Double challenge to ministerial approval of Cuadrilla’s fracking site goes to Appeal Court


Opponents of fracking at Cuadrilla’s shale gas site near Blackpool take their legal challenge to the Court of Appeal in London on Wednesday.

A two-day hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice will hear arguments from Preston New Road Action Group and the anti-fracking campaigner, Gayzer Frackman, along with Cuadrilla and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

The case is the latest stage in a long-running planning dispute over the largest fracking operation to be approved in the UK.

It dates back to June 2015 when Lancashire County Council refused planning permission for drilling, fracking and testing up to four shale gas wells at the Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton.

The Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, overturned this decision in October 2016 following a 19-day public inquiry.

Preston New Road Action Group and Mr Frackman brought a statutory challenge to Mr Javid’s decision in the High Court in Manchester in March this year. The judge in that case, Sir Ian Dove, dismissed the challenges, saying all but one were arguable but none were substantiated.

Cuadrilla began work at Preston New Road on 5 January 2017 and started drilling the first well on 17 August 2017. There have been daily protests outside the site and between January and July, there have been 278 arrests. Timeline for the Preston New Road site. Images from the site

A spokesperson from Preston New Road Action Group said today:

 “We trust that the Secretary of State’s decision to allow fracking at Preston New Road will be found unsound, and Lancashire County Council’s original decision will be reinstated.

“Even before any fracking has commenced, the local community has been subjected to disruption. They have suffered stress due to the process and since work commenced on the site, their day-to-day lives have been disrupted by convoys of HGVs, a massive police presence and many road closures.

“Cuadrilla, far from being good neighbours, have already demonstrated their contempt for the local community and planning conditions meant to protect it. They have breached planning conditions by bringing the rig on to site during the night and have commenced drilling only days prior to the appeal being heard.

“People matter, communities matter. As has been demonstrated loudly and clearly over the last three years upwards, there is no social licence to frack at Preston New Road.”

Mr Frackman, who changed his name by deedpoll, said:

“I have been committed to ending fracking and protecting my community and country from fracking for over six years. I have every faith in our environmental legal team and trust that justice will be done.”

“Having seen the first fracking site develop on the Fylde coast over the past eight months and the constant breaches of planning conditions, it is clear that our safety is of no concern to Cuadrilla or the government. They have made every effort to force this toxic industry on the UK with no regard to our communities, health, environment and climate.”

Earlier this summer, a spokesperson for Cuadrilla said:

“Cuadrilla will actively defend the appeals alongside the Government and remains confident that the planning consent will not be overturned.

pnr 170827 Ros Wills

The drilling rig at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, 27 August 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

Legal arguments

Preston New Road Action Group argued at the High Court that Mr Javid had misinterpreted local and national planning policy and that his conclusions on landscape impact were inconsistent. It also argued that the way the public inquiry dealt with a policy in the Fylde Borough Plan was unfair to PNRAG.

Mr Frackman’s team argued that the Environmental Statement, which supported Cuadrilla’s planning application, was defective because it didn’t provide a comprehensive assessment of cumulative impacts. There was no assessment of greenhouse gas emissions that would be produced from gas piped and burned in homes and businesses during the extended flow testing phases.

His team also argued that Mr Javid should not have granted planning consent because he could not have rationally concluded that regulations could control and reduce public health and other impacts to an acceptable level.

Dr Paul Stookes, Solicitor-Advocate at Richard Buxton Solicitors, who is representing Mr Frackman said:

“If environmental impact assessments are to have any integrity in the UK, then the full consequences of extracting and burning large volumes of fossil fuel must be considered at the earliest possible stage. And, if those consequences have not been assessed then a precautionary approach says that permission for shale gas fracking must be refused.”

Estelle Dehon, environmental law barrister at Cornerstone Barristers and representing Mr Frackman, said:

“This action is being taken on the basis that Cuadrilla and the Government did not fully assess the impact of greenhouse gas emissions that will be generated by the fracking operation over the next six years, contrary to the environmental impact assessment regulations.

“The appeal also questions whether it was safe for the Government to grant permission in the absence of a robust regulatory system, despite uncontroverted evidence of the health impacts of fracking. We will also be making the case that Cuadrilla’s so-called exploratory fracking is in fact full scale shale gas production in disguise.”

The case has been listed for 10.30am on Wednesday 30 August at The Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London, before Lord Justice Simon, Lord Justice Lindblom and Lord Justice Henderson.


What the High Court Judge, Sir Ian Dove, said about Lancashire campaigners’ fracking challenges

Reports from the High Court hearings:

Cuadrilla’s Lancs shale gas exploration plans were “production in disguise” – High Court told

Shale gas regulation is not “up to scratch” and Cuadrilla fracking permission should not have been granted 

Government lawyers defend decision to give planning consent to Cuadrilla fracking plans

  • DrillOrDrop will be reporting from both days of the hearing at the Court of Appeal

Updated: 29 August 2017 with time of hearing and names of judges hearing the case





36 replies »

  1. You need to get up to date with your research Martin… you can always cherry pick ‘facts’ and arrange to suit prejudices but I’m not going around those Germany and Climate Change loops again. Cling to your beliefs that Global Warming isn’t real if you like but others have moved on. Meanwhile GITS is making some interesting points.

  2. I like your ‘captain’s bridge’ analogy GhostsInTheShale but I also think you need to mix in the Theater analogy – there is after all a ‘performance’ and an audience aspect to court proceedings – it is not entirely behind closed doors. That justice should not only be done but that ‘justice should be seen to be done’ is why the bridge can also be considered a stage. On the other hand over-egging the performance aspect can lead to failure of course. I agree that much depends on depth of pockets in relation to the quality (or craftiness) of the presentations and representations.

    • I am sure that spectacle and theater analogies work as well but the ships bridge is a real analogy in admiralty law. A “good” judge (all judges are seen to be good) should be able to distinguish between well funded grandstanding and honesty and sincerity of course, not to mention social, moral, ethical and legal justice (not always the same thing).
      Specifically a judge is seen to be impartial being sufficiently cushioned financially and socially and constitutionally.
      And then there is human nature of course, from all the active participants, and that perhaps is what distinguishes justice from mere operational procedure and political and corporate influence? Not of course in any UK Court of Law, where such interests are to be declared prior to the judicial case being populated by judge and jury? Any further speculation on that would be outside of the remit of any UK Court of Law of course and is seen and demonstrated to be above such influences.
      As you say, justice, however defined, has not only to be done, but seen to be done.
      We have all seen what happens when a totalitarian regime gains control of the legal system and substitutes it’s own protagonists.
      There was a radio program about the legacy of the East German Stasi yesterday and the efforts after liberation to destroy stasi records that contained incriminating evidence against stasi operatives, and the efforts to then retrieve 4 million shredded documents and review tens of thousands of secret bugged recordings in order to reveal the true extent of the secret service alarming spying activities on their own population revealing spying accusations’ and betrayals by supposed friends and family, in order to prevent similar accusations against themselves, including the operation of aggressive kangaroo courts handing out death sentences for jumped up crimes against the state, disappeared and separated families, executions and slavery prisons.
      Never here right?
      That is why it may be prudent to regularly challenge such established legal precedents into challenging it’s own procedural independence in order to further isolate weak ambiguities in order to protect everyone from unwanted and damaging future influence from whatever direction?
      We should perhaps ask ourselves what stands between our freedom to live within moral and ethical limits, or be subjected to incarceration, prejudice, suspension of human rights, transportation to concentration camps and worse?
      The answer is largely legal and social and establishment bodies granting and awarding freedom of human rights of speech and action and indeed protest, without prejudice or retaliation.
      It’s not very much, but it is vital.

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

  3. Whenever have I said Global Warming is not real? It is you PhilipP who makes up “facts” as you have no argument.

    However, for some to state a hurricane is due to Global Warming is an absolute nonsense that even Noah would refute. Perhaps it was all due to incense burning then?

    • It’s climate science Martin but yes Noah would refute it because in his time there was a fully functioning (Northern) polar vortex. Now with the virtually complete disappearance of long term ice at the Arctic pole we get meandering clumps of jetstream (breaking free of the arctic circle) and our weather patterns entering unknown territory. But the science tells us a) extreme weather events will become more extreme and increase in frequency with once-a-century occurrences becoming more like once-a-decade, and b) with overall GW air temperature rise our atmosphere sponges up millions more tons of water (evaporation moisture) which then leads to much greater dumps of precipitation whenever those jetstream or warm-air/cold-air interfaces occur. Science, maths, facts and logic backed up by ongoing observations Martin.

  4. Most of which has happened before, PhilipP, so what a waste of your time to post what we know. That’s why seeds are found from UNDERNEATH the ice as it melts in Greenland. That’s why Viking ships were found to be built from native trees which are not native anymore, because the climate is too cold, that’s why vineyards thrived in Northumberland within written history, shortly before a mini ice age when the Thames froze repeatedly. Or when the dinosaurs roamed across the steaming tropics of-Southern England! (You can visit the Jurassic Coast and meander amongst the oil wells to see their fossils-but it is not the oil wells that killed them!)

    You keep posting this sort of stuff as if it is totally new (which it isn’t), and all due to man’s activities (which it isn’t) and will all be corrected if a few insignificant industrial powers spend money they don’t have, mainly on schemes that are not properly researched (which it will not.)

    Getting a bit of information almost correct is one thing, the reasoning of what the cause is and what the reaction should be is where you fall down.

    Will the Court of Appeal swallow it? I very much doubt it.

    • You keep asking for it Martin as there is a big thing that you’re not getting here. Anthropogenic Global Warming is real and poses the biggest issue that our planet has to face in this century without a doubt. It is clearly the anthropogenic bit that you are having trouble with. Is that because you study the ‘science’ favored by the fossil fuel industry?

      All of those examples of climate variation you cite above are observed and explained by science – i.e. by scientists and their observations and measurements. They correlate with a range of cyclical events from periodic solar variations, for the more recent centuries, to periods of prolonged volcanism and flood basalt events of the pre-historic past, to the meteorite impact that marked the demise of the dinosaurs.

      Guess what. Who tells us about the human impact on global warming? Those same scientists. Funny that.

      [Comment edited at poster’s request]

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