Campaigners urge judges to overturn fracking decision

Campaigning residents have urged leading judges to overturn a Government decision to approve a fracking site in Lancashire.

Wednesday, 30th August 2017, 1:33 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:28 pm
Campaigners are appealing the decision

The Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG), along with environmental campaigner Gayzer Frackman, have taken their battle to the Court of Appeal in London.

The latest round of their legal fight follows their defeat at the High Court in April when they failed to persuade a judge in Manchester that the decision to grant a planning application for the site in Fylde was not fair or lawful.

Developer Cuadrilla's planning application was refused by Lancashire County Council in 2015, but later granted following an appeal and a planning inquiry.

Fracking campaigners are appealing the decision

The scheme was given the go-ahead in October by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

At the start of a two-day hearing on Wednesday before Lord Justice Simon, Lord Justice Lindblom and Lord Justice Henderson, David Wolfe QC, for the action group, submitted that "the Secretary of State, through his inspector, misunderstood key local and national planning policies".

In written grounds of appeal, he asks the three judges to "set aside" the ruling of Mr Justice Dove in the High Court and to "quash the Secretary of State's decision".

PNRAG's solicitors at law firm Leigh Day said the appeal is based on four grounds - that the Communities Secretary and the inspector made "errors of law" by "misinterpreting" a policy protecting against harm to the landscape, "wrongly applying" the National Planning Policy Framework, denying a fair hearing during the planning inquiry, and "using a wildly different test for assessing the impact on the quality of life of those living nearby".

Fracking campaigners are appealing the decision

The judges will hear argument on behalf of both the Communities Secretary and Cuadrilla that the challenges by PRNAG and Mr Frackman should be dismissed.

David Elvin QC states in written submissions on behalf of Mr Javid that there is "no merit" in any of the arguments put forward by the appellants.

A spokeswoman for the action group said: "We trust that the Secretary of State's decision to allow fracking at Preston New Road will be found unsound, and Lancashire County Council's original decision will be reinstated.

"Even before any fracking has commenced, the local community has been subjected to disruption.

"They have suffered stress due to the process and, since work commenced on the site, their day-to-day lives have been disrupted by convoys of HGVs, a massive police presence and many road closures."

Mr Frackman, from Blackpool, said in a statement before the hearing: "This legal challenge tests the Government's 'drill first, ask questions later' approach to fracking.

"The Government must be held to account for failing to protect UK citizens from the health impacts of fracking and the untold damage it will cause to our environment, our climate, and those living near the site in Lancashire."