Live updates from day 1 of the re-opened inquiry into traffic issues around Cuadrilla’s plans to drill and frack at Roseacre Wood in the Fylde district of Lancashire. The inquiry, at Blackpool Football Club, is expected to last about 10 days. It will hear evidence from Cuadrilla’s consultants about revised plans to manage lorry deliveries to the site. It will also hear from opponents of the scheme, Lancashire County Council and Roseacre Awareness Group, representing campaign groups and parish councils. Key facts about the inquiry and links to all the DrillOrDrop reports from the inquiry here
Reporting at this event has been made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers.
Key points from today’s hearing
- Cuadrilla says it won’t route lorries through the village of Wharles, except for emergencies
- Overnight convoys could be used at Roseacre Wood, as they have at Preston New Road
- Lancashire County Council says safe access to the Roseacre Wood site has not been achieved through Cuadrilla’s revised traffic proposals
- Cuadrilla’s two new routes had previously been rejected by the company
- Cuadrilla says its new traffic data shows low numbers of pedestrians and horse riders on proposed traffic routes
- Cuadrilla says the proposed traffic routes have an “excellent accident record”
- Cuadrilla is considering using matting, rather than stone, as a surface material at Roseacre Wood
2.18pm Inquiry adjourns
The inspector closes the inquiry for today. Mr Bird will continue his evidence at 10am on Wednesday 11 April.
Cuadrilla’s first witness – David Bird, traffic consultant
2.16pm Summary on the red route
Two heavy goods vehicles meeting on a road where they cannot pass does not necessarily mean a safety hazard. They can wait for each other, he says. The accident record suggests it is not a problem for current HGVs
2.12pm Proposed red lorry route – the Derby pub, Inksip
Mr Bird says two HGVs coming in opposite directions can navigate this junction if the vehicle coming from the south waits for a vehicle coming from the west makes the turn.
2.07pm Proposed red lorry route – convex mirror
Mr Bird says near School House Farm there is a sharp bend. Currently Vehicles approach very slowly because they can’t see round the bend. When vehicles can see round the corner, if one stop they can pass each other.
He says a convex mirror would provide additional mitigation. It is not essential but recommended, he says. The county council says there may be a problem but Mr Bird says there’s not a downside. Mr Bird says there is no accident history at this corner..
2.04pm Proposed red lorry route – widening of the carriage way
Mr Bird proposes widening of the carriageway along a section of double bend on the red route to allow two heavy goods vehicles to pass in opposite directions.
Nathalie Lieven asks whether you can see across the bend. Mr Bird says you can see from a long distance away.
1.54pm Proposed red lorry route
Mr Bird, Cuadrilla’s traffic consultant says the red route overlaps with the green route until Roseacre Road.
The county council says visibility on this route does not avoid conflict. Mr Bird says roads with insufficient width for two HGVs to pass each other is a hazard that can be mitigated but not necessarily a conflict.
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, says there are 190 HGVs a day using Lodge Lane. She asks about the evidence that HGVs are undertaking these manoeuvres. Mr Bird says the manoeuvres are taking place in a safe manner because there have been no accidents for eight years. Sometimes the wheels go on to the verge, he says. Cuadrilla would add typically 12 vehicles a day, he says.
Mr Bird says there is a housing development in Inskip that is generating vehicles that are passing through the red route bends.
1.49pm Surface drainage on passing places
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, says the county council has raised the issue of flooding in passing places. Adding hard surfaces in the passing places reduce the area from which water can drain away.
Mr Bird, the company’s traffic consultant, says there are some locations on the lorry routes where the passing places would not drain. But he says there are engineering designs solutions. There is not a design solution for every passing place, Mr Bird says, but we are confident that we will be able to do that.
1.43pm Proposed green lorry route – passing places
Mr Bird, Cuadrilla’s traffic consultant, says HGV drivers will be able to see from passing place to the next one on the section of the route which are too narrow for two HGVs to pass.. He says before drivers go past into a passing place they can decide whether to go forward. The county council says further visibility is needed. Mr Bird says this is not necessary.
1.37pm Proposed green lorry route – junction in Elswick
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, says passing places are proposed at this point. Mr Bird says you would not expect 16.5m articulated lorries to pass. The key test is whether there is enough visibility for one vehicle to see the other, Mr Bird says. There is sufficient space and visibility for this to happen safely, he says. The county council says a proposed passing place would affect existing tree roots. Cuadrilla has suggested the passing place should be moved to the opposite side of the road, Mr Bird says. Mr Bird says all the highways works are within the highway boundary.
1.34pm Proposed green lorry route – bends in Elswick
Mr Bird, the traffic consultant, says two HGVs can pass on the first bend in Elswick. On the second bend, vehicles slow down. There is visibility across the corner. Vehicles can pass, on this second bend, he says. There is highways land south of the bend and the road could be widened, though he doesn’t recommend this.
1.21pm Proposed green lorry route – Thistleton Road/A585 junction
Mr Bird refers to the start of the Green Route at the junction of Thistleton Road and the A585 or Fleetwood Road. Cuadrilla is proposing minor curb realignment, Mr Bird says, following conversations with Highways England. All the manoeuvres of the biggest HGVs would be possible, he says.
But he says two 16.5m articulated vehicles can’t pass through this Thistleton Road/A585 junction in the opposite directions at the same time.
Mr Bird says there is good visibility so an HGV driver would wait for the other vehicle to go through the junction before turning.
The visibility takes place across land that is not highway land, he says. The Highway Authority has the power to require hedges to be trimmed if it is obstructing views. Cuadrilla has said it would cover costs if the owner would not trim any obstructing hedge.
Inspector Melvyn Middleton asks how this would be achieved. Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, says the mechanism has not yet been sorted out. It needs to be, says Mr Middleton.
13.10pm Route assessment
David Bird, Cuadrilla’s traffic consultant, says there have been environmental assessments of the proposed routes. The methodology is covered by European regulations and is accepted by the county council, he says.
The methodology looks at the sensitivity of a route, including the presence of foot ways or play areas and the use by pedestrians, Mr Bird says. It also looks at how traffic severs a community, driver delays and pedestrian amenity. The county council accepts the methodology but points out that the assessment did not include a play area.
The council does not accept Cuadrilla’s assessment of fear and intimidation. Mr Bird says. Based on the guidelines, Cuadrilla does not accept there is an issue of fear and intimidation, based on the number of heavy good vehicles.
The assessment also looks at the width, align and visibility of the road. It looks at what happens if two HGVs meet and whether they would have to reverse. The council agrees with the methodology but comes to different conclusions, Mr Bird says.
Roseacre Awareness Group accept that there are guidelines but it did not agree with how the guidelines were applied, Mr Bird says. He says his advice using the guidelines has been accepted at the Hinkley Point nuclear power station and the Navitus Bay windfarm.
The inquiry breaks until 1.10pm
Cuadrilla’s first witness – David Bird, traffic consultant
12.45pm Current road users
Mr Bird says the critical problems arise when two HGVs meet. There are currently 18-30 of the larger HGVs currently using the proposed lorry route daily, according to Cuadrilla’s traffic data. There are already these movements happening. They are passing without incident, he says.
He says there is permitted development in the village of Elswick on Cuadrilla’s proposed green and red routes. There also sites in Inskip on the red route and at Clifton on the blue route. These developments would need about 40 HGVs per day. In approving those developments Lancashire did not ask for assessments of construction traffic. These levels are similar or even higher than the Roseacre Wood proposals. No mitigation is provided for these developments.
12.38pm Vehicle types
Mr Bird, the traffic consultant, says 80% of heavy goods vehicles delivering to the Roseacre Wood site would be the two or three axle type, rather than larger six-axle articulated lorries. The larger lorries are used to bring in aggregate. If Roseacre Wood used matting these lorries would not be needed, the inquiry hears.
12.26pm Traffic numbers
Mr Bird says he has worked extensively with Cuadrilla to produce an estimate of heavy goods vehicles generated by the Roseacre Wood development. He says this is the most reliable data available because it is based on the company’s Preston New Road site. He says there may be change over time, and estimates could go down, and would not necessarily increase. The estimates are sound and robust, he says. They could and should be relied on by the inquiry.
Mr Bird says there are two scenarios for the estimates. Scenario A takes the Preston New Road figures with adjustments for Roseacre Wood where there is a 50 day cap and a ban on Saturday morning deliveries.
Scenario B assumes the use of a light-weight matting and the onsite treatment and discharge of surface water at Roseacre Wood.
Over the six year of the development, Mr Birds says there would be 684 days with up to 10 daily HGVs. On 93 days (5% of the period) there would be a peak of 40-50 HGVs. For a third of the time there would be no HGVs.
On a day where there would be 24 lorry movements, they could be divided between two routes. This equated to six vehicle in and six vehicles out along each route in a day.
12 noon Baseline traffic data
Definitions Mr Bird, Cuadrilla’s transport consultant, gives definitions for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs). He says Class 10 are large 16.5m articulated vehicles, the largest vehicles other than abnormal loads, expected to use the site. They are described Other Goods Vehicles (OGV) 2. The width of OGV 2 is 2.5m, the same as an OGV1. OGV1 are larger rigid vehicles with two or three axles.
Speed Mr Bird says most vehicles are travelling at 40mph.
Cyclists Mr Bird says some of the roads are quite well used by cyclists. There could be 19 in the High Street in Elswick or 39 on Clifton Lane, he says. The majority of cyclists are experienced road cyclists and are dressed appropriately. They are used to deal with traffic, he says.
Pedestrians Mr Bird says the number outside the established communities is very low.
Horse riders Mr Bird says only two equestrian movements were recorded on Preston Road. During the week, the level of equestrian activity has been low, he says. There is likely to be a higher level at weekends. This is why there will be no HGV movements at weekends.
Accident history Mr Bird says there have been no recorded fatalities and only one serious accident over five years. All the other accidents were slight. There have been no accidents with heavy goods vehicles, he says. Four accidents involved vulnerable road users. An alternative data source, Crash Map, provided by Roseacre Awareness Group, appears to show more accidents, he says. We have to rely on recorded accidents, Mr Bird says. Adjusted Crash Map data shows up to four-and-a five accidents a year going back 10 years, he says. There have been no HGV accidents over that period, he says. There has been no accidents involving HGVs and vulnerable road users, he adds. Looking at 10 years of data, as RAG did, shows that the area has an excellent accident record and it is common for vulnerable road users to meet HGVs without incident. Drivers adjust their driving to the road conditions, he says. Very significant weight should be given to the accident data.
David Bird, of Cuadrilla’s transport consultant VECTOS, takes the witness stand.
Nathalie Lieven, representing Cuadrilla, asks Mr Bird about his approach to assessing safety issues.
Mr Bird was appointed after the previous inquiry to examine the original “blue” traffic route and to consider whether there should be additional. He says he looked as a variety of routes and eliminated all but the three now being considered: the blue, green and red routes.
Mr Bird says he has used an independent company and standard techniques to collect comprehensive amounts of data.
The county council agreed with most of the baseline data, Mr Bird says. There could be variations on days not surveyed. On accidents, the council says there could be incidents not included in the data. The data includes only personal injury accidents. The analysis is based on the collected data, Mr Bird says.
He says Roseacre Awareness Group has criticised the survey methodology and locations.
The inspector should put considerable weight on the baseline traffic data, Mr Bird says.
The inquiry resumes at 11.45am
11.14am Opening statement – Roseacre Awareness Group
Ben Du Feu, for Roseacre Awareness Group (RAG), says the roads on the proposed lorry route are narrow, without footways in many places and in a poor state of repair.
RAG opposed the development at the 2015 county council meeting and at the 2016 inquiry, Mr Du Feu says. The original inspector concluded that all material considerations were outweighed by highway safety concerns. Cuadrilla had under-represented the use of the traffic route by cyclists, he says. The rural sections of the route had either no or intermittent footways. There is existing evidence of vehicles overrunning the verges. The passing places have not been shown to work in practice. The traffic management plan would not address the short-comings of the route.
Just because accidents have not happened in the past does not mean they would happen in future with the significant increase of lorries at peak periods. An additional 50 HGV movements must be considered in the context of existing traffic flows. The percentage increase of HGV would be high, he says.
The two new routes had previously been rejected. The company may have to use a single route during part of the development
The proposals are unsafe and unsuitable and would have a severe impact on amenity, Mr Du Feu says. The proposed mitigation would not make the proposals safe or suitable, he says.
On recreational amenity, Mr Du Feu says there is a strong local community and the rural nature of the area attracts many visitors. The new proposals adversely affect more residential communities and raise more issues in determining the appeal. There are economic disbenefits from the proposals and this should be considered for the additional two routes.
It is for Cuadrilla to show that the proposal would be safe, suitable and sustainable. The appeal proposals would cause substantial harm, Mr Du Feu says. They outweigh the benefits and RAG invites the Secretary of State to dismiss.
The inspector, Melvyn Middleton, says he is not convinced it is in his remit to look at residential amenity. He says he will think about this. Mr Du Feu says the two new routes are different from the original proposal and not considered by the last inquiry. It would be a failure of a material consideration to ignore the impacts on villagers that were previously not affected.
11.03am Opening statement – Lancashire County Council
Alan Evans, for Lancashire County Council, says the original proposal was refused because it would generate increased traffic that would have an unacceptable impact on highway safety, especially vulnerable road users.
The original inquiry inspector said the original lorry would result in unacceptable impacts on highway safety. She recommended the appeal be dismissed. Mr Evans says the Secretary of State said the inquiry should be reopened to give Cuadrilla an opportunity to show that its proposals were workable.
Cuadrilla has revised its proposals and advances a fresh transport routing strategy with two new routes, Mr Evans says.
Mr Evans, for the county council, says the mitigation proposals have developed and are subject to change. The planning committee in January 2018 voted to maintain its objection to the proposal.
He says the original blue route remains unsuitable to access the site for increased traffic generated by the proposal.
The county council also believes the green and red routes are unsuitable. Each of these routes was previously considered by Cuadrilla but were not pursued. The council’s judgement is based on route width and the impact vulnerable road users. The proposed passing places only indicate the inadequacy of the route, he says.
Mr Evans says the accident record of the proposed route should be treated cautiously. The council considers the proposed mitigation would not overcome the highways safety issues.
On passing places, even were implemented, would not operate without the need for unsatisfactory reversing. Traffic signals on Dagger Road and the mirror at a key junction would do nothing to solve problems and may exacerbate problems.
The removal of Saturday morning deliveries does not adequately address the conflict with vulnerable users. There is significant cycle use of the route on weekdays.
The county council does not consider the proposed traffic management plan does not overcome the problems. IMpacts that would cause demonstrable harm to highway safety have not been reduced to adequate levels. Safe access to the site has not been achieved and the council believes the appeal should be dismissed on highways safety grounds.
10.47am Opening statement – Cuadrilla
Nathalie Lieven says the sole issue of the inquiry is highway safety.
Under the National Planning Policy Framework, she says development should only be refused on transport grounds where the residual cumulative impact are severe.
Cuadrilla is now proposing three routes. This will ensure the lorries will not meet. It also means the cumulative total of vehicles on each route will be lower. It will offer operational flexibility. An alternative route will be available if one is not possible to use, she says.
Ms Lieven adds that the second difference from the previous inquiry is that lorry deliveries will not be made on Saturday mornings. Delivery hours have also been restricted to daylight hours during the week. Both will lessen the impact on vulnerable road users, she says.
This inquiry has the benefit of actual data from the Preston New Road site of lorry numbers, Ms Lieven says.
Case law confirms that Cuadrilla can vary the lorry arrangements at any point during the planning process, she says. There are no changes to the site or form the development. The revised traffic plans have been consulted upon. There is no doubt that the variation is lawful, she says.
The revised traffic proposals have been developed with great care by Cuadrilla’s consultants Vectos, Ms Lieven says. There is greater mitigation than in the previous appeal, she says.
The company has carried out detailed surveys of users on the routes across a number of days. Nobody has raised problems with specification on surveys. The new surveys were carried out in summer months, which had been a criticism at the previous inquiry. The data is also more robust on vulnerable users than at the previous inquiry, she says.
Where the proposed routes are less than 6m wide, the plans have been based on topographical data, rather than map information, Ms Lieven says. She says she will show that passing places proposed can be delivered.
She says the inquiry will hear about two types of mitigation:
- The cap on HGV numbers, restrictions on routes and delivery hours, the use of the Inskip defence site
- Physical measures, including passing places, signal controls on Dagger Road and improvements to the A5/Thistleton Road junction
The camber or visibility at the Treales Road/DaggerRoad junction is not a problem and there is no record of accidents there, she says.
Given the level of concern about lorries through Wharles, Cuadrilla will use only the green route during the extended flow tests. This means no lorries will go through the village at any stage, Ms Lieven says.
Mitigation on the three routes will improve safety for existing users, Ms Lieven says.
She says the roads are narrow but there is no evidence of accidents involving HGVs on the roads, despite about four million km of HGB journeys on them over the past five years.
There is no particular accident problem on the roads, she say, because vehicle speeds are generally low and well below the speed limit, according to the data.
Cuadrilla estimates 50 two-way HGV movements per day to and from the site at peak. But for most of the project there would be more like 12 two-way movements per day. On the majority of peak days, the HGVs would not be the largest vehicles, but more likely to be 3-4 rigid axle vehicles. The experience of Preston New Road site provides data to the inquiry on the type and number of vehicles.
She says the proposed routes are capable of ensuring highway safety. The passing places in narrow sections provide enough visibility to be safe. This is nothing more than happens now.
On concerns about protests, Ms Lieven says it is for the police to ensure that the roads can be used safely. She says a convoy solution could be used at Roseacre Wood, as has been adopted at Preston New Road. There is no reason why they would cause any unacceptable impact, she says.
There is no evidence to suggest that the highways impacts would be severe, she says.
10.42am New routes
Inspector Melvyn Middleton says the inquiry will look at the concerns about the original blue traffic route and the new additional red and green routes proposed by Cuadrilla. He says this should be the focus of the inquiry.
Mr Middleton asks for an explanation of the justification behind the additional routes.
Ben Du Feu, for Roseacre Awareness Group, asks for confirmation that Cuadrilla will not take lorries through the village of Wharles.
Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, says the company did not intended to use the village of Wharles at any stage during the project except for emergencies. [Laughter from the audience].
The inspector, Melvyn Middleton, says the inquiry is expected to sit for 10 days over the next three weeks. Today the hearing adjourns at 2pm because the room at Blackpool Football Club is needed for another function.
The future hearings will begin at 9.30am and are expected to continue until at least 5pm. Some hearings are expected to run until 6pm. Sessions on Friday are expected to end at about lunchtime.
Mr Middleton says the inquiry will begin with opening remarks. Cuadrilla will then open its case with its witness, traffic consultant, David Bird. He will be cross-examined by Lancashire County Council and Roseacre Awareness Group. Lancashire County Council and RAG will then give evidence and be cross-examined.
There will be a session on conditions and the inquiry will end with closing statements. There will be an accompanied site visit, probably on Friday 20 April. Mr Middleton says the purpose is to see the highway conditions and Cuadrilla’s traffic proposals.
10.23am Statement of common ground
Inspector Melvyn Middleton says there is very little agreed between the parties. Roseacre Awareness Group said there was little it could agree to so it has not signed the statement. The inspector says RAG needs to justify why it does not accept Cuadrilla’s mitigation measures.
10.13am Remit of the inquiry
Inspector Melvyn Middleton says there is a very narrow remit for the inquiry, focusing only on highway safety.
He says main area of the inquiry will be:
- The nature of the highway safety issues identified by the previous inspector
- The degree to which Cuadrilla’s traffic plans have mitigated these issues
- New safety issues arising from additional traffic routes
- How these have been addressed by Cuadrilla
- The reason for the additional routes
10am Inquiry opens
Inspector Melvyn Middleton opens the inquiry.
The parties introduce themselves.
Nathalie Lieven QC is representing Cuadrilla. She says David Bird and Mark Lappin will give evidence on traffic and highway safety.
Alan Evans is representing Lancashire County Council. He says Neil Stevens, the highways development support manager at the council, will give evidence.
Ben Du Feu is representing Roseacre Awareness Group. He will be calling Barbara Richards, Tom Hastey and Gerald Kells. RAG is representing seven parish councils and community groups.
Richard Nulty, a member of Greenhouse with Thistleton Parish Council, will be making additional points.
Linda Nulty will represent Medlar with Wesham Town Council.
Miranda Cox, a member of Kirkham Town Council, will be speaking on behalf of the council.
There will be sessions on Wednesday and Thursday for people to address the inquiry, Mr Middleton says.
9.45am People take their seats in the inquiry
9am Opponents gather outside Blackpool Football Club
Reporting at this inquiry has been made possible by donations from individual DrillOrDrop readers.