Regulation

Cuadrilla seeks two more years at Lancs fracking site

The fracking company, Cuadrilla, has given formal notice that it intends to apply to extend the life of its shale gas site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.

Details dated today were posted at the site near Blackpool.

Formal notice of Cuadrilla’s intention to apply for more time at Preston New Road. Photo:
Used with the owner’s consent

Local campaigners, who have opposed Cuadrilla’s operations at Preston New Road, said an extension to the site’s permission was unjustified.

DrillOrDrop invited Cuadrilla to explain why it needed more time. The company has not responded.

Mothballed site

Preston New Road is one of just two sites in the UK that have seen high volume hydraulic fracturing. It has the country’s only horizonal shale gas wells.

The site has been largely mothballed since August 2019, when operations were suspended after causing the UK’s strongest fracking-induced earthquake.

Earthquakes were the reason for an England-wide moratorium on fracking in November 2019.

This was lifted briefly in September 2022 by the then prime minister, Liz Truss, before being reinstated 49 days later by her successor, Rishi Sunak.

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, 26 February 2022. Photo: Maxine Gill

24 more months

Planning permission at Preston New Road, granted in 2016, has now expired for drilling and fracking. But under the current consent, Cuadrilla has until 5 April 2023 to abandon the wells and restore the site. The work has been predicted to take six months.

Today’s notice, required under planning regulations, says the company will seek another 24 months at Preston New Road.

If granted, this would extend the current life of the site from 75 months to 99 months, until April 2025.

The notice says:

“For the avoidance of doubt, this application does not seek permission for any further drilling or hydraulic fracturing operations as the condition as expired.”

The sign is an official notification to owners or tenants of land to which an application for mineral working relates.

It is issued under Article 13 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) Order 2015.

People can inspect documents at Lancashire County Council in Preston and respond to Cuadrilla’s intention until Thursday 22 December 2022.

This period does not replace any public consultation period when the full application has been submitted and published.

That application must be validated by council planners before it is posted online and open for public comments. The public consultation usually lasts at least three weeks but can be six weeks or more.

Reaction

A spokesperson for Frack Free Lancashire said:

“There is no justification for Cuadrilla to apply for a further extension. 

“The Preston New Road site should be finished and abandoned by April 2023. With the moratorium in place, as per the 2019 manifesto, and with Labour promising to ban fracking if they are elected, then the site has no future and it is time to end the stress and uncertainty that the its continued existence causes the local community.”

A spokesperson for Preston New Road Action Group said:

“Until we see the details of this application and understand exactly what is being asked for, it is hard to comment fully. We do however appreciate that this notice has stated that Cuadrilla will not be seeking permission for further drilling or fracking. 

“We are perplexed that they are asking for a further 24 months to restore the site. The deadline for this has always been April 2023. At the Community Liaison Group meeting of 5 August 2019 Cuadrilla stated that restoration of the site would take around 12 months and, consistent with this, in March 2022 Cuadrilla stated they were about to plug and cap the wells (the first step in restoring the site). There was no indication then that they needed more time.

“The events in the Ukraine led to this work being put on hold but it is now clear that the Government is committed to continuing the moratorium on fracking. Therefore there is no earthly reason why the plugging and capping of the wells and full site restoration cannot begin right now, but so far there has been no activity on the site.

“As Cuadrilla have only been delayed by 8 months, any extension of the time-frame beyond December 2023 cannot be justified. Cuadrilla have an appalling record for restoring their sites in a timely manner. They need to evidence that restoration work has started before they are granted any extension to ensure that no further delays occur.”

Planning history

Cuadrilla’s original application to frack for shale gas a Preston New Road was opposed by every level of local government, as well as by thousands of individuals.

The refusal of planning permission by Lancashire County Council in 2015 on noise and landscape grounds was later overturned by the then local government secretary, Sajid Javid.

Earlier this year, the industry regulator ordered Cuadrilla to plug the Preston New Road wells by June 2022. But this deadline was later extended to June 2023.

In July 2022, Lancashire County Council ruled that Cuadrilla’s application to extend the use of the site would not need an environmental impact assessment.

  • When the full application has been published, DrillOrDrop will report on the contents and its passage through the planning system

1 reply »

  1. Fracking will not get the go-ahead until awareness of the Energy Emergency breaks through into public and/or government awareness
    as much as Climate. Whether this will happen sooner or later is difficult to tell but it WILL happen and we will look back on this period of wasted opportunity with bewilderment. Currently there is a concern about Putin’s reaction to the beginning of the Europe-wide ban on imports of crude oil and associated business activities like insurance. This begins on December 6th. From Putin’s point of view what better time to cut off more gas or diesel supply than in the run up to Christmas. The UK’s supply of energy, that is electricity, gas and oil, is far less secure than it was 20 ears ago.

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