The government has refused planning permission for Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Roseacre Wood, near Blackpool.
In a 179-page decision document, published this lunchtime, the local government secretary, James Brokenshire (left), turned down the proposal on highway safety grounds.
The document said:
“The proposed development would have a serious and very significant adverse impact on the safety of people using the public highway.”
“It is not possible to conclude that the demonstrable harm associated with that issue would be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level.
The Secretary of State considered that the scheme did not meet national planning policy because “safe and suitable access to the site for all people would not be achieved and there would be an unacceptable impact on highways safety”.
The document also concluded:
“The economic impacts on local business, and the impacts on community recreation and amenity carry moderate weight against the proposal.”
Five year wait
The long-awaited decision followed two public inquiries and refusals at every level of local government in Lancashire.
Cuadrilla’s proposals to drill and frack four wells at Roseacre Wood were first unveiled just over five years ago in February 2014.
They were refused by Lancashire County Council in June 2015 because of highway safety concerns. This was supported by the inspector at the first inquiry, Wendy McKay.
But in October 2016, the then local government secretary, Sajid Javid, said he was minded to grant to planning permission. He reopened the appeal to give Cuadrilla more time to provide evidence on its traffic plans.
In November 2017, Cuadrilla introduced a new traffic management plan (TMP) for lorry deliveries to Roseacre Wood. The three routes – red, green and blue – were assessed at the second inquiry in April 2018.
The new TMP was widely criticised by the second inspector, Melvyn Middleton, and the Secretary of State.
Mr Brokenshire said the revised three-routes scheme was “not as flexible as it might at first glance appear to be” because two routes began or ended with a drive across the DHFCS Inksip defence site.
“Because of the lack of evidence before him on the implications of an unavailable route across DHFCS Inskip, he [Secretary of State] does not have confidence that the TMP would work effectively to control site traffic.”
The document concluded:
“The appeal could not be allowed if only one route were used.”
The document also identified weaknesses in Cuadrilla’s case including:
- Cuadrilla failed to survey critical parts of the Green and Red routes close to Elswick and Inskip
- Equestrian and pedestrian surveys along critical parts of the green and red routes were inadequate
- Significant increase in volume and type of HGVs using affected roads on weekend days and substantial proportion in the number of the largest HGVs
- Cuadrilla proposed a route app for motorists to warn them of deliveries but the minister said successful implementation could not be relied on and it would not be available to the overwhelming majority of drivers
- Practicality of delivering driver education cannot be guaranteed
- A proposed sum of £100,000 for highway improvement work would be inadequate to rectify safety hazards
- The proposed sum of £20, 000 to fund hedgerow replacement costs would also not be sufficient
- Visibility at five proposed passing places did not meet highways guidance
- To meet visibility a number of kilometres of hedgerows would need to be reduced in height and there was no evidence this was achievable
The Blue Route required lorries to navigate a difficult junction at Dagger Road/Treales Road/Station Road.
The secretary of state said “evidence still does not satisfactorily rebut the risks associated with the use of this junction by large articulated HGVs as identified by RAG and others and endorsed by the original Inspector”.
The minister was also “not reassured that the use of the Inskip Road/Salwick Road junction by large articulated HGVs has been properly considered and assessed”.
He noted that no mitigation has been proposed for these junctions.
The route used a narrow section of Dagger Road which was “not capable of safely accommodating the additional traffic generated by the appeal proposal”, the decision concluded.
The minister agreed that a comprehensive traffic lighted system, accompanied by some road improvements, could have removed the risks on this stretch of road. But this was not put before the inquiry and Cuadrilla had not shown that its proposals were workable in practice.
Cuadrilla had proposed the use of passing places on Dagger Road. But the decision said:
“despite the appellant having adequate time to assess the visibility aspects of this route from a safety perspective and to design robust mitigation to overcome potential hazards, the proposed mitigation in the form of passing places had not been shown to be workable in practice.
“He [the secretary of state] further agrees that it is not appropriate for outstanding issues such as inter-visibility to be relegated to a later detailed design process”.
On the Green Route, the secretary of state said he was not satisfied that the proposed mitigation was sufficient to enable the route to be safely used even in an inbound direction, and does not find that the use of this preferred route would present a safe and sustainable approach.
He said the proposed development would have a very significant adverse impact on the safety of people using this part of the public highway. It would not, he said, present a safe and sustainable approach.
On the Red Route, the minister accepted concerns about visibility problems on Lodge Lane; the potential for roll-over and rear end shunts at the Lodge Lane/Preston Road junction; increased safety risks from additional large HGVs at Inksip corner; and the absence of survey evidence of pedestrians use of Higham Side Road.
He concluded that this route should not be used by site heavy goods vehicles and that the proposed mitigation was not sufficient:
“[The secretary of state] is unable to find the use of the Red Route as a preferred route would represent a safe and sustainable approach, and concludes that the proposed development could have a serious and very significant adverse impact on the safety of people using this part of the public highway.”