Minister urged to delay fracking in Lancashire until emergency plans are published

PNR 180607 Ros Wills 4

Rig at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 7 June 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

The government has been urged to delay a final decision on fracking near Blackpool because of local concerns about a lack of information on plans to deal with an emergency.

In letters to the Energy Secretary, Greg Clark, campaigners, residents and a councillor have said fracking consent should not be granted for Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site until they have more details about the arrangements to protect local people.

The writers have called for an investigation into whether an emergency evacuation plan is needed for homes surrounding the site and three nearby schools.

Greg Clark speakingMr Clark (left) has also been urged to state publicly that he is satisfied the local emergency services are sufficiently prepared to deal with a well blow out or leak of dangerous gases.

The issue has been taken up by the Conservative MP for the area, Mark Menzies, who has written to the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) about local concerns.

The Green Party co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, also said he would raise them today at a meeting with Cuadrilla.

The letters to Mr Clark follow a formal request from Cuadrilla for consent to frack the UK’s first horizontal shale gas well at Preston New Road.

They also come after numerous public requests for information have failed to establish what procedures would be used in an emergency.

Correspondence seen by DrillOrDrop indicates that there are no specific evacuation arrangements for buildings around the site nor a specific plan to deal with the effects on the surroundings of an unplanned release of gas. The Health and Safety Executive told us it had not been consulted on an emergency plan for the area outside the site.

Arrangements appear to rely on a generic emergency plan, not publicly available, developed by the Lancashire Local Resilience Forum. This is a group made up of the “blue-light” emergency services, NHS organisations, Lancashire County Council and the Environment Agency.

pnr 180531 Ros Wills 3

Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, 31 May 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

“Refusals, delays and evasion”

Residents and campaigners have spoken of their growing frustration at the lack of information about emergency planning for Preston New Road.

They say they have requested information through the community liaison group for Preston New Road and formally through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests but have received no useful responses.

Helen Chuntso: “proper communication needed”

Helen Chuntso

The environmental campaigner, Helen Chuntso, has made FOI requests for details about the emergency plans to Lancashire Police, the county’s Fire and Rescue Service and the Police and Crime Commissioner.

In one request, she asked Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) about how it proposed to deal with hydrogen sulphide, a highly toxic and flammable gas, sometimes found in natural gas. She specifically asked about the LFRS use of monitors, alarm systems and Hazmet suits.

The LFRS refused to answer her request, citing national security among other reasons. She asked for an internal review of the decision and the request was again refused.

Ms Chuntso made another FOI request to the LFRS about whether it had been consulted on emergency responses and rescue methods. In eight questions, she asked the LFRS to provide information or confirm whether such consultations took place.

The LFRS again twice refused to respond, once more citing national security as one of the reasons.

DrillOrDrop reported in April 2018 that the Information Commissioner had ordered the LFRS to confirm or deny whether the consultations took place. Since then the LFRS has said it will appeal against the Information Commissioner’s ruling.

Ms Chuntso also put questions to Lancashire Police (links here and here) about evacuation drills, risk assessments and emergency responses. The police have failed to respond within the time specified in the freedom of information legislation.

These requests (links here and here) were also put to the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner. His office said it did not have this information.

Ms Chuntso told DrillOrDrop

“There needs to be public engagement on a plan for the evacuation of thousands of schoolchildren and residents for up to 3 miles from the wellsite.

“Any plans which the LRF [Local Resilience Forum] thinks are adequate need to be properly communicated to the public, so everyone can scrutinize them and discuss the impact on public health, and local business, and be prepared.

“The repeated refusal of Category 1 responders [“blue-light” services and local authority] to communicate on this matter displays a contempt for public safety.

“This disregard for true community engagement is the hallmark of this industry’s activity.

“One year on from the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, Greg Clark would be on very dangerous ground if he were to grant permission to frack in the UK whilst inadequate emergency evacuation plans are in place.”

Ben Dean: “allay local concerns”


Another campaigner, Ben Dean, asked the LFRS in an FOI request to answer yes or no to whether it had done a risk assessment on potential well leakage of hydrogen sulphide from Preston New Road to the surrounding atmosphere.

The LFRS refused to answer. It said:

“Confirmation or denial of whether information is held would undoubtedly compromise both national security and undermine law enforcement and public safety processes. Therefore, it is our opinion that for these reasons the balancing test for not confirming whether or not any information is held is upheld. However, this should not be taken as conclusive evidence that the information you requested exists or does not exist.”

In another request, Mr Dean asked:

“Is there an evacuation plan in place for the evacuation of local school children and residents in the event of a well blow-out or dangerous gas leakage. Yes or No”.

The LFRS refused to answer.

In an email to the Energy Secretary, Mr Dean said:

“After an internal review I received a disgraceful 15-page letter quoting every available FOI exemption regulation the FOI officer could find.

“This sort of response has to be a very serious concern to you, as you carry the ultimate responsibility for granting Cuadrilla consent to frack.”

He said:

“The Lancashire emergency services say the Lancashire Resilience Forum would cover an emergency at Preston New Road. This plan though is a ‘secret plan’ and from other FOI responses from third parties that I have seen (these FOIs are in the public domain on the ‘What do they Know’ website) there is no evacuation plan should there be an emergency at Preston New Road.”

He urged Mr Clark to:

“Pause from making a decision whilst a Designated Independent Person investigated the emergency preparedness for an emergency at Preston New Road, including whether there needs to be an emergency evacuation plan, taking in to account that fracking sites in the United States tend to require evacuation plans.”

Mr Dean also asked the Secretary of State:

“Please allay the local community concerns by providing a public statement that, having communicated with Lancashire emergency services, you are 100% satisfied with their emergency preparedness to cover a well blow out and/or a leakage of dangerous gases.”

He likened Preston New Road to the Chester University science park near the Stanlow refinery at Ellesmere Port. Earlier this month, Cheshire West and Chester Council refused retrospective planning permission to use the site for education. The Health and Safety Executive advised the council that students would be at risk if there was a toxic gas release or explosion from the refinery.

Mr Dean told Mr Clark:

“You are faced with a very similar scenario in being the ultimate decision maker to permit Fracking to commence at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road Development near Kirkham in Lancashire.”

Miranda Cox: “more needs to be done to explain safety measures”

180419 RW inq 2 Miranda Cox

Miranda Cox, a member of Kirkham Town Council and the Preston New Road Community Liaison Group (CLG), has also written to Mr Clark.

In her letter, she said:

“For over a year the Preston New Road Community Liaison Group has been asking for details of an emergency plan.

“Members have been made aware of several frack well blow outs across the world and, in particular, a really tragic one in the USA about four months ago that killed five workers and resulted in an air and ground exclusion zone.

“Given the Preston New Road sites proximity to domestic residences, schools, businesses and a busy arterial road many people are naturally concerned about the potential for accidents.

“Last June the Chair of the CLG asked specifically that Cuadrilla share an emergency plan with members to allay fears. The issue of the emergency plan, or lack of, is revisited at every CLG meeting and the request has been repeatedly evaded.”

Cllr Cox said the CLG had been told the site would be covered by a generic plan. But she told Mr Clark:

“Fracking cannot be compared to other sites.  The nature of its activity could result in seismic activity miles from site and a rig blow out would not be contained within the pad itself.”

She added:

“As the PNR site progresses towards the fracking stage we have stressed that more needs to be done to explain safety measures, rather than the glib comment that ‘all need to be ready to react to the emergency services’.

“Our community includes vulnerable and isolated elderly people, school children, police officers on duty at the site and those protesting outside, all of whom Cuadrilla claim will be away from harm.  However, gas emissions, quakes and explosions are not contained by security fencing.

“The regulation being touted by Government is not sufficient, as we have already experienced in Lancashire, and certainly counts for nothing once an accident has occurred.

“We have experts in our communities whom are being ignored and side-lined.  We need to operate a precautionary principle rather than make apologies when it is too late.”

Who is responsible for emergency planning?

Civil Contingencies Act

The Civil Contingencies Act established the responsibilities for emergency planning.

It identified Category 1 responders as the “blue light” emergency services, along with organisations including local authorities, NHS hospital trusts and the Environment Agency.

Guidance from the Cabinet Office, based on the Act, states that there is a duty on these organisations to:

  • Provide advice and information to the public
  • Warn them about emergencies.

The guidance says Category 1 responders had a duty to:

“Make the public aware of the risks of emergencies and the planned response.”

It added that this duty was:

“based on the premise that a well-informed public is better able to respond to an emergency and able to help minimise the impact of an emergency.”

There was a need to “avoid unnecessary public alarm” but it added:

“Research shows that the public have an appetite for information and are more likely to be alarmed if they feel that they have insufficient information.”


Mark MenziesLocal MP, Mark Menzies, told DrillOrDrop ,

“Last week I wrote to the Chief Fire Officer for Lancashire, Chris Kenny, to raise this important issue.  I am currently awaiting his response.”

DrillOrDrop sent this article to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, Lancashire Police and other members of the Lancashire Local Resilience Forum.

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and BEIS did not respond. Lancashire Police said Lancashire County Council would comment. A council spokesperson said:

“Under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, Lancashire County Council, as a Category 1 responder, contribute to a risk assessment process undertaken through the Lancashire Resilience Forum (LRF).  A risk assessment has been carried out for Preston New Road, using the Cabinet Office guidance. The outcome of this risk assessment was an overall risk rating of Medium – which means the level of risk does not warrant specific planning and can be covered by generic arrangements.  The risk assessment will be reviewed at appropriate intervals in line with robust processes in place through the LRF. More information relating to this can be found at

“Lancashire County Council’s Health Safety and Resilience Service has recently updated the templates and guidance to aid schools in developing appropriate and effective emergency/contingency plans. It is recommended that schools have an emergency plan in place and should take the appropriate actions to ensure these are completed.”




66 replies »

  1. I wonder how the emergency and evacuation plan for the Cuadrilla site that Helen Chuntso and friends are calling for, compares to the ones in place for the other nine top tier COMAH sites in Lancashire?

    Oh hang on, the PNR site isn’t a top tier site, it’s not even listed as a lower tier one.

    • …and that is precisely the worry JH; time to evaluate and put up the information and risk assessment for worst case emergency scenario and then all will know what they are dealing with….

      • The HSE will have reviewed the risks of the activities against the methods and procedures Cuadrilla have put in place.

        If they were not happy or confident with the proposed methods and procedures, they would not of issued the license to operate.

        As the HSE is the regulatory body, why haven’t the antis asked them what’s needed and in place?

        • Experts Cuadriila who had massive technical failures when they gave it their best shot at Preese Hall are being allowed by the HSE to set the standards to work to.

          Freedom of information request for correspondence between HSE and Cuadrilla regarding Preese Hall well includes,

          “Cuadrilla were looking for some guidance on when a cement bond log was required and who was responsible for the interpretation of the logs. We advised that in a goal setting regime that it was the operator to establish the criteria for when they would run a CBL for surface, intermediate, and production casing. The criteria should be documented and then we could then inspect your operations against this standard”

          The blind leading the blind springs instantly to mind

          • Also the FOI includes

            “From our 5.5 inch bond log we have identified some questionable cement bonds”

            Maybe the industry should suggest that the standard for cementing should be ‘ cement bonds should ideally be unbroken but if their are voids present that is acceptable’

            Then the HSE can agree that standard and then everything will be ok

        • So Phil S; clearly they are not, otherwise why would people waste their time asking and being refused? If the answer is on Cuadrilla’s website why not just point them in the direction f the website; and why would the Conservative MP for the area, Mark Menzies write to the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service (LFRS) about local concerns?


          • Look under Preston New Road and then under “documents” and you will find all of the environmental risk assessments.

            • The people living around the Becconsall site saw this posted on Cuadrilla’s website for about a year

              “In accordance with the planning consent well plugging and site restoration work WILL be carried out after the wintering bird’s season, ending 31st March 2016 and BEFORE THE DEADLINE SET BY LANCASHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL OF 31st OCTOBER 2016”

              They didn’t close the site down in 2016.

              They didn’t even start.

              They couldn’t even be bothered to come up with a plausible excuse

              I would say from this fact alone that what is on their website cannot be presumed to be correct.

    • I would also love to know what training Ms Chuntso has had in order for her to calculate a 3 mile evacuation radius? Does she know that the well head is designed to contain the gas as it is fracked in a controlled manner? A rank amateur who is kicking up a fuss when there is nothing to be concerned over.

        • A point of view that is way off the mark and is a concern that it has now been published. Gas is lighter than air and the hazardous area extends upwards and outwards, in 3D mode. Knowing what I know about high pressure gas stations, having worked on plenty, the offices are situated in a non-hazardous area. So, how can a school say only a 1km away possibly be affected?

      • Talking of rank amateurs surely Cuadrilla carried out a 3D survey before they fracked Preese Hall. They must have done. They are professional frackers although the seismic events of 2011 and the damaged well would lead you to think otherwise.

        You would of thought a company as experienced as Cuadrilla would at least know the basics on how cement bond logging should be carried out.

        Plenty for the population of the UK to be concerned about.

        • what was the impact or residual effects from the Preese Hall related seismic activity in 2011? Oh none that’s right.

          • The impact from the seismic events in 2011 have resulted in no commercial UK fracked shale gas for 7 years and communities across the country stopping the industries from developing.

            Suggesting a magnitude threshold of 2.6 magnitude after causing a 2.3 magnitude earthquake hasn’t really had a positive effect either.

            What a glaring success Preese Hall 1 was.

      • I hope she’s bought shares, because to do that much damage in a blowout, it would have to be fantastic reservoir quality and great flow rates. (I’m guessing 200mmscfd). But of course, it’s probably going to do between 0 and 20mmscfd, and any fire from that is going to be very small. You certainly wouldn’t need Boots&Coots or Red Adair to put it out.

  2. So, PNR is not assessed as top tier or even lower tier but the antis want it selected individually, and a worst case emergency scenario published!

    Oh dear, we poor public are just so thick we don’t understand why?

    It’s so antis can then claim it is so dangerous it needed a selected risk and emergency scenario!

    Good try, but still desperate and very obvious.

        • nope again Kish; next
          Are you back from Egypt [over 2000miles or 3500km away]? – now that’s a buffer zone….

          • Yes back thanks Sher, drove past Cuadrillas PNR site today. The only significant protest I saw was the big white plastic caravan left trashed by the anti brigade, thanks protestors for fly tipping on a massive scale. We as local residents really appreciate it.

            • Elswick gas production year ending August 2016

              Nothing. Not a therm.

              The same Elswick that Cuadrilla bought as a going concern

              The same Elswick that is a single well that is trying to extract gas from non shale geology.

              Great comparison!

  3. John Powney.
    Elswick has a electricity generation plant installed. Again, refer to the Cuadrilla site.

      • John Powney

        The earthquakes in Holland are in the vast Groningen onshore conventional gas field. This field has been in production since 1963. The first quake was recorded in 1986.

        It has not been fracked.

        The earthquakes are due to the large amount of gas extracted.

        The quakes have been up to 3.6 but most are <1. There is a fear that they may get a 5.0 similar to the one in Lincolnshire in 2008.

        No people have been killed, and none have been injured. There has been damage to houses and compensation claimed for.

        To reduce the probability and strength of the quakes, the gov have reduced to output. However, the gov relies heavily on the revenue. They risk missing EU spending targets if they lose too much income, so there is pressure to keep up production.

        An alternative to Groningen gas would be fracked gas, but there is a moratorium to 2020, and, it seems, no likelihood it will be lifted.

        But good to see something blamed on fracking when it’s nothing to do with it at all.

        There could be a discussion on conventional gas fields and earthquakes of course.

        • It would be helpful here to clarify the point hewes.

          The six fracks by Cuadrilla at Preese Hall caused 50 seismic events and also stopped fracking in its tracks. It has also been the trigger for a vast movement against the extraction of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’.

          In Groningen gas has been extracted and has caused earthquakes, enough to damage property significantly and as you point out luckily it has caused no deaths, but think of the psychological and economic harm to the residents?

          Now let’s join the two up.

          So, if fracking has already produced seismic events without a 23 year gap and cumulatively will likely cause the same outcomes of psychological and economic harm to the residents, would it not be the right thing to dump this ridiculousness and look elsewhere for an energy solution?

          • Sherwulfe
            The first sentence notes that Cuadrilla has applied for a licence in a country where fracking has decimated people’s lives. Clearly not true.

            If the point was that fracking causes earthquakes as does onshore conventional extraction in the Netherlands, that’s fine. But then a comparison of the damage and likelihood of similar issues in the uk would be good.

            Or, maybe that having large gas reserves is a curse ( or large oil / coal / gas ) as it makes the country historically dependant on that fuel. 90% of the Dutch population rely on that gas for heating and cooking. So while the plan is to stop production by 2030, there will be a scrabble for alternatives in the meantime.

            Their options are to import it, alongside their existing plans to install renewables.

            Other countries have approached this in different ways.

            France, having only difficult coal, went for nuclear and are reaping the benefits. Lucky them.

            Germany got lost somewhere and while doing well for renewables are big coal producers and burners, both of the earthquake and subsidence type, and massive lignite opencast.

            The UK is a bit of everything as you may expect, having been blessed with the equivalent of the Groningen field but offshore Gt Yarmouth and Grimsby ( so no worries re tremors ) and NNSea oil and gas, so we have dumped coal quicker than the Germans.

            I am sure we wish the Dutch gov well in their move to renewables. The planned closure of the field will no doubt speed up their progress, but in the meantime increase imports and so forth, plus more austerity may be on the cards. So either way their journey to renewables will not be stress free.

            • ‘The first sentence notes that Cuadrilla has applied for a licence in a country where fracking has decimated people’s lives. Clearly not true’

              – am afraid you have been asleep hewes; whilst I respect some of your views, this is the most controversial statement from you on here yet.

              Go out there and ask those who are under enormous pressure and stress as a result of this industrial process appearing in their leafy suburb, retirement, clean country living dream after years of hard slog in the city; those who have spent literally hundreds of hours of their own time, putting their lives on hold to help others in their plight; a lifetime’s trust in a governance shattered by the ‘gung-ho’ nature of money grabbers who have no inkling of the challenges in those lives and the betrayal in their latter years?

              I could go on…..but I won’t; I will hope you find out for yourself; perhaps you will bid for the photo comp and get out there and meet the real people on the battlefront?

              So, back to the point. If the Fylde’s future could be that of Groningen, is it not time to stop and talk and look at the alternatives, some if which were not viable when this smoking gun was first put on the table?

  4. Sherwulfe
    The country referred to by John is the Netherlands not here.

    Hence to refer to the fracking in Holland when there is none was the issue ( I should have said…the first sentence ( quoted ) and it’s link I guess ).

    Re anti frackers, I have met many anti frackers and note that a number are very stressed about it all ( extremely stressed I would say ).

    My family are not impressed that I go do that when we pass a stall, or when I go and attend meetings.

    At the stall and meetings one has to say ( very early on ) that one is not against it. The reactions are varied as you would expect.

    But I have also met many who are relaxed about it all. So relaxed that they cannot he bothered to think about it as it’s not near them!

    Finally, I do not think that the Fylde will be like Groningen ( which is earthquakes ) or indeed, as it was in the worked coalfield in the East Midlands where we had earthquakes ( as per report on faults in old worked areas ) and we also had subsidence ( cracked buildings, demolished ones, repairs, claims and so on ), lorries, dust, methane and noise.

    The traffic light system is designed to restrict the consequences. I expect either fracking succeeds at levels of activity which cannot be felt, or it’s canned. I doubt the general population would now accept what we did when coal mining ( I have had a house underpinned and repaired while living in it ). I also expect the other, renewable technologies to appear sooner rather than later, but to focus on transport first.

    So, to say Groningen is due to fracking is wrong, but that is not to deny that fracking brings a load of issues with it, as demonstrated in America in the main, where most HVHP fracking has been carried out.

    • ‘The traffic light system is designed to restrict the consequences.’ – this am afraid says it all. How can we accepted ‘restricting consequences’ when there are safer alternatives?

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