300 shaken by plans for new fracking tests close to village

How the Singleton site looked in 2011. Cuadrilla has applied for permission to carry out tests there
How the Singleton site looked in 2011. Cuadrilla has applied for permission to carry out tests there
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More than 300 objections have been lodged against plans to allow a fracking firm to carry out tests at a village site.

As revealed by The Gazette last week, energy company Cuadrilla has applied to Lancashire County Council to keep a compound and access track on the farmland south of Grange Road, Singleton, for a further three years to allow it to carry out pressure testing and seismic monitoring.

Officers are recommending the council’s development control committee tomorrow approves the proposals, which have attracted 301 objections, including concerns the tests could spark tremors similar to those at the exploratory shale gas site at Preese Hall in 2011.

Cuadrilla first received permission to drill an exploratory borehole and carry out hydraulic fracturing at the Singleton site in April 2010 to assess potential for gas.

Although the borehole was completed, no fracturing took place after the Department for Energy and Climate Change put all such operations on hold.

The council’s planning report says the latest proposal does not include fracturing, but would involve a perforation up to two metres beyond the well casing into the rock to allow gas to flow from natural fractures into the well and help test the pressure.

In its objection, the REAF (Ribble Estuary Against Fracking) campaign group said 50 ‘seismic events’ had been recorded at Preese Hall.

Spokeswoman Shirley Powney said: “We are concerned that activation of the well is likely to produce similar problems observed during larger scale excavations with regards to the migration of gases and water into the environment.”

Resident John Ditchfield, of Pointer House Farm, Grange Road, said the ‘small’ test drill originally agreed had looked like “a NASA launchpad”.

He added: “Grange Road is near a (seismic) fault and I have no faith in what Cuadrilla calls their warning system”.

Others concerns raised included fears over noise, traffic and the impact on wildlife, and there were calls for a new Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out.

But the council’s planning report said significant vibrations caused by the tests would be “very unlikely”.

It said: “Minor amounts of vibration may be generated associated with the perforation of the well but it is highly unlikely that such vibration would be experienced at the surface.”

The report said a membrane had been laid to prevent accidental spillage entering the soil or groundwater.

It added that because the surrounding rock would not be fractured, there would be ‘no increased risk of gas migrating to and contaminating ground water’.

Surveys had not found evidence of protected great crested newts and that the noisiest works could be timed so as to avoid migrating birds.

A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “Over two-thirds of the letters were duplicate letters that appear to indicate that Cuadrilla was planning to drill a new well and hydraulically fracture on the site which is patently not correct.

“The current planning application being determined is for Cuadrilla to use the existing well to carry out seismic and pressure monitoring. The work complies with the recommendations made by the Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineering for the monitoring of background seismicity. The site would then be fully restored.

“The scope of work is very limited with no construction, drilling, fracturing or production involved.

“No Environmental Impact Assessment is required for this kind of development. The monitoring equipment will be located in the existing well site and this would have no impact whatsoever on our nearby site at Preese Hall which is near to being fully restored.”