The decision on whether Cuadrilla can drill and frack up to four shale gas wells at Roseacre Wood, near Blackpool, is expected early in January 2019, according to the Planning Inspectorate.
It confirmed that a report by the inspector at a public inquiry earlier this year has gone to the Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, who will make the final decision.
The news comes as Cuadrilla prepares to begin fracking tomorrow (Monday 15 October 2018) at its Preston New Road site, also in Lancashire. This will be the first high volume hydraulic fracture in the UK since 2011 and the country’s first frack of a horizontal shale gas well.
Both Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road were refused planning permission by Lancashire County Council in June 2015.
After a 19–day public inquiry, the then Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, overruled the council and granted permission for the Preston New Road site.
On Roseacre Wood, he said was “minded” to allow permission, despite the planning inspector’s recommendation to refuse on highway safety. Mr Javid reopened the inquiry with a different inspector to give Cuadrilla another chance to present evidence on traffic issues.
The report by the second inspector, Melvyn Middleton, was submitted on 28 September 2018, the Planning Inspectorate has now confirmed.
“As the Secretary of State’s decision on this case is the conclusion of a ‘minded to allow’ process, there is no formal target for the decision. However the Secretary of State intends to determine it in line with the normal timescales for recovered appeals and call-ins, and hence intends to issue a decision early in the New Year.”
Roseacre Awareness Group, which opposes Cuadrilla’s plans, was contacted by the Planning Inspectorate about the timing of the decision.
It said today:
“So far, the Roseacre Wood scheme, has been rejected at every level from the majority of residents, seven affected parish and town councils, unanimously at every single stage by Fylde Borough and Lancashire County Councils, the Planning Inspector (after the first Public Inquiry), and our two Conservative MPs.
“Even the former Secretary of State himself did not approve the scheme after the first inquiry (although he was minded to approve).
“And yet still they are trying to force fracking on us.”
Fracking due to start tomorrow at Preston New Road
Opponents of Cuadrilla’s operation at Preston New Road are expecting to gather outside the site tomorrow when fracking is due to start.
The company had planned to carry out the first frack yesterday (Saturday 13 October 2018).
But stormy weather meant that a crane could not be used to move equipment into place.
Under the terms of the planning permission, Cuadrilla can frack from 8am-6pm Monday-Friday and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
The company will first frack the deeper of the two wells drilled at Preston New Road.
The well is at about 2,300m below the surface and the horizontal section runs for about 800m.
Cuadrilla will frack 45 stages of the first well, one each day, starting with the one furthest from the pad.
Stages are each 15-50m long and each will use up to 765m3 (765,000 litres) of hydraulic fracturing fluid and up to 75 tonnes (75,000 kg) of sand proppant.