Traffic access issues sink Fylde fracking bid

Photo Neil Cross'The Fracking meeting at County Hall in Preston

Photo Neil Cross'The Fracking meeting at County Hall in Preston

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After a day of impassioned pleas both for and against fracking, county councillors voted to reject a bid to test frack at Roseacre on the Fylde.

Councillors said a revised road access plan was not acceptable and would have too great an impact on the narrow country lanes leading to the village.

Cuadrilla had said that the maximum truck movements to the drilling site would be 25 a day at peak times, but Lancashire County Council’s Development Control Committee decided that even with an alternative route it would not be acceptable.

Coun Alan Schofield moved the application to be rejected and said: “I can’t see how it can be feasible to have more HGVs using those narrow lanes.”

Coun Marcus Johnstone said: “The Broughton junction is already incredibly congested and it is not on that more HGVs should use it.”

The associated application to construct a series of monitoring arrays to go with the drill site was granted by the committee as it was felt there was no planning grounds to refuse it that could be sustainable if the applicant appealed.

Speaking after the decision, Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said he was not surprised at either decision but was disappointed at the refusal vote.

He said: “I am not hugely surprised given that the planning officers recommended the application be refused, but we thought we had done enough to accommodate the traffic issues.

“There are already HGVs and large agricultural vehicles that use those roads so the issue appears to be about the incremental increase. I am not sure I agree with them on that but we will go away and look at the planning decision and then decide what action to take.”

Pam Foster, from Residents Action On Fylde Fracking, said: “It is a semi-victory in that they are not going to frack at Roseacre but at the same time they have permission to develop certain areas with seismic arrays.

“We fear that these will eventually lead to fracking at those sites as they will already have the boreholes.”

But County Coun Marcus Johnstone, speaking after the meeting, said Cuadrilla would not be able to frack at those sites without going through a new planning application process.

He said: “It has been a huge decision, the first of two huge decisions that this committee has to make.

“On the monitoring arrays, we are tied by planning regulations and have to follow planning law. These are not trojan horses, they cannot be fracking sites. A new application would have to be made.”

Alan Toothill, from Preston New Road Action Group, said: “We believe our legal advice – if it is allowed to be presented to the committee next Monday – will indicate a strong legal case for the committee to decide to refuse the Preston New Road application. We consider that the Council’s legal advice is fundamentally flawed.”

Friends of the Earth north west campaigner Furqan Naeem said: “This is a tremendous victory for local people and everyone across Lancashire and the UK who have been tirelessly highlighting the risks fracking poses to their quality of life and the climate.

“But the fracking threat still hangs ominously over the community near Preston New Road.”

That decision will have to be taken on Monday when the committee returns to County Hall in Preston to consider the deferred application to test frack at Preston New Road near Little Plumpton.

Earlier in the day members of the public were given their chance to say why they thought Cuadrilla’s application to drill and test frack at Roseacre and an associated application to install a series of seismic monitoring stations be rejected.

Lucy Cookson from Treales appealed to the committee to refuse the bid for other young people on the Fylde and for generations to come.

She said: “My family has worked the land here for six generations. I love it here. Up until now I have felt safe and happy here. But life has changed for us. People are worried and afraid about the threat of fracking and damage it could do to health and environment.

“These plans are terrifying.”

She said the noise, traffic flaring of gas and fumes from trucks would be unbearable and the County Council must consider the young people’s welfare and that of generations to come.

Gillian Cookson, also of Treales, said the associated application for monitoring sites must be refused as she said in the future those sites could be converted into drill sites and that they would need 900 additional vehicle movements across the Fylde.

John Hodgson said he was worried that the concerns that Lancashire’s director of public health had expressed about fracking were being side-lined. He said the doctor had listed 61 concerns and said that fracking should not go ahead when there was no health monitoring process in place.

The floor was given over to speakers in support of fracking.

Michael Roberts of Garstang said there had been too much scaremongerinng of the possible effects of fracking on health.

He said: “A leaflet handed out asserted that fracking was linked to breast cancer and to birth defects. This is pure speculation and scaremongering and shows a lack of integrity.”

Hotelier Claire Smith, chairman of Stay Blackpool said the Fylde coast could do with a new source of employment which a responsible and regulated shale gas industry could bring.

She said: “Outside of tourism Blackpool has lost 14,500 jobs in the past 10 years according to the Centre for Cities report.

“There is far less local opposition than we are led to believe. It could be a catalyst for regeneration. I believe it could bring new jobs.At least give it this industry the opportunity that the likes of BAE Systems and Springfields have had on the Fylde.”

St Annes businerman Tony Raynor said the exploration should go ahead because of the potential for employment in the future.

He said: “In rural Fylde there have been some success stories but these no way address many public sector jobs losses that have hampered the area in recent years.There is a young people’s brain drain. No-one has tried to hide the fact that the number of jobs created on the exploration well is negligible, but this is about jobs down the line.”

Onshore energy driller Arthur Parson of Wesham said he had faced a period of unemployment as an HGV technician and plumber before securing a job with Cuadrilla.

He said: “A number of people employed by Cuadrilla have gone on to work in the offshore industry. My example is typical of the sort of career that would be available if shale gas industry established in Lancashire. In understand people’s concerns, I am a local person and would not like to see anything to impact on the area, but I believe we can show that we can do the job safely.”

Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Daisy Sands said: “Today’s decision is a victory for local democracy over corporate arrogance and government meddling, and a shot across the bow of the fracking industry in Lancashire.

“Yesterday we saw local councillors paralysed by fears of a legal challenge from the frackers on a separate application. Today the people’s elected representatives found their voice again and shouted a very clear no to Cuadrilla’s plans.

“Tens of thousands of Lancashire residents will now be hoping that, emboldened by today’s decision, the councillors will ignore the enormous pressure from ministers and the fracking lobby and stop fracking at the Preston New Road site too.”