The three main parties in the reopened inquiry into Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at Roseacre Wood in Lancashire are expected to make their closing statements today. This post has live updates from the hearing at Blackpool Football Club.
The inquiry, now in its third week, has been considering Cuadrilla’s revised traffic plans, which include two additional lorry routes, more than 30 passing places and new traffic signals.
Today’s session hears from Nathalie Lieven, for Cuadrilla, Alan Evans, for Lancashire County Council, and Ben Du Feu, for Roseacre Awareness Group, representing residents and parish councils opposed to the plans.
Key points from Day 9
- Cuadrilla propose that the Blue Route may be suspended during harvest due to agricultural vehicles on Dagger Road
- Parties agree that there is insufficient forward visibility at five passing places, three on the Green route and two on the Blue route
- Cuadrilla have offered £100,000 for road maintenance and repair, and have mentioned a further fund to compensate landowners for any damage to hedges caused by road works
- Roseacre Awareness Group (RAG) and Lancashire County Council (“the council”) argue that the appeal should be rejected if any one of the routes is found to be unacceptable. Cudrilla believe that the development could go ahead with two routes approved and one rejected.
- The council and RAG agree that all the routes are unsafe and unsuitable
- RAG claim there will need to be “inch perfect” maneouvres in some places for HGVs to pass each other safely
- RAG describe the proposal to bring up to 9 convoys of vehicles in to the site overnight during its 6 year life as unacceptable
- The Council claim that proposals for 39 passing places show the routes are unsuitable
- The Council criticise proposals submitted in principle, rather than detailed technical information, with changes being made at a very late stage
- The Council express concern that the Traffic Management Plan may be revised and not adhered to (as at Preston New Road)
- Cuadrilla argue that the proposals should only be rejected if there was evidence that there was likely to be a large numeric increase in accidents involving personal injury, or in the likely severity of those accidents.
- Cuadrilla dismisses evidence from RAG’s transport witness as “flawed”
- Cuadrilla state that if the MoD site at Inskip becomes unavailable for more than 5 consecutive working days (thereby closing the blue and red routes), deliveries to the site will have to cease.
- Cuadrilla believe there is no evidential basis for finding there is a severe impact on highway safety
16.45 Inquiry closed
16.42 Closing statement from Inspector
The Inspector says he will carry out some more site visits, and also wishes to visit Preston New Road. He also hopes to cross the Inskip site to view the route.
The Inspector considers driving around the routes in an HGV.
Ms Lieven offers to procure an HGV of any size. Ms Lieven says the driver will not be a Cuadrilla employee. Mr Du Feu also offers an HGV.
14.32 Closing statement from Nathalie Lieven
Ms Lieven says that this is an inquiry into one issue – whether the proposal creates an unacceptable impact on highway safety. The test is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF):
development should only be prevented or refused on transport grounds where the residual cumulative impacts of development are severe
The government intended this to be a high bar. The development should be found to be unacceptable if there is likely to be a significant increase in the number or severity of accidents causing personal injury. Any increase in vehicles will increase a risk of accident, but the test is one of severe residual impact.
Currently there is no record of accidents between cyclists and HGVs on these roads, suggesting there is no inherent risk on the road network.
Mr Du Feu for Roseacre Awareness Group (RAG) suggested risks should be treated cumulatively. This is not correct says Ms Lieven. The fact that there may be a number of locations which cause difficulties in manoeuvring does not mean cumulatively that they create a severe risk..
Mr Kells, the transport witness for RAG, suggested that a route which was unsuitable was also unsafe. Ms Lieven says this is not correct. A road may be considered unsuitable without it being unsafe. The available accident data gives no indication that these roads are unsafe for HGVs. This is because drivers adjust their speed to meet road conditions.
Proposals differ from previous inquiry:
- Three routes which can be used alternatively or together
- Extra flexibility to deal with any protest
- Cuadrilla have committed to no two HGVs passing except on shared red and green route
- Signals on blue route stop two HGVs passing on Dagger Road
- No use of Wharles at any time
- No Saturday working or during hours of darkness
- Baseline traffic data and accident records have been agreed with Council.
- Vectos, Cuadrilla consultants, have carried out topograhical surveys on roads less than 6m width.
- Experience of Preston New Rod has allowed better traffic estimates
Carried out according to best practice. No one suggested there were problems with the survey, despite an information letter sent out to interested parties.
If RAG wished to challenge conclusions, they could have carried out their own survey.
Mr Du Feu suggests that vulnerable users were not properly surveyed. This is not correct says Ms Lieven. The Vectos survey would have picked up vulnerable users.
- Level of traffic flow not disputed
- Lorries broken down by size
- Sufficient HGV numbers currently on Dagger Road to show they must sometimes meet
- Speed data not disputed – no high speed sections on the three routes
- Quantity of cyclists not in dispute. Despite high number, there have only been three slight accidents with cyclists, and none between cyclists and HGVs.
- Very few equestrians. There may be more, particularly at weekends. However evidence matches personal experience of Mr Bird and Mr Stevens, Highway witnesses for Cuadrilla and the council. No recorded personal injury accidents involving horses over the last five years
- Very few pedestrians at locations monitored. Survey done outside villages. In villages there are pavements. People cross the road, but do so safely.
- The survey suggests few pedestrians walking along roads outside villages.
Absolute numbers of proposed HGVs (6 per hour in each direction) would not be enough to cause fear and intimidation.
Vectos have considered five years of records. No accidents involving HGV and vulnerable road user over the past ten years. There will be accidents which don’t appear on police data, but it is good practice to rely on police data as indicator. Non-reported accidents may have unknown causes (such as alcohol). Only injury accidents are relevant here.
Assessing future accidents, the past is the best and only guide available.
This proposal brings large percentage increases in HGVs, but relatively low absolute numbers, so the network dynamic has not changed. The worst case scenario, with all the traffic on one route, is 1 HGV every 10 minutes through the working day.
In terms of highway safety, totals of vehicles over the lifetime of the project are not relevant
For the largest vehicle movements, most vehicles will be tippers rather than artics.
The calculation of traffic from flowback fluid is deliberately conservative. The previous inspector accepted Cuadrilla figures. At expected levels, 25 vehicles in each direction will be generated by flowback, giving plenty of leeway before reaching cap of 50 daily movements.
Safety of routes
Precise details of improvements can only be finalised onsite with council engineers. Amount of detail is out of sync with any equivalent development. Three safe routes can be delivered.
If two HGVs meet on a narrow section, there is not a safety issue. It is highly unlikely there would be an accident. If drivers misjudged, there is a possibility of wing mirror damage, but not as described by Mr Hasty (RAG’s transport witness), who took an apocalyptic view. Vehicles can use the verge, and a wing mirror can overlap a hedge if necessary.
Mr Hasty’s evidence lost all reality on using the verge. It is common on rural roads. Mud may be added to the carriageway. If a verge is regularly used, the road at that point can be widened.
Views across third-party land
A normal situation in rural England. Hedgerows on the route are currently maintained. It is in landowners’ interests, to help the safety of themselves and their employees. The council do have power to take action. 14 day notice and then 14 days for landowner to take action. Council can then cut the hedge themselves. Why would a landowner go to court to challenge this?
Cutting is restricted during bird breeding season. Hedges can be trimmed in the spring, if an ecologist is present.
Mr Bird and Mr Stevens agree on limited forward visibility in a number of passing places. The driver can see from one passing place to the next – that is what is required.
The driver app will show the location of passing places. This will be based on a Sat Nav.
At five passing places with limited visibility (on Roseacre Road and Salwick Road), the driver may stop at the passing place as s/he is proceeding with caution. Two HGVs which miss the passing places and meet can pass using the verges. However, it will be extremely rare for two HGVs to meet.
Mr Evans uses the word “unsatisfactory” for lack of visibility – this is not severe in terms of road safety.
This can be solved by detailed engineering work. Some of the flooding is due to blocked gullies. Existing drainage will be reviewed as part of the baseline highway review.
Total hard surface is increased by passing places, (reducing drainage) but the effect is minimal.
Permeable asphalt could be used to relieve flooding. There is always a solution, as accepted by Mr Stevens. Extra flooding will not be a severe highways issue.
Damage to headrows from construction of passing places
This is not a safety issue. Cuadrilla will establish a fund for hedgerow replacement costs
Assessment carried out by Mr Hasty should be given little or any weight. Totally flawed as it ignores:
- Speed data
- Accident data
- Proposed mitigation
Mr Hastey admitted he had not read baseline traffic data, which undermines his professional opinion.
Oncoming traffic may have to wait for HGVs to complete maneouvres.
Drivers will adjust speed as required.
There is a complete lack of evidence that road failure is leading to vehicles falling over. The initial survey will repair any edges that create a safety risk, and there will be ongoing monitoring and maintenance. Maintenance could also deal with rutting.
It is not in Cuadrilla’s interest to watch lorries falling into ditches.
Ms Lieven then covers points on each of the routes
Some residents have referred to canoeists on the road at the Hand and Dagger junction. This road entrance is wide, and if there are particular events, such as a Wednesday canoe club, this can be communicated to Cuadrilla via the Community Liaison Group, who will then try to avoid the Blue Route on that day.
These actions do not imply a road safety issue, but rather show readiness to listen to residents.
At the Hand and Dagger junction, it is extremely unlikely that two HGVs will meet. If they do, one will wait. Mr Hasty’s worry about overturning HGVs is misplaced and the previous Inspector was wrong to accept it. There is no adverse camber on Station Street and no evidence of any HGV accident at this location.
Mr Hasty’s assessment is massively overstated.
A number of concerns have been raised regarding the traffic lights on Dagger Road.
Most drivers will be familiar with the location. Vehicles using the agricultural fields and from Mr Sanderson’s agricultural business could be tagged and trigger the system. The aim is not to avoid any possible meeting between HGV and another vehicle, but to minimise risk in a proportionate manner. The drivers will be familiar with the lights, because this is where they work.
There are 60 HGV movements on Dagger Road now, but cars and HGVs are passing without passing places. Cuadrilla are not accepting there will be a problem at harvest time, but if the farmers are concerned, the blue route could be suspended for a period.
Local planning authorities should look for solutions rather than problems according to national policy.
No accident history of HGVs tipping over at Dagger Lane due to running off edge of road. Mr Hasty’s photo showing an overturned HGV should carry no weight as he didn’t provide information on the circumstances of the accident.
The conditions require Inskip to be available apart from during flow test. If the site is closed for more than 5 days, then HGVs will not be allowed on the well site. If Inskip is not available, the development cannot go ahead.
Vectos have considered junction with A585 in detail and suggested widening of junction mouth. Highways England is satisfied that there would be no severe impact on traffic movements at the junction. Highways England are not asking for a no right turn condition.
At Elswick, visiblity is good across the corner, so one vehicle can wait while the other comes round the corner. On Elswick High Street, baseline data suggests there is a material number of HGV lorries driving on the road without problems.
Mr Hasty has questioned the accuracy of Track drawings at some bends and junctions. This is not sustainable. TRACK is industry standard software. Allowance has been made for wing mirrors and leaving a margin between the vehicles. Criticism of Mr Bird, Cuadrilla’s highways witness, for not doing the TRACK analysis himself is unwarranted.
There will be no impact on school collection or drop-off times at the school in Inskip due to Cuadrilla restrictions on the red route, with traffic only between 9am and 3 pm. Children currently walk to the local church and cross the road safely.
At the Inskip bend, vehicles move slowly round the corner and tracking diagrams show how the vehicles can maneouvre past each other. The mirror is optional, but could be installed if it would help.
Any pedestrian would see what was happening if two vehicles met on the Inskip bend. Due to slow speeds, the pedestrian would have time to get out of the way.
This separates from the red route at the shop junction in Elswick. Track diagrams show vehicles can maneouvre.
Very difficult to assess data on near-misses, despite evidence from Elswick residents. Appears to be a problem with Fox Brothers HGV operation. Since this is not a permitted development, there are no conditions, monitoring or enforcement as will be set up for the Cuadrilla operation.
There is a playground on Roseacre road. HGVs go past playgrounds as a standard part of any highway network. Almost any planning inquiry hears concerns about perceived new risks. There is not a severe level of risk here.
Children across the UK wait for buses on roads without pavements. Children cross roads with many more HGVs than on the development’s routes. It is not a severe highway risk, not based on any empirical measure of risk. Important not to be overtaken by the level of local concern when, based on empirical data, the risk is low.
Local residents argue there were many pedestrians and horse riders and RAG have argued that the camera was in the wrong place and should have been between Roseacre and Elswick rather than between Roseacre and Wharles. It is unfortunate that this wasn’t raised with Vectos.
Ms Lieven quotes a letter from a Planning Inspector on an unrelated matter suggesting that people would be very unlikely to walk 250m north into Elswick due to the nature of the road and lack of street lights. The suggestion from Mr Kells, the council’s transport witness, that the route is on a key pedestrian link is not supported by any evidence, says Ms Lieven.
There will plenty of time and space for any pedestrians on Roseacre Road to get onto the verge if an HGV appears. There is plenty of space on the verge for two HGVs to pass.
The Traffic Management Plan (TMP)
The council have complete control over what is in the TMP (subject to reasonableness). Mr Stevens, the council’s highways witness, was concerned that the TMP may sound good but would not be enforced. This TMP is highly specific with clear monitoring and reporting. Cuadrilla will be obliged to take specific actions with contractors who breach the TMP and the council can take enforcement action where necessary.
The most important terms of the TMP and the conditions are as follows:
- Use of the three routes. All three routes must be available at all phases of the
development other than EFT
- Availability of Inskip throughout the use of red route and blue route
- Hours of use conditions and no use on Saturday
- Maximum number of 50 two way vehicles
- Driver induction and education
- The use of an App to ensure that drivers have full information on the layout
of the three routes, including the passing places and any other specific
Cuadrilla accept the appeal could not be allowed within only one route. However the appeal could be allowed with two routes. This would preserve the operational flexibility. There is no legal or evidential reason why the appeal should not be allowed on two routes.
There is provision to bring in HGVs outside allowed hours on 9 occasions during the 6 years of the project. This is essential for operational flexibility, particularly in the light of potential protest.
Mr Stevens argued that driver education would be of limited effectiveness. A detailed training programme is set out in the TMP
Breaches in TMP
Mr Stevens argued that little weight could be given to routing instructions because police could order vehicles to use other routes, as happened at Preston New Road. At Roseacre drivers can exit either way from the site and they will be on one of the approved routes. There is no reason for the police to send them on an alternative route.
The Lancashire Constabulary have set out their position in a letter dated 24 January 2018. They say
“While the likelihood of protestor activity ought not to be a
reason to refuse permission, the prospect of such activity and its potential impact on
safety and the local community ought properly to be reflected in any traffic
Cuadrilla agree with this statement. Each of the concerns raised by the police letter has been addressed:
- Provision is made for out-of-hours convoys
- Hours of HGV movements reflect hours sought by police, including hours that only cover one police shift
Protestor activity at Preston New Road has caused considerable disruption to residents and commuters. It is impossible not to feel sympathy for residents caught in this situation but this is not a highways safety issue. Protestors have been managed at Preston New Road in a way that has protected highway safety and there have been no injuries.
The Secretary of State has set a narrow remit for this inquiry – impact on highway safety, and the National Planning Framework sets a high test of severity. There is no doubt about the local concerns about the use of the routes for HGVs. Such concern is not in the least surprising, a controversial use involving the introduction of HGVs into a rural area is never going to be popular.
However, the only issue is whether there is a severe impact on highway safety in the light of the amended scheme. The answer to this question is a clear no.This road network is operating safely at the moment, and is accepted by both LCC and RAG as not being a high accident area. Although the proportionate increases in HGV numbers from the proposal are high, the absolute numbers remain between low and very low, even for a rural road network. There is simply no evidential basis for finding that there is a severe impact on highway safety.
13.30 Inquiry adjourned until 14.30
13.27 Ben Du Feu comments on Cuadrilla proposals on Dagger Lane traffic lights
Issue of side access to Dagger Road should have been obvious to the Appellant. The onus is on the Appellant to plan for these risks. There will be a need for agreement with relevant landowners.
The appellant was set the task of showing the mitigation they propose is workable in practice. This document doesn’t do that.
It is also troubling that the blue route may not be available at harvest time.
12.10 Closing statement from Alan Evans
Lancashire County Council
Safe and suitable access to the site must be available for all people. This is not just access to the site, but also access to the roads leading to the site. Safety and suitability are inter-twined.
In the council’s submission, each of the three routes are unsuitable. Problems include:
- Road widths
- Maneouvres needed
- Presence of vulnerable road users
The need for 39 passing places and traffic signals shows the unsuitability of the routes.
The residual cumulative impacts of development need to be severe for application to be rejected. No definition of “severe” and no case law available. However, if traffic causes drop in highway safety, then impact is severe. Each of the routes will increase the risk of personal injury. Any accident between an HGV and vulnerable users will be severe.
“Residual impacts” means impacts after mitigations have been taken into account. The council doesn’t consider that proposed mitigation effectively deals with road safety issues which include:
- Need for lorries to stop on the carriageway to allow others to pass
- Need to cross into opposite carriageways
- Need to use verges
What if one or two routes are approved?
If just one route were found unsafe, the appeal should be refused. The appeal has been pursued on a three route strategy.
The Traffic Management Plan (TMP) has been drafted assuming three routes. If one was unavailable, the TMP and its conditions would need to be amended to a significant degree.
There will be significant increases in volume of HGV traffic on the network. 104% increase of HGV traffic on Roseacre Road. OGV -2 vehicles would more than double in the worst-case figures.
Baseline figures show significant cycle usage on weekdays. There seems little to suggest that cycle use on Saturdays is much greater than during the week.
Interests of users on foot and horseback remain important, even though use is modest.
Mr Bird (Cuadrilla’s transport witness) says most days will have 24 or fewer two-way movements of HGV. However this is still of concern. 275 days (in Scenario A) where there would be 25 to 50 movements. There would be 61 days (over the 6 years of the project) where there would be 50 movements of the largest 16.5 m articulated vehicles.
The previous inquiry were told that there would be up to 12 weeks of 40-50 HGV movements. Under scenario A it is now nearly 27 weeks of 40 -50 HGV movements. The figures have increased.
This is the right approach for each route. Route selection is left to operator choice, and it is not possible to assume that all three routes will always be available. There may be only one route, or Cuadrilla may choose to focus traffic on one route.
So each route needs to accommodate a worst-case scenario. The council believes no route passes this assessment.
Mr Bird assigns considerable weight to accident history. The previous inspector says the historical record is a material consideration, but it does not follow that this will predict the future, given new levels and character of traffic using the route, including large HGVs.
The Secretary of State’s decision letter on the previous appeal supports this approach.
Must consider the change of dynamics brought about by the addition of large HGVs onto the network. The clear precedent of the last decision means we should adopt the cautious approach here.
Mr Bird, Cuadrilla’s transport witness, draws attention to new housing developments which generate extra heavy traffic on the three Cuadrilla routes. No mitigation was required to deal with this extra traffic.
However, says Mr Evans, the extra traffic won’t be on the more challenging parts of the routes.
Previous consideration on Green and Red routes by Arup
Views expressed by Arup (previous transport consultants for Cuadrilla) should be given consideration says Mr Evans for Lancashire County Council.
Arup thought the green route should be used only in one direction, for traffic inbound to the site. They highlighted the difficult left turn from Roseacre Road into Ellswick High Street.
Arup thought the red route should not be used by heavy site traffic. They highlighted the tight bend at Inskip. Vectos analysis shows the limited visibility at this bend. Routing 16.5 m lorries along this route will increase risks significantly. Mr Stevens thought a convex mirror would not help, and might worsen safety.
Visibility over third party land
Visibility across hedgerows are required to assist vehicles moving between passing places on all routes.
Hedges are generally low at present, but on Lodge Lane double bend the hedges are at 3.5m high. It can’t be assumed that landowners will continue to keep hedges in order. Councils do have powers to serve notice, but a quick resolution is not guaranteed, even if Cuadrilla give advance notice of upcoming problems. This is a further cumulative risk factor.
Some passing places are more correctly seen as road widening. They are all grouped together here.
What do so many passing places say about route suitability? It points to unsuitability.
The acceptability of what is proposed must be judged by what is now on the table, rather than waiting for further design. The inquiry can’t proceed on the assumption that there are further proposals or detailed design which will solve problems.
Passing places are thought to be unsuitable due to a variety of factors:
- Width of road and passing place
- Risk of exacerbating flooding
- Impact on access
- Impact on hedges and verges.
Cuadrilla say they will do whatever is needed to deal with flooding problems. In this case, Mr Steven’s doubts could be overcome. However permeable asphalt is not thought to be the answer by the Council.
One must be able to see, from a decision point approaching a passing place, the next passing place. The parties agree that there is insufficient decision-making distance for some passing places on the green and blue routes.
Not all passing points are obvious, and some are road widening. These will not be marked with a bollard. Cuadrilla relies on driver education to know where passing places are. It is submitted that it is not possible to be confident in a proposed app, as this is still in development.
Consequences of HGV overshooting passing places and encountering another vehicle:
- Slow head-on collision
- Need for one vehicle to reverse to the passing place
- Vehicles pass each other by driving on the verge
Cuadrilla believe the most common solution would be using the verge. This would add mud to the carriageway, which is a safety concern. Verge protection is part and parcel of highway safety.
It is not a sufficient response to say that reversing is not a risk as road users would be aware of the reversing vehicle and would take appropriate action.
Drawbacks of passing places
Removal of verge takes away a sanctuary for vulnerable users. It is not a satisfactory response that slow speeds will allow vulnerable users to get out of the way. The design manual for Roads and Bridges says verges should be level to allow occasional use by vulnerable users.
Dagger Road Traffic Signals
Mr Stevens, the council’s traffic expert, accepted that a 600mm clearance between road edge and signal could be achieved. However, the layout will be very cramped.
The council has concerns about the traffic signals
- Risk of driver confusion
- Hesitancy on approach, leading to rear-end shunts
- Drivers jumping red light due to extended wait periods and meeting oncoming HGV
- Vehicles emerging from roads and gateways between the lights
Mr Bird suggested none of these would be a problem, in particular there would be driver familiarity. The council do not accept this.
Mr Evans refers to a Cuadrilla document on the traffic signals, which now suggests loops on side roads into the traffic light zone.
Mr Evans says this shows technical problems being tackled at a late point. Proposals suggested are far from certain – it is suggested further surveys and consultations are needed. We are only seeing solutions in principle rather than detailed designs which would allow a clear view to be taken, says Mr Evans.
Installing loops in a private access road will need landowner consent. Solutions relate to Moss Lane East and Sandersons (agricultural contractors and plant hire firm on Dagger Road), but it is not clear that access from fields would be picked up. A note at the end of the document suggests the blue route may need to be suspended during the harvest period.
This demonstrates the unsuitability of the route, even with traffic lights and other mitigation.
No other mitigation is offered on Dagger Lane, where the road is frequently under 4.8m which is the width needed for a car to pass an HGV (not taking account of wing mirrors). Mr Bird has suggested cars and HGVs manage to pass at present, says Mr Evans. Currently there is only 1 OGV-2 HGV per day on Dagger Lane. On the worst case, there could be 50 OGV-2 movements.
Vulnerable road users
Cuadrilla claims there is a real benefit by not running site traffic on Saturdays. However, this implies a real risk to weekday users, such as cyclists.
Cuadrilla suggests combination of cyclist and HGV driver behaviour deals with problems. The council does not accept that all cyclists will be experienced (e.g during school holidays).
Reliance on delivery driver education, backed by training, was considered superficial by the previous inspector.
On rural roads cyclists may need to cycle further into carriageway than they usually would, due to ponding, and damage. It is not clear that £100,000 offer from Cuadrilla would be enough to deal with all problems of highway maintenance and repair.
Removal of verges increases risks for equestrians and pedestrians
The idea that protest will wane as fracking becomes established is unsupported. Even if this were accurate, reduced protest will come in the longer term.
The proposed viewing area is no answer. It has not been used at Preston New Rod.
Protest aimed at disruption is more likely to occur on the highway. This means more pedestrians on unsuitable roads. Lancashire Constabulary has expressed concern about safety on roads where there is no pavement.
The presence of protestors needs to be taken into account, even though the possibility of protest is not a ground for dismissing the appeal. The fact that there have not been serious accidents at Preston New Road does not mean there will not be any at Roseacre.
Traffic Management Plan (TMP)
At PNR, there have been 11 versions of the Traffic Management Plan and 191 breaches of the plan. There has been a movement away from the preferred method of working.
Whatever is put forward may have to yield to pressure once development is underway, leading to outcomes which were not expected or desired.
Mr Stevens says that what looks good on paper may fall short in reality. There are very different challenges at Roseacre. There is more flexibility, but also more complexity. The potential for departure from the original plan is real.
- The relevant policy tests have not been met by Cuadrilla’s revised routing strategy and amended proposals
- Impacts which would cause demonstrable impacts to highway safety have not been reduced to acceptable levels
- Safe and suitable access to the site can not be achieved
- The residual impacts of the proposal are severe
The council asks that the Secretary of State dismisses the appeal.
11.40 am Inquiry adjourned until 12.10
9.42 am Closing statement from Mr Du Feu
Roseacre Awareness Group
Mr Du Feu says the site is currently agricultural land. The roads are as you would expect in a rural location, winding, unlit and in a poor state of repair. Residents would have to deal with large vehicles for which the roads are totally unsuited. There is no change to the state of the road network from the previous application, which was rejected.
The proposed development would have a severe effect on people using the public highway. This was found by the Secretary of State following the previous inquiry.
The means of accessing the site must be safe and suitable for all people, according to planning policy. The previous inquiry found this not to be the case.
Development should give priority to cycling and pedestrians. The appellant suggested that horse riders could use other routes. Forcing vulnerable users to use other routes does not conform to development practice.
Ms Lieven, for Cuadrilla, sought to isolate individual safety elements. Mr Kells, the Highways witness for RAG, said you had to consider cumulative impacts.
Baseline traffic flows
RAG doesn’t dispute the traffic figures, which it says shows there are very few OGV-2s on the network at present. The cameras were not on junctions, but only on links. There is no data to show that HGVs used the junctions, nor in the way the appellant suggests. The location of the cameras is likely to be unrepresentative of vulnerable users and agricultural vehicles.
The appellant has looked at all HGVs, when it would have been more appropriate to consider OGV-2s. Large HGVs currently make up a small fraction of all HGVs on the network at present. The additional weight carried by large HGVs increases stopping distance, reduces maneouvrability, and increases weight on the road.
With articulated vehicles, tractor and trailer take different routes, leading to swing-out at tight bends and conflict with other road vehicles.
Artics have single tyres, rather than twin axle wheels. This is significant when running on verges or the road extremities. Rutting on verges can cause rollovers, or the U-bolts attaching trailer can make contact with the road. The edges of the road can also break away.
Vulnerable road users
The appellant has taken a different approach to surveying vulnerable road users from the previous inquiry. However problems from original surveys remain. Surveys were situated away from population centres. There were no surveys in villages such as Ellswick.
The appellant argued that they focussed on areas with no footways. However there can be conflict between road users in all locations, for example when crossing the road. The survey didn’t mention how pedestrian journeys are generated, for example circular walks, visiting school or shop or simply walking the dog.
Mr Du Feu referred to a letter sent to RAG regarding the surveys. Mr Du Feu says RAG did not respond, as the letter didn’t invite a response. It’s telling that RAG were criticised for not doing their own survey. RAG’s actions were supported by the previous inspector when similar criticisms were made.
RAG has produced a large amount of evidence that the routes are widely used by cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians.
The appellant survey only captured 2 horse riders. They then contacted local stables for more information. This shows that they accept the need to collect local information, something RAG has done extensively.
The evidence collected by RAG confirms significant usage on each of the routes during operational hours.
On a typical day, there could be multiple large vehicles on a single route. These need to be considered in the context of overall traffic flows.
At the previous inquiry, it was stated that most of the vehicles would be large HGVs up to 44 tonne. The appellant is now saying that the majority will be smaller, but there will still be large numbers of artics.
Comparing traffic generated, the number of lorry movements has increased. Number of weeks with 40-50 HGVs has risen from 12 to 18 weeks.
833% increase in OGV 2 (heavy HGV) on Roseacre Road during the construction phase.
Looking at Preston New Road, traffic figures now are shown to be at best an educated guess.
Improving the road through the Inskip site would generate a substantial amount of extra traffic which is not accounted for.
Green and red routes dismissed by appellant’s consultant during original planning process. Blue route has some minor improvements from previous inquiry (when it was rejected by the Inspector).
Blue and red routes rely on Inskip, no information on terms of access and when the site might not be available. In this case all traffic would have to use the green route. The appellant appears not to have assessed how one-way working on this route would be set up. There is the potential of flooding at Inskip.
It is not in the power of the appellant to determine how many vehicles can travel through the Inskip site.
RAG believes any scheme using just one or two routes would be unacceptable. Three routes are needed to avoid Cuadrilla’s HGVs meeting.
Unsuitable rural roads
Roads are unsuitable and unsafe without physical mitigation. Roads are not designed to accommodate this type of traffic. Bounded by hedges and verges, no footways, evidence of road damage. At the eleventh hour, appellant has offered £100,00 to repair verges and hedges. This will not overcome shortcomings of routes – at best a short term sticking plaster. It is not possible to judge whether this amount is enough without a full highway survey.
RAG agrees with previous inspector that because accidents haven’t happened in past won’t mean they won’t happen in the future, given changes of traffic. Mr Bird, Cuadrilla’s highway witness, rejected a junction on a possible route, saying it was unsafe, even though there is no record of accidents there.
The previous inspector didn’t consider that a driver education programme would adequately protect cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.
Regarding passing places, Mr Kells suggested that the fact that 39 passing places are proposed suggested the routes are clearly unsuitable and unsafe for development traffic. Passing places take away the final refuge (the verge) for vulnerable users.
There needs to be sufficient forward visibility, so a driver can decide whether to proceed from one passing place to the next.
The Appellant relies on visibility over third-party land. There is no evidence of a requirement for a landowner to maintain visibility over their land, and no evidence that powers have been used to ensure visibility. Enforcing visibility would put an extra burden on Lancashire County Council, and if the landowner appealed there could be a long delay before visibility was restored.
The Appellant announced there would no access to site on weekends or Bank Holidays. This is a recognition by the Appellant that the use of routes will create additional hazards for those travelling during the week, and doesn’t deal with school holidays.
Ms Lieven said routing hours on the Red Route were limited to avoid conflict with the school run. However there are stretches on each of the routes where conflict with school children is likely.
Swept path analysis
Swept path analysis relies on “inch-perfect” maneouvres at many junctions, with little margin for error. In many cases they have not accounted for wing mirrors. When roads are wet or vehicles are heavily-laden, drivers may not be able to follow perfect maneouvres.
A swept path shows just one way that a vehicle may undertake a maneouvre. A professional driver, such as Mr Hastey (RAG’s transport witness), can see how a driver is likely to approach the junction, rather than how it should be done in theory.
Mr Hastey’s approach was criticised, but this doesn’t undermine his identification of the inherent physical deficiencies of the routes.
Mr Du Feu now details particular problems with each of the routes.
On the Blue Route, he quotes the finding of the previous inquiry, that there were:
Deficiencies in the route which would be likely to result in a real and unacceptable risk to the safety of people using the public highway, including vulnerable road users”
Mr Du Feu discusses the following parts of the blue route:
- Inskip Road/Salwick Road Junction
- Salwick Road and turn into Dagger Road
- Dagger Road traffic lights
- Hand and Dagger junction
- Station Road
- Junction with A583
Mr Du Feu says that the Blue Route fails to provide safe and suitable access for all users and would result in real and unacceptable risks to the safety of people using the public highway. Use of the route would not be consistent with National Planning policy.
In the previous inquiry, the Appellant concluded that a similar route (which did not go via DHFCS INskip) should not be used by site HGV traffic.
Mr Du Feu discusses the following parts of the route:
- Lodge Lane Double Bend
- Lodge Lane/Preston Road Junction
- Bends at Crossmoor
- Corner at Inskip
- Preston Road/Higham Side Road junction
- Bend on Higham Side Road
Mr Du Feu says that the Red Route also fails to provide safe and suitable access.
This is the only route which doesn’t rely on DHFCS Inskip, so if the Inskip site was not available, the green route would be the only access to the well site. The Appellant accepts that there would need to be one-way working between the well site and Ellswick in this eventuality, but how it would be achieved in practice has not been made clear.
Mr Du Feu discusses the following parts of the route:
- Junction with A585
- Thistleton Junction
- Double bend at Elswick
- Right-hand turn into Roseacre Road
- Roseacre Road
Mr Du Feu concluded that the Green Route also fails to provide safe and suitable access.
While it may be appropriate to use convoys at Preston New Road, that does not mean convoys are appropriate here. There is likely to be fear and intimidation on rural roads and through residential communities.
How would a convoy manage the passing places or get past parked cars? The idea of a police escort is unlikely to give comfort to a resident with a parked car in the way, or the pedestrian who is half way along Dagger Road when the police arrive.
Convoying at night along narrow, unsuitable, unlit roads would impact on communities they pass through. Condition permitting this on nine occasions during development is not appropriate.
RAG acknowledges support in national policy for shale gas in suitable locations. However, the three routes individually and collectively fail to provide safe and suitable access to the sites and the national need for shale gas cannot be pleaded in support of the appeal.
The need to ensure safety of members of the public is paramount.
The Inspector asks whether traffic generated to improve the Inskip site route has in fact been taken into account. Mr Du Feu says he can see no evidence that the figures presented include traffic movements to improve Inskip.
9.35 am Business
Ms Lieven for Cuadrilla says she has handed in a response to a note from the council transport witness, Mr Stevens, on forward visibility.
Regarding agricultural vehicles coming onto the road between traffic signals at Dagger Road, Ms Lieven says a response is being prepared to deal with this.
Ms Lieven also hands in a document on breaches to the Traffic Management Plan at Preston New Road.
9.30am Hearing begins
The inspector, Melvyn Middleton, opens what is expected to be the final session.