Lancashire councillors voted unanimously this morning against a revised traffic management scheme for Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking site at Roseacre Wood near Blackpool.
The county council’s planning committee backed the recommendation of officers to object to the scheme.
In 2015, the council refused Cuadrilla’s application for Roseacre Wood on road safety grounds and an inspector at a public inquiry in 2016 also recommended refusal.
But the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, gave Cuadrilla another chance to demonstrate that heavy goods vehicles could safely deliver to the site.
The company’s new plans include an extra two lorry routes, passing places, traffic lights and restrictions on vehicle movements.
These measures will be discussed at a reopened public inquiry in April. Today’s committee decision means the county council will present evidence at the inquiry against the company.
After the meeting, Barbara Richardson, chair of Roseacre Awareness Group which opposes the Roseacre Wood application, said:
“We are absolutely delighted with the meeting. It could not have gone better for us.
“It was obvious that the councillors having travelled the route and listened to the evidence were totally unconvinced that any route into the Roseacre site is suitable.”
Mrs Richardson, one of seven public speakers against the scheme, told the committee all three routes were “totally unacceptable and unsafe”:
“These poorly-devised mitigation measures actually makes matters worse putting even more lives at risk. It is not about ‘if” a serious accidents occurs but ‘when’.”
She said the 400 written objections had included comments such as “appalling”, “ridiculous”, “ludicrous”, “unacceptable”, reckless and “nothing short of madness”.
“Sometimes it is what it is. There is no magic solution.”
The council’s planning officer, Jonathan Haine, said the two extra routes may have some benefits by diluting the impact on any one location. But he said the lorry routes proposed were mainly on narrow country lanes with sharp bends that were generally unsuitable for large HGVs.
Another speaker, Peter Collins (right), of Newton with Clifton Parish Council, said the adverse camber and sharp bends on one of the routes created a real risk of lorries rolling over.
Maxine Chew, a Fylde Borough Councillor, said the proposals would exacerbate problems at the already congested junction on the A585 at Thistleton.
“Residents must be protected from more vehicles using this junction. Motorists are already in grave danger. More vehicles would multiply the danger to totally unacceptable levels.”
Carol Berry (left), of Inskip and Sowerby Parish Council, urged councillors:
“Do not make our roads any more unsafe.”
The local county councillor, Liz Oades, said experience of Cuadrilla’s other site at Preston New Road showed that Lancashire’s officers did not have the resources or capacity to enforce any traffic management plan if it were approved.
John Hobday, of Elswick Parish Council, said:
“It beggars belief that these proposals have reached the stage that they have”.
Gillian Cookson (right), of Treales, Roseacre and Wharles Parish Council, said sections of the routes were too narrow to allow two HGVs to pass.
The solution proposed by Cuadrilla, she said, was to put passing places outside people’s homes.
Lancashire’s chief constable, Andy Rhodes, submitted a written comment to the committee. He said policing a site at Roseacre Wood would “place significant demands on Lancashire Constabulary’s resources”
He said likely protest activity around the site would, if left unpoliced, “inevitably lead to significant obstruction of the highway, and to disruption to the life of the community and activities that Cuadrilla plan to undertake at the site”.
Regular vehicle movements to Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site “appear to be greater than those predicted in the traffic management plan for that development”, he said.
If Roseacre Wood were approved, the Chief Constable said vehicle movements should be limited to daylight hours.
“There would be a substantial increase in risk if routine vehicle movements (particularly HGVs) were allowed to take place on unlit, narrow country roads in the dark.”
Cross-party opposition to revised plans
Conservatives on the committee Stephen Clark, David Foxcroft and Jimmy Eaton all spoke against the traffic management scheme and said the council should maintain its objection.
Steve Holgate, Labour, said:
“The only safe way to get deliveries into this site would be by a tardis of some kind.”
“I do not believe any of the mitigation will achieve their objectives. This would be equally unacceptable whether for fracking or any other activity in this environment.”
Paul Hayhurst, a member of the committee and a local district and parish councillor, described the revisions to the traffic scheme as cosmetic. The proposed HGV routes had 22 90-degree bends, he said.
“There are narrow roads on all three routes. There are parked cars on all three routes. There are children’s playgrounds in Elswick and Clifton and a primary school in Inskip.
“I feel we have to fight this tooth and nail.”
“There are other places to get the gas out. In the North York Moors, a company is talking about drilling under the national park. Drilling does not have to be from sites down narrow roads.”
He said if the council wanted to extract shale gas it had to develop a strategy on where it would be acceptable to do it.
Malcolm Barron, Conservative, said he was appalled with the routes.
“We were quite right to turn this down in the first place”.
Kevin Ellard, Labour, said:
“The additional routes will magnify the impact across a wider area. It will make things even worse.”
Margaret Pattison, Labour, said the roads were “lovely for a ride out but not for 44-tonne vehicles”.
Munsif Dad, Labour, who voted against the Roseacre Wood scheme in 2015, said: “I have not seen anything to change my mind.”
Alan Schofield, Conservative, also voted against the scheme previously. But he said there was detail lacking in the latest planning officer’s report and there was no consistency in the planners’ definition of severe impact on highway safety.
Reporting from this meeting was made possible by individual donations to DrillOrDrop.