Fracking decision ‘not lawful’, campaigners tell court

An anti-fracking rally at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton
An anti-fracking rally at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton
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A Government decision to grant permission for a fracking site was not fair or lawful, campaigners have claimed at a High Court hearing.

The Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) and campaigner Gayzer Frackman are both seeking to challenge the Government’s decision to approve a planning application for the site in Fylde.

The High Court hearing at Manchester Civil Justice Centre on Wednesday was told the planning application, by developer Cuadrilla, was refused by Lancashire County Council in 2015 but later granted following an appeal and planning inquiry.

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

David Wolfe QC, on behalf of PNRAG, said the action group was “wrong footed” because the planning inspector’s decision to approve the site was based on an argument made after their closing submissions at the planning inquiry, when the group’s advocate was not present.

He said the inspector’s decision that the site would not have a significant impact on the landscape because it was only granted permission for a temporary period was not lawful and breached the council’s development plan.

Marc Willers QC, on behalf of Mr Frackman, said the site would lead to a “considerable quantity of greenhouse gas emissions”.

He said the gas produced at the fracking site would go directly to homes and industry.

He said: “There will be no assessment of these greenhouse gas emissions arising from the gas being pumped through the gas grid to homes and industry.”

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and developer Cuadrilla are represented at the hearing, before Mr Justice Dove, but the court was told Lancashire County Council was not taking part in the proceedings.

Anti-fracking protesters gathered outside Manchester Civil Justice Centre ahead of the hearing, which is expected to last three days.

Speaking before the case began, a spokesman for PNRAG said: “Democracy died in Lancashire after last October’s decision. We hope it can be resurrected by the High Court in Manchester finding this decision to allow fracking unlawful and one which must be revoked immediately.”

Rowan Smith, of law firm Leigh Day, representing the group, said: “Our clients believe that the Government has made significant legal errors in overturning the Council’s refusal of planning permission to allow fracking on the site.”

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