Residents claim victory against fracking with restoration of Cuadrilla’s Becconsall shale gas site

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Opponents at Cuadrilla’s Becconsall site, May 2018. Photo: S A Powney

The fracking company, Cuadrilla, has begun returning its Becconsall site in Lancashire to farmland after the county council refused another extension of planning permission.

Residents and campaigners who have opposed the site for more than seven years said they were delighted to see the work underway.

Lesley Graham, a founder member of the local group, Ribble Estuary Against Fracking (REAF), said:

“When seeds are sown and there is new growth on the land where the rig was, then we can truly celebrate REAF’s success at having prevented Cuadrilla from fracking at Becconsall.

“Anti-fracking campaigners and opponents around the UK can take heart that a small group of individuals can make a difference in preventing energy companies from having their own way.”

Cuadrilla told residents last month that it would start to plug the well with cement and remove the well head. In a statement the company

“Once these works are complete, our site restoration programme will begin and the site will be restored to its original “greenfield” status. We expect the well work to take approximately one month and the subsequent site restoration to take to take 6-7 weeks in total, weather dependent.”

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Restoration at Cuadrilla’s Becconsall site, May 2018. Photo: S A Powney

The Becconsall site is 700m from the Ribble Estuary, an internationally-important wildlife reserve that in winter is home to tens of thousands of protected geese and swans.

The original planning permission for the Becconsall well site included restrictions on work during the winter bird season between October and March and a 90-day limit on drilling. Cuadrilla breached both conditions.

The company first applied for permission to drill an exploration well in 2010. The well and a sidetrack were drilled in 2011. The original date for restoration was scheduled for September 2012.

In 2014, the company sought to carry out a mini-frack but later withdrew the application. In 2015, it announced it had no plans to develop the site.

At that time, Cuadrilla’s website promised restoration by October 2016 but the work was not carried out. In 2017, restoration was prevented because Little Ringed Plovers nested on the wellsite. Wildlife legislation prevented the company from disturbing the birds. It said in a statement last month:

“Due to the guidelines around the hatching of the Ringed Plover’s eggs, and the fact that no work is allowed at this site during the wintering bird season which runs from the start of October to the end of March each year, we therefore are starting works as quickly as is feasible after the wintering bird season finished just a couple of weeks ago.”

The restoration deadline was reset by the county council four times.

In 2017, Cuadrilla applied again to extend the planning consent. It asked the county council to agree to restoration by October 2018. But this time councillors voted for enforcement action because they said Cuadrilla had not met the agreed timetable for returning the land to agriculture.

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Opponents at Cuadrilla’s Becconsall site, May 2018. Photo: S A Powney

The REAF opposition group said its experiences in the Becconsall campaign were now being used by community groups across the country.

Shirley Powney, of REAF, said:

“I could not be more proud to have been part of such a team of amazingly dedicated and selfless people, who have spent many hours over the last eight years working to protect the threat to the wildlife, RAMSAR site and SSSIs.

“REAF are incredibly special people who have chosen to make their home in this part of beautiful West Lancashire and should be commended for their efforts to protect the future well-being of current residents and the next generations in this area from the advances of another dirty fossil fuel industry.

“The work done by REAF has been passed on to the many groups, who have built on and achieved their own steps forward. From a tiny beginning sounds a rising voice, a united action and resounding success.

“Those who are continuing the fight, rest assured that the power of the people is strong. Apathy leads to control and eventually constraint. Stand up, speak up, empower yourselves. We have proved you can finish this, one step at a time”.

Helen Rimmer, North West Campaigner, Friends of the Earth, said:

“This is a fantastic result for the local community, and is testament to the determination of residents and Ribble Estuary Against Fracking who refused to stand for Cuadrilla’s disregard for their community and the planning system.

“Having broken planning conditions designed to protect wildlife and been granted several extensions to their operations, it will be a relief for local residents that Cuadrilla have finally been forced to restore the site to greenfield.

“This victory will inspire people across the country who are resisting the Government’s attempts to impose fracking on their communities. Cuadrilla’s record at Becconsall should raise warning signs with the Government, who must now refuse consent for fracking at Preston New Road in line with the wishes of the local councils and thousands of local people who all said no to fracking.”

Laurence Rankin, a member of REAF and Sefton Green Party, and a former Environment Agency officer, said:

“REAF equals Ribble Estuary Averted Fracking.”

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Cllr Gail Hodson (centre) with campaigners against Cuadrilla’s Becconsall site, May 2018. Photo: S A Powey

West Lancashire councillor, Gail Hodson, said:

“After 7 years of opposition, REAF are thrilled to finally see the works in progress to plug and abandon the Becconsall site. One for the good guys.”

Halsall Against Fracking, part of The Moss Alliance opposing Aurora Resource’s fracking plans at Altcar Moss, near Formby, said:

“HAF would like to congratulate REAF for their relentless attention to monitoring and speaking out against Cuadrilla’s reluctance year upon year to avoid restoring the site at Becconsall.

“Conditions imposed are a vital part of planning control and must not be flouted, otherwise it undermines the whole regulatory process and ultimately fails to protect residents.

“We will most likely find ourselves following in these footsteps at Altcar Moss and the lessons have been well learned from this experience.”


DrillOrDrop page of key facts and timeline for Cuadrilla’s Becconsall site

36 replies »

  1. You have a pretty strange idea PhilipP of semantics and context!

    You also believe in your higher intelligence (often stated) that banning fracking in the UK is the means to rise to the challenge of climate change. I don’t agree with you on that, and although you continue to make the statement, it does not make me a climate change denier.

    First, if you can define the actual level of climate change that is man made and is able to be reversed using current technology, it would be a good start. Not a guess, an estimate that a number of “scientists” calculated-all of whom rely on vast grants from the gravy train, or speculation but a figure that has actually been calculated and then shown to be correct.

    Even this starting point doesn’t exist. Attempts at doing so look like a blind-folded person throwing darts at a board, and stating eventually that a dart reached the bull.

    Of course, reasonable cost effective efforts should still be made to mitigate against man made climate change, but I can think of numerous better options than trying to ban fracking in the UK, and replace the potential energy with a hotch potch of “alternatives”, most of which fall apart upon scrutiny. But, of course when they do, that is totally ignored by the antis. It is not ignored by the two thirds and that should be considered rather than the attempts at denial that the two thirds actually responded in the way they did. Such, just show to two thirds, and most of the other third, a wish to manipulate reality rather than recognise it, which is a major reason why the antis have the reputation they have.

    I don’t expect anything will change, but I guarantee, it will become a bigger and bigger problem.

    Anyway, siesta over. (Really hot today-must be climate change? Err, no, I recall the Beast from the East. And 50 years ago when just the same things happened.)

    Time for the garden. (Same plants thriving, just as they did 50 years ago. Same crops out in the fields-but genetically improved, ditto.)

    Maybe though vin yards will be back up north shortly? This time it will be man made climate change, forgetting last time it wasn’t.

    • Just for you martin, because i know just how much you love poetry so?


      And so the agents of Mordor came to scour the Shires,

      For hatreds sake, for profits stake, its thirst to slake, for greeds desires

      With worm-tongue words and sharkey smiles,

      Whilst hearth and home are spoiled and gone for miles and miles and miles and miles

      They out pour these toxic words and toxic poisons into the air and land

      And their precious servants crush and bully gentle folk who dare to take a stand

      Against that stinking tide of poison tongues

      Of lure of gold, of lure of power that cares not what it takes

      Or how it make its sums

      Yet energy is free and abundant in our suns

      Benevolent star, that provides all life so wide and far

      That we ignore that simple source, and through greed and avarice seek divorce

      We seal our fate

      And open Pandora’s gate

      To fear and dread and greed unfed

      But amongst it all, some of us stand straight and tall

      Against that thrall

      And fight for hearth and home and land and water all

      Those worm-tongue words, those sharkey smiles

      The droning voice, that earth defiles

      Will gain them not

      No matter what

      They scheme and plot

      For it is truth and life and love of this pale blue dot

      This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

      This Shire yet still green and pleasant spot

      That we will protect, and will protect it yet

      Until the future for our children we will get

      And for their children we at last will ensure that future is met


      Well, it turned out to be a beautiful day? So nice to sit in the garden writing poetry? And not a frack in sight?

    • No offence but you’re dangerously naive about global warming Martin, and slanderous about the thousands of scientists doing good work on the subject- as if they’re all involved in a well paid misinformation conspiracy. You’ve bought the lie of mainstream (extremely well funded) denial dogma and it’s very sad to see people like you propagate it.

  2. You mean the same thousands of scientists my ex Scientific Director couldn’t afford to employ as graduates, because they were able to earn much higher salaries through working in the sector that was linked to climate change? And, were able to enjoy a continuous forward stream of research funding because of that linkage? And, if he could tag on some nebulous connection with climate change he could obtain funding that his actual research didn’t justify. And, then, they could all jet off to Rio for a “conference.”

    Looks like a gravy train to me, and one which has received some justified criticism around manipulation of data.

    Perhaps they had bothers/sisters who made up the thousands of economists who have told us what was to happen to our economy over a period of twelve months. You would think that time scale might be a little easier than the climate change one.

    Or Mr. Vaz on the train station saying that there will not be any significant number of Romanians wanting to migrate to UK. One fiftieth of the population of Romania now arrived. He is still there, telling us naïve people what to believe, taking no responsibility for the extra strain put upon public services via un-budgeted requirement for resources.

    Yes, I will do my own research, PhilipP. I would recommend it, and think about the sort of headlines I saw yesterday, that with climate change and warming sea temperatures we might be able to swim in UK seas without wet suits. Strange-we used to do that 60 years ago! And, we were still suffering/benefitting from rationing so generally had less body fat.

    I noticed you were unable to meet the challenge set-that bit that started “First”.

    Looks like hay will be made by mid June this year, if the thunderstorms allow. The recent warm weather has allowed things to catch up. Do you know what? Exactly as farmers expected 60 years ago. Bog standard.

  3. Can you be more specific Martin? Who was your Scientific Director and how many thousand scientists was he expecting to employ? How about some concrete examples …. cherry picking stories that suit your narrative is one thing, exaggeration another.

    You may be cosseted in your comfort zone regarding England and climate change because of the complex way in which the zones are unfolding. The science tells us (and I mean the real science and not the “scientists” of your brazen accusations) with so much of Greenland’s ice dumping and melting into the North Atlantic there will be a knock-on cooling effect there – not so much because the melt-water is colder but because of the stratification of fresh and saline water can eventually prevent the overturning circulation that is fundamental to the gulf stream. This has gone from a prediction many years ago to something that is now becoming measurable. Of course it’s the gulf stream that helps warm and moderate this part of the world. So it’s debatable whether the UK will suffer much temperature rise over the next decade due to upward (global warming) and downward (loss of gulf stream) trends cancelling. So you may justify your complacency in that way, for here, but not for the rest of the world.

  4. Changing the narrative again, PhilipP.

    Did I state he was employing thousands of graduates. Err, no he was recruiting from within a graduate pool. Do you not understand the recruitment process? Probably not. I know it is difficult for you when I do quote real facts from real life, but if you don’t use real experience to help guide you then you may miss out on reality. Language usually provides a clue.

    Notice you still can’t answer the question, so you change the narrative. It seems a habit you find difficult to change.

    Another one for you. Remember the summer of 1976? I do, my first son was born in August 1976, so trying to keep cool for week after week was something my wife and I remember well. The internet would have been in melt down, if it existed then, with those who thought they could utilise the experience, to further their agenda! That’s the problem with weather-whether it is a one off or a trend.

    Remember, a bit closer to home, your buddy John referring to all the oil and gas available at cheap prices from all over the world, so no need for UK to explore domestic sources? He conveniently forgot that the market is still governed by a cartel (back to the 70s!) and is also subject to international decisions regarding trade barriers, and world industry demand. So, we have “Price Hike Fortnight” starting tomorrow for 7.4 million households, who have also observed petrol/diesel prices rising every day since the end of March! I also heard a couple of OAPs discussing the benefits of rural buses this am, stating without the service they could not make the journeys as they could only afford to run the car once a week because of fuel prices. Sorry to quote some more reality. I could add the Adele Penguins which had been wiped out due to climate change in the Antarctic who were all found safe and well a short while later, having just moved their “base”. Or the eco warriors who wanted to show the impact of climate change by sailing into the Antarctic to show how all the ice had gone, only to get stuck in it! Have they paid for the rescue yet?

    So, I will continue to look at all sources of information, including real life experience, and not be swayed to believe just one section. There were “scientists” who proposed the earth was flat at one time.

  5. By the way, PhilipP, you forgot to include the tiny little aspect of solar activity predictions upon the UK climate. Time will tell if they are any way near correct, but if they are then we may be skating on the Thames again come the 2030s. Don’t throw your wet suits away yet!

    • Oh good! keep it up guys! a couple more reams of this verbal burble and i can do the study in one go! You doing a great job! and on such a lovely day too?

      Excuse me i must go out again and water weeds, clearly that is the best strategy here?

      Hey that big thing up in the sky?

      What is it?

      Ha! Ha!

      • Well, what a change in weather? Colder and raining this morning.
        This is todays video from Ian R Crane which highlights the Cuadrilla impending injunction and also the plans to turn the beautiful countryside of Cheshire and Norfolk into open cast quarries for the millions of tonnes of silica sand for fracking. Yet another insane attempt to turn this country into an industrial wasteland just to service this filthy fracking industry.
        As if the millions of gallons of fresh water per pad to deplete the all ready dwindling supply, and the millions of gallons of toxic waste water to be disposed of to still secret locations. The countryside is also to be carved up into vast open cast quarries to provide the fine silica sand and the resulting respiratory health effects from fine dust and silicosis?

        ( https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=giByLWVrpA4&feature=em-lbcastemail )

        • Well this is an interesting question?
          Did fracking for geothermal energy trigger the volcanic activity in Hawaii?


          There appears to be a history of earthquakes in Hawaii linked the the geothermal plant, which is now being covered in molten lava?

          The company involved appear also to have a very poor track…..frack record elsewhere and subject to various scandals.

          Now please note, this is not fracking for natural gas as far as the reports say, but fracking used to inject water under high pressure to open up fissures into the volcanic lava lakes below Hawaii to produce a geothermal reaction and hot water to run generators.

          The problem appears to be more one of incompetent operation and an unwillingness to recognise the risks of such activities as pumping millions of gallons of water at high pressure, in order to fracture rock in the vicinity of natural faults and fractures?

          Now where have we seen that before?

          What is interesting about fracturing rock by high pressure water, is that the effects are three dimensional and expand and destabilise all the surrounding strata, regardless of whether those strata were stable prior to the process.

          That was one of the aspects of objection to fracking in Australia, and reported in The Bentley Effect movie.

          The original link was to John Rappaports blog, if I find it, I will post it, just out of interest you understand.

            • Well well, quiet isnt it?

              Perhaps tomorrows Cuadrilla injunction in court is prompting the frantic typing of reams of pre prepared prose and epithetical responses to drown out the subject with anti anti propaganda? You can almost feel the barely suppressed excitement now?

              What is the betting there will be streams of invective and joyful triumphalism the moment a new Drill Or Drop Colosseum post gates are opened for comment? Sharpening their short stabbing words and polishing their epithet spears?

              Hold on to your Glad Editorial hard hats guys, its going to be a bread and circuses show with wild stabs in the dark and the freedom of truth and democracy on trial by the overbearing Incommodius Imerious Maximus. Fought on the fine silica open cast sand of the Corporate Colosseum?

              Maximus Decimus Meridius,versus Perfidious Cuadrillius Sanctimonious?

              Ave, Imperator: Morituri te salutant!

              Are we entertained yet?

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