Cuadrilla seeks permission for night deliveries at Lancashire fracking site

pnr 170827 Ros Wills

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 27 August 2017. Photo: Ros Wills

The shale gas company, Cuadrilla, has applied to change the rules on working hours at its Preston New Road site near Blackpool.

An application to Lancashire County Council, dated 13 October 2017, seeks to allow deliveries to the site outside the hours set in the conditions of the original planning permission.

Cuadrilla said the change would “actively reduce the possibility” of harm to the environment and local amenity. Preston New Road Action Group, which has campaigned against Cuadrilla’s operations, said local residents should not be subjected to further night-time disturbance.

The company has described the change as a non-material amendment and has not been advertised in the local media. It can be viewed here.

Avoid breaches by changing the rules


Lorry turning right out of the Preston New Road site, against the planning conditions. This condition has since been revised to allow right turns. Photo: Neil Terry

The application comes after an accepted breach of the planning permission on 27 July 2017 when the company brought in the drilling rig at about 4.45am. This broke condition 19, which sets the hours during which deliveries can be made. DrillOrDrop report

Lancashire County Council wrote to Cuadrilla requiring the company to put in place measures to prevent further breaches.

In the reply, obtained by DeSmog UK through a freedom of Information request, Cuadrilla said it aimed to avoid breaching planning conditions in future by applying to change the rules.

The company said:

“With regard to the measures that Cuadrilla plans to put in place in respect to adherence of planning condition 19 … we plan to seek a variation of this condition that will allow for a limited number of deliveries outside of normal working hours”.

The campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, told DeSmog UK

“Robust regulations are translating to mean weak and feeble: they are not worth the paper they are printed on and any further applications to alter planning conditions should be refused.”

Last week, some members of the council’s development control committee criticised Cuadrilla for failing to comply with planning conditions at another shale gas site in Lancashire. DrillOrDrop report

“Targeted by activists”

In the new application, Cuadrilla has justified the request to change the delivery hours by saying:

“deliveries to the Cuadrilla shale gas exploration site off Preston New Road have been regularly targeted by anti-fracking activists.”

In July, the anti-fracking group, Reclaim the Power, coordinated a month of actions outside the site. Cuadrilla listed in the application documents 20 days of disruption on Preston New Road.

The company said in an application document:

“During the month of July 2017, there was a number of occasions where ambulances responding to emergency calls were unable to get to their destination using the fastest possible route due to incidents outside of the Preston New Road site. On such occasions, the ambulance returned to the M55 and used Junction 3 to arrive at their destination.”

This information has been questioned by campaigners opposed to Cuadrilla’s operation. A freedom of information request to North West Ambulance Service asked for information to substantiate the claim. The reply from the service, received today, said:

” I have made contact with the local area manager, Head of Service for Lancashire and our legal department and they are all unaware of any formal submission of this information.

“I also confirm that we are unable to provided statistics in relation to ambulance delays experienced whilst en-route to incidents, as our reporting system does not capture this level of information.”

170703 pnr Kirsten Buus for Reclaim the Power

Lock-on protest outside Cuadrilla’s site on 3 July 2017. Photo: Kirsten Buus

“Ongoing protests expected”

Cuadrilla predicted in the application that protests would continue at the site:

“Whilst the typical level of disturbance along Preston New Road varies from month to month, it is reasonable to assume that the targeting of deliveries to the Cuadrilla shale gas exploration site off Preston New Road by antifracking activists will be an ongoing occurrence for the foreseeable future.”

A spokesperson for Preston New Road Action Group told DrillOrDrop:

“When the conditions were defined by the inspector after the public inquiry they were done so after much consideration.

“If requests to change those conditions are granted, then it calls into question the ability of the operator to work within the rules laid out for them.

“It should be noted that the root cause for the disruptions to a major highway is due to Cuadrilla choosing this location for a site and massively underestimating the strength of opposition that they would face.

“Local residents should not be subjected to any additional night time noise disturbance.”

Overnight and Sunday deliveries

Delivery times are set out in the Preston New Road Traffic Management Plan, which is now in at least it’s eleventh version.

Cuadrilla proposes another version with a new sub-section that would allow delivery or removal of material outside the previously agreed working hours of 7.30am-6.30pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am-12 noon on Saturdays.

pnr 170927

Drilling rig at Preston New Road, one of the designated operations for night-time deliveries in the application. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Cuadrilla said deliveries should be allowed at other times if they were connected to four operations: drilling, fracking, flaring and installing a gas pipe and connection to the national grid.

The company said the application seeks a maximum of nine single convoy deliveries or removals across all four operations.

A spokesperson for the company said this would mean nine two-way trips. There would be no limit on the number of vehicles in a single convoy. But the spokesperson said it was not expected to be more than 30.

The company said the deliveries would be made “in exceptional circumstances and following discussion with Lancashire Police”.

‘Exceptional circumstances’ are defined by Cuadrilla as:

“the scheduled delivery or removal of materials which are considered by Cuadrilla to be at high risk of direction action from protesters. This risk could be to the nature of the delivery or removal (for example the drilling rig), the scheduled timing of the delivery or removal coinciding with known increased protestor activity, or the combination of the two.”

Cuadrilla said the proposed amendment would not result in any “significant adverse effects” on the environment or on local amenity. This was because of “the infrequent nature of such deliveries (or removals) and the short duration of such of such deliveries (or removals) together with the associated temporary, short-term (if any) impacts.”

The company did not expect noise limits, also set by a planning condition, would be exceeded.

Round-the-clock working

pnr 170810 Katrina Lawrie

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 11 August 2017. Photo: Katrina Lawrie

The application also seeks to add activities that can be carried out 24 hours a day/seven days a week.

The application lists the operations that have restrictions on working hours as: site construction, installation of the connections to the gas and water grids and the delivery and removal of equipment for drilling and extended flow testing. These operations are limited to 7.30am-6.30pm Monday-Friday and 8.30am-12 noon on Saturday.

Pumping for hydraulic fracturing is limited to 8am-6pm Monday-Friday and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

The application notes that 24/7 working is allowed for:

  • Drilling boreholes
  • Operational management of drilling and extended flow testing
  • Well operations
  • Flowback and testing (but not hydraulic fracturing)
  • Essential repairs to site plant and equipment

Cuadrilla is now seeking to add to the 24/7 working:

“Any other activity hereby permitted which is not otherwise specified”.

DrillOrDrop asked Cuadrilla whether its would include extended well testing, well or site decommissioning and restoration. We’ll update this post with the company’s response.

“Only the most minor amendments”

Cuadrilla has described the changes as a “non-material amendment”.

There is no planning definition of a “non-material amendment”. However, in another shale gas case in Lancashire, the county’s principal planning officer explained in correspondence seen by DrillOrDrop that non-material amendments were used only

“for the most minor of amendment to the wording of conditions.”

A planning officer would normally decide whether the change proposed was a “non-material amendment”. Applications of this sort don’t usually require press advertisements or publicity, or public consultation.

DrillOrDrop asked Lancashire County Council whether Cuadrilla’s proposal would be regarded as a non-material amendment and whether the application would be advertised locally and be subject to a public consultation. This post will updated with any response.

Lancashire County Council has informed neighbouring parish councils, Fylde Borough Council, the local county councillors, police and highways. They have until 14 November 2017 to respond.

The application appears to be scheduled for discussion at a planning committee meeting on 13 December 2017.

Updated 30/10/2017 to remove incorrect figures on possible lorry movements and to include FOI response on ambulance data

20 replies »

  1. So it begins! The planning application was just a foot in the door! Now they want to do whatever they want, when they want! GET RID OF THIS TOXIC INDUSTRY! @GOVUK OR TAKE THE CONSEQUENCES!! 😠😠👊

    • Normally, an operator would have to make a planning application under s73 of the TCPA 1990 to amend conditions of an existing planning permission. Such applications are subject to the same consultation / publicity process as any other planning application.

      Minor non material condition variation requests can be dealt with through planning under s96A of the TCPA 1990. It is up to the planning officer to decide whether this request to vary the transport plan is or is not a minor amendment and whether or not the new proposals are a material change to the original.

      Although it appears that this application is going to Committee the actual decision on whether it is passed is made by the planning officer if he decides the application is accepted as a s96A request.

      People who could be effected by the proposed changes should send their objections to Lancs County Council Development Control, and request that the application should only be considered under s73 of the TCPA.

      The application would then be decided by Committee members who would make an informed decision based on the information received .

    • From NW Ambulance Service: “I also confirm that we are unable to provided statistics in relation to ambulance delays experienced whilst en-route to incidents, as our reporting system does not capture this level of information.”

      Interesting claim by Cuadrilla that the protests in July resulted in diverted ambulances? And they knew this how?

  2. What’s the point of having planning conditions at all if they just ignore them without consequence, and then apply to change them? I hope Lancs CC refuse this request as Cuadrilla should abide by the planning conditions already agreed. People have the right to peaceful protest and they just have to put up with it. They know they are not welcome and are forcing this industry on people. Suck it up.

  3. Are the antis trying to protect the environment or NIMBYs? Can’t have it both ways I’m afraid and if you answer ‘we don’t want any of it’ then that’s showing your usual level of intellect as the planning is through and it’s happening.
    Choose which one you stand for so we can understand what you actually want and what you represent instead of portraying this blank canvas of not being able to communicate properly.

    • For the avoidance of doubt:

      So, from the residents, environmentalists, doctors, teachers, lawyers, cleaners, farmers, road workers, nurses, factory workers, academics, government workers, councilors, writers, journalists, bloggers, engineers, butchers, bakers, pharmacists, film makers, fashion designers, physicists, geologists, care workers, social workers, mechanics, biologists, fire fighters and yes, even the police; all persons here present and from around the UK.

      What we actually want is for you to pack up and leave.

      Scotland said NO
      Wales said NO
      Ireland said NO
      And England says NO!

    • Strangely enough peeny we are neither defined nor described by such narrow intellectually challenged epithet laden parameters as displayed by such posts as you display here.
      Perhaps you don’t have the capacity to appreciate the absolute rejection of the provably poisonous and demonstrably environmentally destructive invasive ohandgee industry with particular reference to fracking.
      Perhaps that is because such an invasive industrial concept fails utterly to appreciate the inevitable position of people who actually live here and find ourselves confronted with such an unwanted and poisonous industry that refuses to take the hint.
      That only serves to illustrate that not only do certain ohandgee protagonists not have the intellectual capacity to understand the imminent and proven dangers our their own ethically challenged processes and evidently contemptuous activities.
      That they also have no sufficiently intellectual capacity to understand or appreciate that unequivivqually we said no, we meant no and that will never change.

      Not here, not anywhere, not now, not ever, never.

  4. “The application notes that 24/7 working is allowed for:

    Drilling boreholes
    Operational management of drilling and extended flow testing
    Well operations
    Flowback and testing (but not hydraulic fracturing)
    Essential repairs to site plant and equipment
    Cuadrilla is now seeking to add to the 24/7 working:

    “Any other activity hereby permitted which is not otherwise specified”.

    So that’s actually everything then. “Gold-standard monitoring and regulation” clearly means fracking companies can keep an eye on anything that doesn’t suit them, then lay down any regulation in order to save their costs, at the expense of local communities. Words fail.

    • The good news is that Lancashire Councillors did just that last week. The problem is that if the planning department decides to make the decision themselves as clearly there are questions about their current impartiality.

  5. A bit of humour beats howling NO, Sherwulfe. Try it. More productive, and will do wonders for insomnia and blood pressure.

    • So sorry you have insomnia and blood pressure, Martin; but your post was not in the least bit funny. (and there’s no need to shout).

  6. Why change so late in the game? Cuadrilla has neen drilling for over 2 months. They should be near finishing by now. So what difference does it make?
    Or maybe they haven’t done any drilling at all.

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