Chapter closes on Cuadrilla’s early fracking plans – shale gas site returned to farmland nearly seven years after original deadline

Grange Hill Cuadrilla

Cuadrilla’s Grange Hill site at Singleton returned to farmland, December 2018. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources

Cuadrilla announced yesterday that it had restored its shale gas site at Grange Road, Singleton, in the Fylde region of Lancashire. The work to return the site to farmland was completed two months before the deadline set by a planning inspector – but it was almost seven years after the time limit for restoration agreed in the original planning permission.

Another Cuadrilla site in the region, at Becconsall, was restored in August this year, almost six years after the original deadline.

The restoration works bring to an end Cuadrilla’s early attempts to frack for shale gas in the Fylde. Singleton and Becconsall, along with Preese Hall, were described by an industry insider as the company’s three original shale gas exploration wells in the region.

Cuadrilla said it had restored Preese Hall, at Weeton, in April 2015 (link). Another site, at Anna’s Road, Westby, was returned to farmland in July 2014, the company said (link). Of all these sites, only Preese Hall saw high volume hydraulic fracturing and none went into production.

The company’s latest fracking plans are centred on Preston New Road, near Blackpool. It began fracking there on 15 October 2018 but operations appear to have stopped on 2 November 2018 and there have been no public reports that fracking has resumed. The company’s remaining shale gas proposal in the Fylde, at Roseacre Wood, is awaiting a decision by the local government secretary, expected early in 2019.

Eight years at Singleton


Drilling for shale gas at Cuadrilla’s Grange Road site at Singleton. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources

Cuadrilla said it started work to restore the Grange Road site in July 2018. The company announced yesterday (4 December 2018) the restoration had been completed.

Permission was originally granted to frack for shale gas at Grange Road, Singleton, on 21 April 2010. A condition of the consent was that the site would be restored within 18 months of the start of work.

Work began on 20 July 2010, which put the deadline for restoration at 19 January 2012.

A month before the deadline expired, Cuadrilla applied to extend the consent for testing the well and restoration until 20 July 2013. It had been unable to frack because of the moratorium following earthquakes linked to the company’s operations at Preese Hall.

This application was later withdrawn when Cuadrilla said it no longer intended to frack at Singleton. But in the meantime, in May 2014, Cuadrilla applied for a second time to extend the deadline, this time for three years, to use the site for pressure testing and seismic monitoring.

The application was decided by Lancashire County Council a year later on 20 May 2015. Had the application been approved, it would have taken the deadline to 20 May 2018. But councillors refused permission.

Cuadrilla appealed and the planning inspector, Elizabeth Ord, overturned the council’s decision. In her decision document of 23 February 2016, she said the site must be restored within three years, taking the deadline to 23 February 2019.

The Cuadrilla chief executive, Francis Egan, said of the restoration:

“We’re committed to Lancashire and as part of our exploration efforts in the County and this includes restoring sites to their former pre-exploration use.

“The restoration works at Grange Hill are a fantastic example of how we return the land back to its original state after exploration. It is also the second restoration project to be completed by Cuadrilla this year, as we removed the wellhead and restored the former exploration site at Becconsall to its original ‘Greenfield’ status in August.”

180719Singleton Ros Wills 1

Plugging and abandonment work at Cuadrilla’s shale gas well at Singleton, 19 July 2018. Photo: Ros Wills

Eight years at Becconsall

As Mr Egan said, the Becconsall site was finally restored in August 2018. This was almost six years after the deadline set in the original planning consent.

Becconsall restored Cuadrilla

Restoration of Cuadrilla’s Becconsall site. Photo: Cuadrilla Resources

Cuadrilla was granted permission to drill for shale gas at the Becconsall site on 20 October 2010. The consent included a condition that the site should be restored within 18 months of the start of work.

Work began on 28 March 2011, which put the restoration deadline at 27 September 2012.

Eight days before the deadline, on 19 September 2012, the company made its first application to delay restoration – to 28 March 2014.

Before this application was heard, Cuadrilla made a second request for a further extension of consent and for a mini-frack at Becconsall. This would have taken the deadline to 28 September 2014.

But councillors did not decide on the application because Cuadrilla withdrew it on 22 September 2014.

In the meantime, the company made a third application to extend permission at Becconsall. This was approved and gave the company three more years to carry out pressure monitoring. The deadline was set at 31 October 2016 if pressure monitoring equipment were installed.

Cuadrilla announced it would begin restoration in spring 2016. But no work was carried out. Lancashire County Council admitted a loophole in the condition. The 31 October 2016 deadline did not apply because pressure monitoring equipment had not been installed.

The deadline was extended for a fourth time until 1 May 2018. In practice, the work had to be carried out by 31 October 2017. This was because another condition prevented work during the winter bird season (31 October-31 March) and there was not enough time to finish the work between 1 April 2018 and 1 May 2018.

In a rare move, in March 2017, councillors brought the restoration deadline forward. They told Cuadrilla the deadline should instead be 31 August 2017.

But just under a month before the deadline expired, the company applied for another extension to 31 October 2018. This would have been the fifth extension but this time, the council refused.

Despite this, Cuadrilla did not begin restoration until April 2018 and the  company said the site was fully restored in August 2018.

50 replies »

  1. If I test my chainsaw on a piece of wood to check it works, I can then see if it will saw up a number of fallen trees, Grasshopper!

    Would stand a good chance-unless I ran out of petrol.

    • Sure Martin. Your point is valid. But it is hard enough to secure a site. And now Cuadrilla will only jave one pad to test.
      Rumors have it they are having to fix a well pipe issue at PNR and that’s why no fracking activity in the ladt 5 weeks.

      • Or, [as Egan himself has said they have only produced a small amount of gas] they are, as we speak, packing their bags and doing a runner?

  2. Applicants for any planning permission will rarely take a wider view of the impact that their develpment will have on people or place. To overcome this narrow, one-sided view, we have a planning system that attempts to address all those potential impacts. If the development is thought to be credible and worthwhile, conditions may be imposed by civilised society to control or prevent adverse impacts. In effect, this is a contract between the developer and those affected by the development.
    If it takes 6-7 years beyond the prescribed time and a huge effort from officialdom to enforce reasonable conditions to restore a well site, it says to me that that developer has little or no respect for the planning process and what it tries to achieve, nor for those people or the ecosystem adversely affected. Planners should bear in mind that lack of respect for regulation when assessing future applications, assuming they don’t get overridden by a govt willing to cast aside sensible regulation in the sole pursuit of economic gain or in a desperate attempt to bolster a failed energy policy.

    • Spot on Mike but unfortunately planners must look at planning apps on their individual merits and cannot look at the applicants historic abject failure to comply with conditions.

      • The planning history of a site is taken into consideration when a new application is presented. How much weight that carries varies considerable.

        The Becconsall site has proven how long Cuadrilla can take to drill and restore a site even if they do not frack.

        Any future attempts by Cuadrilla to propose unrealistic time frames for shale gas developments will be challenged by our top planning consultants.

        We have the evidence and we will use it.

      • You’re right to a point cembrule, but while planning officers may be restricted in what they can broach, members of planning committees have the final say and believe it or not, they are humans. If they are already well informed and concerned about the very real impacts of fracking, companies with such a dire record of deliberate non-compliance are likely to get short shrift. Of course, such decisions may go to appeal, but how many can be battled, at what cost to the taxpayer, for how long and with long delays? PD/NSIP may change all that if the govt are mercenary enough to implement them…. and if they survive that long.

  3. Wonder why there are still coal mines left that have not been restored, and still contaminate large areas of the country from their legacy?

    I suspect, in the real world, there is not too much concern for restoration of sites that are sitting around not causing an environmental issue, (and there are masses of them) and a preference for attention to sites that are. Trying to excite the easily excited is a pretty simple task, but the majority need a bit more to get excited about.

    • Martine you argument is tantamount to a pouty child complaining “they didn’t have to do it, why should I?”

      You display a blatant disregard for that planing conditions in accordance with Caudrillas attitude.

      • Martin. You may consider it’s irrelevant whether Cuadrilla bothers to reinstate this site or not. However, one of the selling points by the fracking industry is the fact that after a short while there will be nothing to see but a small well head and everything else will go back to normal? Empty promises. Cuadrilla have ignored LCC’s orders for years. They’ve ignored the LCC planners and the planning committee. They’ve put local residents under considerable strain and uncertainty and have deprived us all of the food production that that land could have provided. Is this to be the scenario for the hundreds of pads that commercial fracking would require? So much for being “good neighbours.”

        • Martin thinks O&G companies like Cuadrilla shouldn’t have to be bothered with such nonsense. Complying with planning conditions is for the plebs.

        • They have reinstated the site. DOH. They did not do it as quickly as you would have liked. Not unusual. No environmental issues as a result.

          Nothing to get excited about.

          I know there is little to excite the antis at the moment, but your comments simply show that.

          “Deprived food production”!!! Have a look in the local Supermarkets. We really are deprived-so much so that we air freight veggies from around the world to keep us from starving.

          I do appreciate a good laugh, so thanks, but sometimes you might find that you win more converts if you ease off the constant grievance. It then looks like a grievance cult rather than genuine concern of substance.

          • Not as quickly as I would like? It’s not about me as this was a condition of their planning permission granted by the LA. So they failed to reinstate as quickly as the LA would like.

            There being no consequences of not reinstating within the agreed timescales is an irrelevance. A failure to comply is a failure to comply.

            The rest is waffle!

            Did you find that article link yet?

          • Martin. You sneer at people with genuine concerns. You mock the fact that this prime farmland has been sitting under a membrane and thousands of tons of aggregate and who knows what else, for six years longer than agreed, when it could have been producing food. The residents living adjacent to the site, who I happen to know, have had to tolerate not only this blot on the landscape but also the uncertainty of what would eventually happen to the site. Do you honestly condone this lack of concern for the community from a company which purports to have such concern for the residents? Is this to be the norm for all the other hundreds of sites that commercial production would require? This lack of respect for the regulations does not bode well for those who are relying on the Gold Standard Regulations. The pro frackers’ constant defence of this lax attitude towards Regulations does little to endear them or the industry to concerned locals.

  4. DYOR is educational. Care to become educated?

    Grange Hill was reinstated two months BEFORE the deadline. Now, that is exciting. (perhaps Claire whispered in their ear!)

    Wonder when my local solar farm will be reinstated to farmland? 99 years time.

    Really producing a lot today.

    • And how about the site at Banks Martine?

      Re Grange Hill I would suggest you DYOR on this occasion as it’s slightly more nuanced than you make out having been taken to appeal.

      Also re the article in question I have done plenty of my own reasearch and as I am unable to locate this particular article in the publication you mention and additionally due to you not posting a link after repeated requests have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t exist. Unless you can prove otherwise of course, which I would be happy to consider if you can point me in that direction.

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

  5. Ahh, but certain things are not easy, crembrule. It is really difficult to find out why red diesel is red, or who owns Third Energy! LOL. Welcome to that club. There is probably a badge. “Anticlimax”??

    But don’t spend too long on it. Last time I trawled the Blackpool Gazette there was a rather high proportion of naughtiness to navigate.

    I will cease to be a nuisance for the rest of the weekend. Much more going on with Brexit, so I shall be watching that to pick up more “intelligence”, like how difficult it may be to airfreight drugs for the NHS whilst it is quite easy to do so for French Beans from Africa to add to the Sunday roast. “Education” is so different today-just accept what you are told and don’t examine it via common sense. (By the way, I have managed to airfreight tonnes of (livestock) medical supplies from USA to UK. Not even a meeting required. Quite straight forward, and less expensive than expected. Airfreighting horses somewhat more expensive.)

    • Have you found that article yet? You did say it was also all over the national press but I cannot find it

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

      • Regarding the plug and abandonment and restoration of the Becconsall well this was my reply from the HSE

        “No site visits have been conducted by HSE during the decommissioning of the well. HSE specialist inspectors continued to scrutinise the activity through the notification and operations reports submitted by the operator”

        A reminder of a previous correspondence between HSE and Cuadrilla regarding Preese Hall

        “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”

        It would appear that the ‘Gold Standard’ is only as ‘Gold’ as the operator chooses to make it.

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