOrDrop report).

A spokesperson for REAF said:

“No site development has taken place since the completion of the drilling of the Becconsall wells in 2011.

“In 2016 no attempts were made to plug and abandon the well even though Cuadrilla stated they were bound by planning conditions to do so.

“This latest delay highlights how ecologically sensitive this area is and it is of great concern that Cuadrilla appear not to have arranged to carry out the plug and abandonment of the well after the birds have flown as there is ample time between the birds leaving and the start of the 2017 wintering bird period.

“It is astonishing that after seven years and numerous applications the site still remains open and that LCC have not imposed stronger measures to have the site returned to it’s original designated Biological Heritage Site status.”

A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said:

“Cuadrilla was due to start work this year to restore its Becconsall shale gas exploration site, located near Banks in Lancashire, to its original “Greenfield” status.

“However it is was not possible to do any works at the site as Little Ringed Plover birds were found in June to have nested just 12m from the well head.

“Any work would have caused disturbance to the nest which had four eggs. Guidelines for Little Ringed Plover indicate that eggs can take up to 30 days to hatch and the young take up to 25 days to fledge which would not have allowed Cuadrilla to start and complete the restoration work within the current planning permission deadline of 31st August 2017.

“Cuadrilla has therefore applied to Lancashire County Council to vary its planning consent to extend the current time limit to October 2018.

“The time extension would allow the company to begin the  restoration work after the wintering birds season ends in March 2018 and complete it before the October 2018 deadline.”


A public consultation on Cuadrilla’s latest application for Becconsall runs until 30 August 2017. Link to application details


Bund surrounding Becconsall site. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Becconsall timeline

26 July 2010

Cuadrilla applies (08/10/0973) for temporary change of use from agriculture to site for drilling an exploratory borehole and testing for hydrocarbons.

20 October 2010

Permission granted under delegated powers for an exploration well at Becconsall. A condition requires the development to be completed and site restored within 18 months of the start of work. Decision notice

28 March 2011

Work started on the site. This means the deadline for completion of work and site restoration will be 27 September 2012.

23 August 2011

Becconsall well spudded.

13 October 2011

Horizontal side tracked spudded to “bypass equipment which had become stuck in the original borehole and could not be recovered”. Main well bore drilled to 10,500ft.

19 September 2012

Cuadrilla applies (08/12/1032) to vary the condition on work completion and site restoration for a further 18 months until 28 March 2014.

27 September 2012

Date by which the planning permission 08/10/0973 requires restoration to be completed.

6 June 2013

Cuadrilla submits an amendment to application 08/12/1032 to include a Diagnostic formation Injection Test or mini frack and a further extension of the time for work completion and site restoration until 28 September 2014. Amendment letter

27 March 2014

Cuadrilla applies (LCC/2014/0047) to retain the site for another three years to allow pressure monitoring, followed by plugging, abandonment and restoration.

21 May 2014

Lancashire County Council’s development control committee agrees to a visit to the Becconsall site as part of consideration of application LCC/2014/0047). Officer’s report

22 September 2014

Cuadrilla withdraws the whole application 08/12/1032 with immediate effect. Withdrawal letter

23 September 2014

Lancashire County Council’s development control committee approves application LCC/2014/0047 allowing Cuadrilla to retain Becconsall for three more years Officer’s report. But it is nine months before the decision notice is issued (see 1 May 2015) because of delays establishing a feeding area for wintering birds.

1 May 2015

Lancashire County Council issues decision notice granting permission for application LCC/2014/0047, nine months after the decision. A condition requires the site to be restored no later than 31 October 2016 if pressure monitoring equipment is installed.

18 November 2015

Cuadrilla announces it has no plans for development at Becconsall site and says it will restore the site in spring 2016 and before the 31 October 2016 deadline. DrillOrDrop report

28 October 2016

Lancashire County Council says the 31 October 2016 deadline for restoration does not apply because Cuadrilla did not install pressure monitoring equipment. The deadline is now extended to 1 May 2018 but in practice it is 31 October 2017 because another condition prevents work during the winter bird season (31 October-31 March) and there’s not enough time to do the work between 1 April 2018 and 1 May 2018. DrillOrDrop report

26 January 2017

Cuadrilla applies to increase height of rig at Becconsall from 22m to 32m as variation of a condition of planning permission LCC/2014/0047. Cuadrilla also applies (LCC/2017/0016) to increase permitted noise limits during plugging and abandoning the well and restoration to 55dB(a) 8am-9pm and 42db 9pm-8am when measured at the boundary of the nearest home. The previous condition restricted noise levels to 42db(A) when measured at any point on the site boundary.

1 March 2017

Lancashire County Council’s development control committee votes to increase noise limits to 50db LAeq (1 hour) (free field) when measured at any noise sensitive property and approves increased rig height to 32m. But it sets a deadline of 31 August 2017 for site restoration and limits working hours to 7.30am-6.30pm Monday-Friday and 7.30am-1pm on Saturdays. DrillOrDrop report

3 August 2017

Cuadrilla applies to extend for more than a year the time it has to restore Becconsall (LCC/2017/0064).  This is a variation of the condition set on 1 March 2017. If approved, the site will not need to be restored until 31 October 2018. Application letter



22 replies »

  1. It’s about time LCC called this in. The site is clearly very sensitive ecologically and the whole area around the Ribble and Douglas estuaries should have a no go area for shale gas extraction. Councillors have already raised concerns about Cuadrilla’s failure to meet deadlines. Act on it!

  2. Little Ringed Plovers at Becconsall- Buzzards and Butterflies at Broadford Bridge- Sea Horses, Rare Reptiles and Red Squirrels at Wytch Farm- and even Flamingos at Kirby Misperton! My goodness, every small hamlet will want one of these sites to compensate for the mass avian slaughter from the hideous, noisy wind turbines, and attract some tourists.

  3. I think, for starters, there is a report on raptors being killed routinely by wind turbines off the Danish coast because someone forgot that during migration they may see such sites as a convenient island to have a rest and it became a final rest! I understand that it has also been reported from sites in Scotland, and elsewhere. I have had reports first hand from a land owner who enjoys the revenue from wind turbines on his land confirming the same-his wife is not too pleased as she comes from a farming background. I suspect you can Giggle the first two.
    But I know it is difficult for some of you to source any information that is inconvenient, having had that problem with Jack a few days ago, even when references were supplied, so I will not waste further time on that.

    • ‘I think’ – so no proof of your accusations then MC? Best stick to the facts and not hearsay 🙂

      So best concentrate on the post content and ask ourselves why Cuadrilla are stalling. This plug and abandonment could have been completed in part at least. Perhaps next year they’ll be telling us that it cannot be done, got no money, or what excuse? Or is it just a ruse to keep the site open? “Curiouser and curiouser”, said Alice…..

  4. MARTIN… what you have said in your above post is a distortion of the facts … Lets set the record straight on this ” inconvenient ” issue.

    Martin is this what you are saying I found ” inconvenient ” ?
    For those who do not know the story, what Martin had suggested when I asked him to supply evidence to back up what he was saying, is that I should pop down to the local library ( I thought he was having a laugh.)

    Finally after repeatedly pressing the issue, he did suggest I Google some ex-theatre critic called Libby Purves adding the letters NT, which I did…. What I found was a woman who has faced criticism for her remarks in the Times Newspaper, take a look.

    Referring back to your above post ,

    If you are meaning it is ” iinconvenient ” for me to travel to the library, then the answer is…….YES it was.

    If you are meaning “inconvenient ” trying to imply that’s it’s something that I would not wish to know, read or be corrected on, them the answer is….. NO, you are wrong.

    What did become apparent, is that you found the LINKS I supplied regarding the safety of fracking “inconvenient” which is why you failed to acknowledge or respond to them.

    Ladies and gentleman, don’t take my word for what I’ve said above, take a look at the evidence from this Drill or Drop message board, 3rd August 2017, headed ” INEOS announces location of third proposed shale gas site “

  5. I think you will find Jack we were discussing the NT! We have discussed your links before, we had moved on.

    Just so people are not confused, if you bother to check the matter out the NT did a complete U turn reference their strange decision regarding Felbrigg Hall, and there are plenty of references out there to find out why. You seemed unable to follow simple links and used that as your reasoning that the facts were not there. It took me thirty seconds to follow one of the links. Now you criticise the authors of the reports. But that’s par for the course. What remains fact is that NT were forced into a complete U turn because of public opinion not supporting them. You can disagree as much as you like about how or why this happened but they remain the facts.

    So, the blind faith that public support will follow NT if they have a dispute with Ineos, may turn out unfounded. I know that suggestion damages your position, but it should be considered.

    Yes, Sherwulfe, proof is there. If you want to be an ostrich there are bird sanctuaries a plenty, it seems. Just try Giggling raptors and wind turbines-you won’t because you already know the “inconvenient truth”. I will make my points but I have no intention of being an education service-self help is much more rewarding.

    • NO MARTIN , you have not discussed my links before , in fact ladies and gentleman you will find that when you post any scientific or medical evidence on HERE that questions the safety of the fracking , you will notice there is a deadly silence …..

      Although there are a number of knowledgeable people who have worked in the Oil and Gas industry, who post on this forum and I for one greatly value their contribution, especially around the more conventional aspects of Oil and Gas extraction………… It is also worth noting that NONE, except hewes62 has ever put any genuine effort in to questioning any of the professional medical reports I’ve put forward…

      hewes62 on a Drill or Drop post from the 3rd August 2017 raised the following points (( please read his post from “INEOS announces location of third proposed shale gas site ” )) …..
      In accepting that this knowledgable man has clearly done a lot of research on the subject before making his comments. It would also have to be accepted that he has not found issue with any other reports published by Physicians for Social Responsability ( PSR) ….. When you then take note of the high number of reports published by PSR and the points raised within them…….. This leaves you MORE concerned as to the safety of this fracking industry.

    • OK Martin, let’s go back to the great National Trust ( NT ) Felbrigg Hall pin badge saga and the matters surrounding it.

      In reference to your above post, SHOW ME exactly where I have criticrised the author. I have no need to criticise the author, an MP already has.

      Any U TURN done by the National Trust in this unwarranted, stretched out saga, may be down to the lengths some media outlets have gone to in making a mountain out of a mole hill .
      I will ask you for the third time.
      ” Speaking for myself Martin, I think the National Trust did very little/if nothing wrong in asking their staff at Felbrigg Hall to wear these pin badges for a day or two “…….
      ((( They after all were trying to mark an occasion in history when a segment of the community ceased being persecuted, is that not important ????? )))
      Did the NT really make such a big mistake in asking people to wear these badges ?
      Also let’s not forget, they did give the people another option if they were not willing to wear them.

      Please also explain what you mean in your above post when you say ” strange decision ” and also show us how a U Turn from the NT was because of public opinion…

      For anyone wanting to follow this great pin badge saga and all its epic twists and turns, please see comments from Drill or Drop page, “INEOS announces location of third proposed shale gas site, 3rd August 2017 .”

      As I have recently come to learn and Sherwulfe has pointed out in an above post. It would appear Martin has adopted a NEW policy, he says something, then does not supply direct links so that you can ACCURATELY analyse his evidence . He instead, then tells YOU to go and do your own research to substantiate HIS claims.

  6. ‘Yes, Sherwulfe, proof is there. If you want to be an ostrich there are bird sanctuaries a plenty, it seems. Just try Giggling raptors and wind turbines-you won’t because you already know the “inconvenient truth”. I will make my points but I have no intention of being an education service-self help is much more rewarding.’
    – still hearsay

    Now back to this Cuadrilla problem. Keep on point MC. Would make for better reading.

  7. Desperate stuff Sherwulfe. Not worth an effort to reply, other than Cuadrilla problem-hearsay. You can do better-surely?

    • But you did reply MC – sadly still empty rhetoric. No proof, no proof; move along, move along……..

      Now let’s get back to Cuadrilla and their blatant disregard for time constraints.

      Why are Cuadrilla saying one thing and doing another?

      Why are they unable to secure a rig to do the plug and abandonment?

      The originally permission was granted in 2010 and were given 18 months to complete all works. It’s now 2017 sounds like they don’t know their own operational requirements?

  8. Oh Jack! I will try and be adult, suggest you do the same.

    There are plenty of sources reference Felbrigg Hall and NT. You wanted to find difficulty in following, or examining those sources, yet had already made up your mind. That just shows you make up your mind about a subject without proper research-which figures.
    I really do not need to explain why NT did a U turn, it is very evident why they did. I certainly do not agree with their original stance, which is not really the point, but my view is that it is not the NTs business to publicise someone’s sexuality without the complete agreement of that individuals family, if he is deceased, and had no desire in his lifetime to do so himself. I used to live in that area and recognise many live a very pretty private lifestyle and wish to continue to do so. But, as I say, my view is irrelevant, the facts are the NT took a decision which they had to reverse when they found public opinion was against them. That fact has been well publicised and if you are unaware of it then it really is not my responsibility to educate you. I would have thought though you could be a little more thorough before you trivialise as “a great pin saga”-that is insulting to those who were genuinely offended and to many others who bothered to check the full facts, and were ready to cancel their NT membership.
    If you are given the publication and the author and you can not ACCURATELY assess the information, then you are not trying-don’t blame me for that. Yes, I know it is sometimes difficult to view Times articles on the internet, which is why I suggested you could view by other mechanisms. It really is not rocket science, it’s research rather than having a Giggle..

    • Ok Martin ,
      So let’s look at the facts.

      This great pin badge saga, which has been blown up well out of proportion, never did warrent this amount coverage. I hope we can both agree on that.

      Picking up on your above post. NO your views on this matter are very important, because after all this is what has caused this great debate.
      Speaking for myself Martin, I think the National Trust did very little/if nothing wrong in asking ( just asking ) their staff at Felbrigg Hall to wear these very small pin badges.
      It is sad that the “individuals family” and the feelings of a dozen volluteers at the Hall were hurt and maybe with hindsight this could of been handled slightly differently …… BUT LET’S NOT FORGET the reasons behind the National Trust asking their volunteers to wear these small pin badges for a couple of days at one of their properties “…….
      ((( They after all were trying to mark an occasion in history when a segment of the community ceased being persecuted, is that not important, should that not be recognised ????? )))
      Did the NT really make such a big mistake in asking people to wear these badges ?
      Also let’s not forget, they did give the people another option if they were not willing to wear them.

      I can understand why you may possibly have resentment towards the National Trust, after all their stance against the fracking industry is not what you were wanting to hear, but most people will see this for what it is, a classic example of making a mountain out of a mole hill .

      You imply that the National Trusts so called Uturn in the matter was down to public pressure …. Can you be more specific so that we can truly gauge the public’s opinions on this. Are you talking about 10 , 20 , 100, 1000, 100,000 and what is your accurate source of evidence to back up your numbers ?????

    • Ok Martin lets talk about my inability to correctly decifer your webpage links.

      You said, quote,
      “if you don’t want to purchase the Times, read it in a library, how difficult is it to follow the reference Libby Purves via the internet, with NT added”….. I DID AS YOU ASKED MARTIN and it gave me a VERY SMALL section of the story . The Times online is a subscription newspaper .

      WHY SHOULD MENBERS of this forum have to purchase a paper, subscribe to it online, or go to a library just to validate what you say ????? It’s your job to do that.

      Do you work at the Times Newspaper Martin ? as you are doing a grand job of trying to get their revenue/reader count up .

      Now using your idea, I could just say to people on here, fracking is dangerous and back it up by saying, just Google, fracking cancer, fracking pollution , fracking air pollution or just fracking dangers.

      BUT NO Martin, I like to give the readers some evidence in the form of proper links like this.

      From the British Medical Journal

      From Nobel Peace Prize winners Physicians for Social Responsibility ( PSR)
      Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking

      OR this great bunch from PSR.

      Or this from Breast Cancer Action
      Don’t Frack With Our Health.

      Or if I was wanting to inform the public about the possible difficulties obtaining Buildings Insurance, I would put this link up.

      Or maybe this post if I was wanting to expose the difficulties experienced by homeowners living in planned fracking areas.

      These are what you call links Martin ….

  9. Sherwulfe-I think the clue is with the birds!

    If there are no birds, they will look silly, if there are, they have no choice. I really can’t see the difficulty with understanding that.

    Many developments have to be halted because of such environmental concerns. Southampton Water recently needed dredging to allow the largest new container ships to dock, but was halted several times, to avoid interference with salmon travelling up the Solent to enter the Test and Itchen. Most local councils will only conduct hedge cutting outside of the bird nesting season. Big delays to the Newbury bypass due to the discovery of rare snails. But just empty rhetoric, unless people have some knowledge of the subject, or interest to find out.

    Obviously, Cuadrilla take their responsibilities towards the environment a little more seriously than some of the protestors.

    • ehh, MC? I suppose we are getting closer to the point, but wrong species…

      Do you want to get back on topic about protected birds and their impact on shale gas development? Or again why this site is not being plug and abandoned on time?

      ‘Obviously, Cuadrilla take their responsibilities towards the environment a little more seriously than some of the protestors’.

      The Ribble is an important site for protected birds. The development at Becconsall is too close to the RAMSAR site. The site itself is a biological heritage site. The whole of this area around it is an important food growing area. The site is clearly very sensitive ecologically and the whole area around the Ribble and Douglas estuaries should have a no go area for shale gas extraction.

      The history of the site is littered with time limit infringements. Cuadrilla even leased land nearby to mitigate the needs of wintering birds that had shooting rights on it!

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