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. Seems Cuadrilla decided it wasn’t worth pursuing any further rather than a victory for swampies

    • Ooohhh! Bitter Gassie!

      Oh well, dear dear, how sad, never mind, this just goes to show just how shaky, I use the word advisedly, the entire fracking industry is in UK. Just desperation and a waste of everyone’s time energy and money that is far better spent on real renewable energy security for all, not just profits for the miserable few.

      Congratulations on this Cuadrilla climb down to the REAF and everyone who fights this insanely poisonous industry.

      It will however be interesting to see exactly what processes are being carried out? Like where will all that sub base stone be taken, what contamination category will the material be classed under, where will waste materials be taken, and how will they be disposed?
      What will be left there and what contamination will remain? Perhaps there should be an independent restoration watchdog to monitor and control the degree of restoration and oversee that it is done properly? Something perhaps the council planning officers and the EA might finally have a useful social purpose when not so busy rubber stamping away peoples human rights that is?

  2. I’m sure Cuadrilla can find a few turfs to throw over everything , just cover it over like they do with everything else they mess up. Well done all involved in getting them out

  3. Phil C
    Do you and the anti frackers consider the human rights of the people on the other side of your personal view?

    What about the human rights on the other side of the arguement? The right to go about their ligit and legal business. The right to secure affordable and secure supply of heating and power supply in a way that has comparable impact to other legally and morally acceptable business activity by the society.

  4. You would suspect, TW, that Sellafield (just up the coast) does nor exist-where a guy was subject to a serious radiation dose very recently. And that Barrow is a myth, where, as the nuclear power on each of the submarines is fired up, an alarm is sounded to let the locals know, and they can reach for their issued iodine tablets if something goes wrong!

    But this lot are focused upon wheel washing.

    Just a minority who get each other excited about strange things, quoting the precautionary principle, whilst the majority get on with real life.

    • Martin.
      I too and many of my colleagues are in direct exposure to chemical and biological agents and hazardous procedures that are infectious carcinogenic and toxic. We dont hear about the human rights mentions from people like Refracktion and Phil C and his gangs.
      Further a field, I dont hear human right call from the anti frackers and activist locals for the poor labourers mining lithium and rare earth for elements for battery and renewables ideology.

      • “I too and many of my colleagues are in direct exposure to chemical and biological agents and hazardous procedures that are infectious carcinogenic and toxic. We dont hear about the human rights mentions from people like Refracktion and Phil C”

        Astonishingly blinkered mirrored view TW and martin! That is exactly what its about,

        Its called fracking?

        Hoist with your own petard, heavens to betsy you guys just don’t see it do you? Even when its right in front of your eyes?


        PS….gangs? Ha! Ha! Sooooo desperate!

        We are just individuals fighting this filthy industry to not be put in direct exposure to chemical and biological agents and hazardous procedures that are infectious carcinogenic and toxic!

        • This is the Canadian and USA experience of fracking, the Canadian one is 6 years old, the USA video is 3 years old, they both address the public’s experiential health and environment problems that fracking always produces. There are no exceptions to be expected here, there are no precautions in UK to prevent all these health and ecological destructions occurring in the UK. The operators simply move in and break all the rules, and then become unapproachable and unaccountable unless a confidentiality agreement is signed to conceal the health and environmental effects. That is black mail, or rather frack mail, impure and far from simple,

          We have seen this here even at this embryonic stage.

          ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEHz8SSfFJs )

          ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BKfEvZ9LxA )

          Watch if you are even in the slightest doubt that this poisonous industry will be any better here than there, and the so called gold standard regulations are a joke, nothing more than a rubber stamped ambulance and the bottom of the mountain,rather than a preventative safety fence at the top of the mountain.

          The protectors are the preventative safety fence at the top of the mountain, the fracking operators have invaded our countryside and busily are pushing us off the precipice for the big fall.

          The government regulations are nothing more than the unaccountable, under funded, overcrowded ambulance at the bottom of the mountain to pick up the corpses and blackmail the survivors, and by then, for most of us, it will be far far too late.

          We must be the prevention of this filthy poisonous industry, that, is exercising our human rights to clean air and water and health.

          • Well, its Sunday again, and after a long walk dodging showers, i thought i might send this that i heard many years ago and has always stayed with me.
            This talks about the two different concepts, the fence at the edge of the cliff, and the ambulance down in the valley.
            Quite appropriate to the fracking debacle i think.

            The Ambulance Down in the Valley

            ‘ Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
            Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant,
            But over its terrible edge there had slipped,
            A duke and full many a peasant.

            So the people said something would have to be done,
            But their projects did not at all tally.
            Some said, “Put a fence around the edge of the cliff,”
            Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”

            But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
            For it spread through the neighbouring city,
            A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
            But each heart became moved with pity,

            For those who slipped over that dangerous cliff;
            And the dwellers on highway and alley
            Gave pounds and gave pence not to put up a fence,
            But an ambulance down in the valley.

            Then an old sage remarked, “it’s a marvel to me
            That people give far more attention
            To repairing the results than to stopping the cause,
            When they’d much better aim at prevention.

            “Let us stop at its source all this hurt,” cried he.
            “Come, neighbours and friends, let us rally.
            If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
            With the ambulance down in the valley.

            (written by Joseph Malins)

            Have a great Sunday with family a friends, even if you are stuck in Stansted airport?

  5. Soo … we should have more Sellafields and Cobalt mines? People have gone along those things not having had the long range implications spelled out. You can’t use some wrongs to justify other wrongs (as in two wrongs should make a right?). Luckily awareness is leading the way in these protests. People just do what they can. How do you know they’re not protesting those other things as well anyway?

    Sellafield’s problems are now virtually intractable. A big American troubleshooting company pulled out last year telling us that the waste issues were too problematic. Lets not keep adding more problems to this land.

  6. Only a problem to you, PhilipP.

    Problems are there to be solved. That’s why the human race has developed way beyond other organisms. My old Mum told me, we don’t have problems, we have challenges. That’s how man set foot on the moon.

    Where did you get the wrong from? We were just pointing out the realities of other industries. It is the antis who try and decide, for everyone, what is right and wrong.

    Have a look at the manufacture of solar panels in China-by far the largest manufacture and what helps to make them affordable. I know it is over the horizon, but if you want to decide what is right and wrong why are you supporting such manufacturing processes? Good luck with protesting that! They don’t need injunctions-just tanks.

    The antis are finding out many do not like having right and wrong decided for them. Around two thirds, it would appear. Seems, Ireland has just come up with the same sort of ratio. Hmmm.

      • Phil P. You are resorting to the lowest form of debating and arguing, i.e. twisting the other people’s words.

        • Sorry TW, I was unaware that you had your humour bypass turned on. But a humorous dig is much kinder that all the s***t flung at the ‘antis’ though isn’t it.

          • Phil P. My apologies if my last comment came across as offensive. But Martin’s point was clearly taken out of context in a demeaning way.

            • No problem, but do check the context – I believe you’re mistaken. The object of the last sentence (that I refer to from Martin’s line) takes its subject from the second to last sentence. The last two sentences would need to be reversed to avoid the gaffe.

  7. Thanks for your comment TW.

    Like yourself, I worked within a potentially hazardous industry for most of my life, so recognise what industries manage on a daily basis.

    I also was continuously involved in direct negotiations with clients across the world, and I am still able to remember how such a reaction to my comments was a certain signal. Some things are stated to obtain a reaction within negotiation. If the person across the desk is in a strong position, he/she will react in a certain way. If not, then the reaction is very different. The “very different” reaction on this site seems to be triggered by the phrase “two thirds”. I wonder why.

    However, taking current “expert” opinion regarding negotiation relating to the Donald, it seems news readers are today’s experts in the subject!

    Interesting times.

  8. By the way PhilipP, just a kind word, or phrase.

    Remember-“Houston, we have a problem” ???

    Made it into a challenge, I seem to recall, and used science and the human ability to rise to a challenge. Successfully.

    • Yes, so lets all rise to the challenge of climate change, it’s bigger than you think.

      “Houston, we have a problem” is a popular misconceived rendering of the original “Houston, we have had a problem” (past tense) by the way. But then if you believed the movie version I won’t haul you over the coals, as some might.

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