Lancashire County Council planning committee today (23 September) granted permission to shale gas company Cuadrilla for two planning applications – regarding ‘pressure monitoring’ at the Becconsall site in West Lancs, and an extension for the time period to restore the site at Preese Hall, Fylde.
Representatives of Ribble Estuary Against Fracking and Friends of the Earth spoke at the planning committee to express concerns including that:
• A full Habitats Regulation Assessment should be carried out at the Becconsall site which is only 650m from the Ribble Estuary, an internationally protected site for wintering birds
• Cuadrilla provided a lack of information on the key activities at the Becconsall site including the means of perforating the well, the pressure that will be reached and risks to groundwater as a result
• Uncertainty remains regarding the steps taken to inspect the Becconsall well in the three years since it was drilled
• The Becconsall site should have been restored to agricultural use by September 2012 according to the original application
• Regarding Preese Hall, it is not clear that well integrity issues encountered at the site have been addressed and that the Healthy and Safety Executive (HSE) has inspected the site
• Cuadrilla has failed to meet three time conditions by which it should have restored the site back to agricultural use, and the council should therefore take enforcement action.
Committee members approved the testing at the Becconsall site, and the time extension for restoration of Preese Hall, but raised major concerns regarding Cuadrilla’s operations and repeatedly breaking planning conditions. Cuadrilla also withdrew an application yesterday (22 September) for the Becconsall site that was connected to fracking.
John Powney from Ribble Estuary Against Fracking said:
“We are disappointed that the Committee granted permission for testing but are very pleased that there will be no fracking in the future at the site near the Ribble Estuary.
“Cuadrilla withdrew an application connecting them to fracking at the eleventh hour, following a challenge from our legal team. If they try to frack the site in future, we will be using the law to protect the people of Lancashire from this unwanted, unnecessary and dangerous industry.”
Helen Rimmer, North West Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said:
“We are concerned that further testing has been allowed at such a highly sensitive site for ecology, but we are pleased the Councillors sent a strong message to Cuadrilla that breaching planning conditions is completely unacceptable.
“Cuadrilla’s record in Lancashire is appalling, and considering the high risk nature of operations and environmental concerns, the current applications to frack in the Fylde must be turned down.”
Bob Dennett of Residents Action on Fylde Fracking said:
“Our concern is that it is unclear whether the Health and Safety Executive have visited the Preese Hall site to verify that well integrity problems have been resolved, and they are relying on self-regulation by the operator. We are pleased that the Cabinet member for the environment publicly recognised the weaknesses in the regulatory framework”.
Responding to discussion amongst Committee members at the meeting on enforcement action against Cuadrilla due to breaching planning conditions at the Preese Hall site, Councillor John Hodson of West Lancs Borough Council said:
“Local authorities have the powers in situations where there is a hazard to the public, to enter land for the purposes of carrying out or arranging remedial works with costs charged to the landowner. This should raise questions in many farmers minds as to the extent of the liability they are exposed to.”
Lancashire County Council are due to consider the two applications for major fracking sites in the Fylde – at Preston New Road and Roseacre – in November this year.