Two quiet corners of rural Fylde are set to take centre stage in the ongoing saga over fracking.
Quiet woodland near Wharles and farmland near Little Plumpton have been chosen by the company which wants to frack for gas on the Fylde for its two new exploration drill sites and could be the first sites fracked since operations were put on hold following two earth tremors in 2011.
Cuadrilla Resources is to apply for permission to drill, hydraulically fracture and test the flow of gas at a site at Roseacre Wood, near Wharles and at a site off the A583 near Little Plumpton.
The company wants to explore each site to see if natural gas trapped in the shale rock 6,000ft below the surface can be got out economically.
Cuadrilla has promised full consultation with the people living in both areas and organised meetings with the community last night, together with further consultations throughout the process.
It said with environmental impact assessments to be carried out on each site, plus up to nine permits to be cleared with the Environment Agency, and planning permission to be sought from Lancashire County Council, the process is likely to take many months.
Separate applications will also be made to install two seismic arrays used to monitor the fracking process.
Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla (pictured) said if all the permissions were granted it would be late 2014 before any drilling took place and 2015 before any actual fracking – the process of extracting gas by pumping water and chemicals under high pressure into the shale rock – was carried out.
He also said the company would end its activities on three sites which it had previously drilled on the Fylde – Anna’s Road, Preese Hall and Grange Hill. He said Anna’s Road and Preese Hall would be fully restored while Grange Hill would be used as a seismic monitoring station, with a device placed in the drill shaft to check for any tremors which may be caused by fracking in other areas of the Fylde.
He said: “These two new sites have been chosen carefully because of the geology and after considering the results of the survey of the area.
“The sites will be one and a half hectares each, we will drill up to four wells on each site. An environmental impact assessment will be carried out in each area.
“The community benefit will be £100,000 for each well that is fracked, which could be up to £400,000 for each site.
“That money is to be administered by the Community Foundation for Lancashire. They will liaise directly with the communities and work out where it will be spent.
“We will be sending a scoping report to Lancashire County Council to find out what things need to be covered by the environmental impact assessments, such as transport around the sites, ecology, the specifics for hydraulic fracturing, ground water issues, emissions. It will be very comprehensive.
“There will be ample opportunities for public consultation and input. We have a small group of people going round the two areas hand delivering information to the houses close to the sites.
“There will also be formal drop in events in both areas next week on the 12th an 13th and again in March.
“The planning application is likely to take until around May. The Environment Agency will run its own consultation process for each site and, of course, Lancashire County Council’s planning department will run a consultation.
“We are hoping for decision by around the end of August and would not envisage starting drilling until the end of the year. So hydraulic fracturing will not commence until next year.”
The Cuadrilla boss said the company would focus on just two sites at this time.
He added: “This will allow us to reduce the potential impact on the local area. We’re committed to being a good neighbour and to talking with the community at every stage of the process.”
The company also said it has no immediate plans to frack at its newest drill site near Clifton and Freckleton.
Residents question the ‘shock’ news
Residents have queried the transparency of fracking after they were invited to a public meeting just hours after an announcement on plans to drill in their community.
The meeting was held last night for members of the community to meet with Cuadrilla and find out about its plans to drill and hydraulically fracture for gas below Roseacre Wood, near Wharles, and at Little Plumpton, near Kirkham.
But many said they had concerns about why the community had not be consulted earlier on plans for the countryside.
Resident Paul Gardner, 50, of Roseacre, said: “I was quite shocked to find they’re planning on drilling around our area. It’s the first I’ve known about it, it’s appalling really.
“We should have known months ago then we could think about it and ask questions.”
Mark Threlfall, 47, of Inskip, added: “I’m not happy at all. They only announced it yesterday morning yet they held a meeting on Tuesday night which strikes me as a lack of transparency.
“I feel like this is being imposed on us. The first I heard of this was in the media.”
Barbara Richardson, 57, of Stanley Mews (pictured with husband John) said she would be keen to join a committee of residents to input the community’s thoughts. She said: “I believe in natural gas but what’s in it for us? It’s not really been sold to us that we’ll benefit.
“I’d be interested in being on a community liaison committee, to make sure they listening to us. But I’m just as worried about protesters coming down here.”
Mr Richardson, 64, added: “I think fracking itself is safe, I’m sure they’ve done enough investigation but we know other people are worried about it – a lot of people won’t have been able to make it to the meeting.”
Peter Doughty, 66, of Westby Road, close to Little Plumpton, said: “If the gas is available it’s a good thing for our community.
“What I am not sure about is how it would work. If somebody is going to start wholesale fracking there needs to be more done for infrastructure – such as roads – in the area.”
Mel MacDonald, 37, of Roseacre Lane, Wharles, added: “I’m not happy about it. I do not want a fleet of trucks travelling up and down here.” I have 12-year-old twins and would be worried about their safety.”
Campaigners pledge to fight
Anti-fracking campaigners have warned there will be no let up in their bid to block shale gas exploration on the Fylde coast.
Members of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF) and Frack Free Fylde said they will do all they can to stop fracking as Cuadrilla named two sites in the region.
Tina Rothery, of RAFF, said protesters could be forced to set up camps similar to sites in Manchester and Sussex in a bid to block shale gas extraction on the Fylde coast.
She added: “Our plan is to set up a Fylde Community Protection Camp – especially if as said Cuadrilla return to these new sites. A community protection camp is to protect everything in our area.
“In the end it is our air and water – we have serious concerns about gas extraction.
“We feel our camp would be much bigger than those elsewhere as we have so many groups around here.
“We have groups in Garstang, Longridge, Fylde and Blackpool, with a new group soon to set up in Fleetwood.”
Local campaign groups have long raised concerns over the environmental impact of fracking, from the threat of water pollution to earth tremors and the over industrialisation of the countryside.
Gayzer Frackman, of Frack Free Fylde added: “Everywhere you look, Cuadrilla is losing left, right and centre.
“It isn’t pulling any gas out of the ground. It’s bluff and bluster. They’ve pulled out of Anna’s Road in Westby and Grange Hill at Singleton.
“The evidence is there that this process is not safe.”