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.
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.
Reports from the High Court hearings:
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