Planners recommend fracking refusal - reaction

Friends of The Earth Protesters outside Lancashire County Hall as the Fracking bid is refused
Friends of The Earth Protesters outside Lancashire County Hall as the Fracking bid is refused

Planners say bids to drill and frack at the two sites at Roseacre and Little Plumpton on the Fylde should be REFUSED.

County Hall planners published their long-awaited recommendations into the controversial bids by energy firm Cuadrilla.

Friends of The Earth Protesters outside Lancashire County Hall as the Fracking bid is refused

Friends of The Earth Protesters outside Lancashire County Hall as the Fracking bid is refused

Both bids, for sites in Roseacre village and Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, should be refused.

They cited concerns over noise which could affect neighbouring properties and traffic concerns.

The report said 8,924 objections were received to the fracking site proposals at Roseacre - almost 6,000 from outside Lancashire.

A total of 11,125 people objected to fracking plans at Little Plumpton, 6,038 from outside the region.

With regards to Roseacre, planners said: “...It is therefore concluded that the principle of exploration and appraisal for shale gas would be acceptable and that in the proposed location impacts on air quality; archaeology and cultural heritage; greenhouse gas emissions; community and socio economics; ecology; hydrogeology and ground gas; induced seismicity and subsidence; land use; landscape and visual amenity; lighting; resources and waste; water resources or public health (except for noise) would be low or could be mitigated and controlled by condition to make them acceptable.

“However, it is considered that the proposed development in this location would lead to a significant increase in night time background noise levels and consequently it is likely that this would have significant adverse effects on the health and quality of life and lead to an unacceptable loss of residential amenity to those residents at Old Orchard Farm and potentially beyond. Such effects and loss would be contrary to the National Planning Policy Guidance on noise, Policy DM2 of the Joint Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan – Site Allocation and Development Management Policies – Part One (LMWLP) and Policy EP27 of the Fylde Borough Local Plan. Consequently and for this reason it is considered that on balance the proposal would be unacceptable and should be refused.”

And, for Little Plumpton, it said: “It is considered that the proposed development in this location would lead to a significant increase in night time background noise levels and consequently it is likely that this would have significant adverse effects on the health and quality of life and lead to an unacceptable loss of residential amenity to those residents at the nearest residential properties of Staining Wood Cottages, Staining Farm and Foxwood Chase. Such effects and loss would be contrary to the National Planning Policy Guidance on noise, Policy DM2 of the Joint Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan – Site Allocation and Development Management Policies – Part One (LMWLP) and Policy EP27 of the Fylde Borough Local Plan.

“Consequently and for this reason alone it is considered that on balance the proposal would be unacceptable and should be refused.”

Diane Evans, from the Preston New Road Action Group, which has been campaigning against the application at Little Plumpton off the A583, said members shed tears of joy when they heard the news that planning officers have recommended refusal of the two bids to carry out exploratory fracking.

She said: “We are absolutely delighted we just can’t believe it. I was in tears when I heard. The way things have been going we expected the planning officers to recommend allowing the planning application so we are surprised but delighted.

“I know we have been portrayed by some as just a bunch of activists but we are not we are the ordinary people who live here.

“We have had to become experts in a way and we have sought the help of experts in many fields such as noise , waste and the environment but we really are just the people who would have to live with this. I am just a mother not a professional so it has been a hard struggle.

“We know there is still a long, long way to go and the councillors could vote for the fracking and, either way there was always likely to be an appeal, but this is wonderful news.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “Earlier this week I made it clear that whatever the decision of Lancashire County Council was on these sites, that is what we have to respect.

“This decision must be taken at a local level. If it’s a refusal, then it’s a refusal.

“Any attempt to appeal a decision, I wouldn’t be able to support.

“Officers have not come to this decision lightly and it is important councillors take on board the advice they have been given.

“I cannot tell them how to vote but questions would have to be asked should officers’ advice be overturned.”

The North West Energy Task Force, a coalition of over 500 businesses and academics, said: “This is potentially a disappointing set-back for job creation in the North West. As Monday’s report by the Centre for Cities shows, Blackpool has fewer businesses in 2013 than in 2004 and 10 per cent fewer jobs, and therefore has a pressing need for growth and investment to boost job creation. This is what members of the Development Control Committee should have in mind next week, especially given the Environment Agency’s recent decision to grant a permit for exploration.”

Opponents say fracking is not wanted on the Fylde coast and will severely damage the environment.

Supporters say it will bring thousands of jobs and lead to lower energy prices.

County Hall councillors from the Development Control Committee will make a final decision after the start of a hearing on January 28.

Around 100 members of the public have each been given a four-minute speaking slot and major groups have been allocated 30-minute slots to make their case.

The county planning committee’s decision is not expected to need ratification from the full council, but any decision could be subject to appeal.

As the report was published, protestors were demonstrating outside County Hall and a petition of more than 6,000 people was being handed in calling on Lancashire County Council Leader Jennifer Mein to oppose plans for fracking in the county.

Residents from the two Fylde villages where fracking is proposed were joining with representatives of groups from across Lancashire.

A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “We are very disappointed that Lancashire County Council’s Planning Officers have recommended that the Councils’ Development Control Committee refuse planning consent for both our applications.

“Officers have recommended refusal at Preston New Road only on grounds of night-time noise and at Roseacre Road on noise and traffic concerns.

“We note that the planning officer’s report is satisfied with all other aspects of the planning applications.

“Our applications are to drill, hydraulically fracture and test the flow of gas from up to four exploration wells at each of our proposed sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.

“After an extraordinarily lengthy period of consultation and review of around seven months we are surrised that, at this late point, the planning team at Lancashire County Council has raised objections about background noise for both sites.

“We believe, supported by independent experts Arup, that we have come forward with measures that would mitigate the noise of drilling and fracturing and the proposed noise levels are within the limits set out in government guidance.

“For our application at Roseacre Wood we had already supplied within the last week extra information regarding traffic routes which we and our expert advisers believe addresses all the new issues which have recently been raised.

“We believe these issues should have been more widely discussed.

“In the end the councillors on the development control committee will have to weigh the relatively minor impacts which affect only a small number of households and for which we have proposed adequate proposals for mitigation against the wider local and national economic and energy security benefits.

“We will await the councillors’ decisions on both these applications and we believe that all of the limited issues that have been raised can be resolved.”

SEE THE GAZETTE AND LYTHAM ST ANNES EXPRESS ON THURSDAY FOR REACTION FROM MPS, BUSINESSES, VILLAGERS, ANTI-FRACKERS AND SHALE GAS SUPPORTERS