Campaigner's bid to halt fracking refused by High Court judge

Bob Dennett and Helen Chuntso, who worked on the injunction bid to prevent Cuadrilla starting fracking, pictured outside the Preston New Road site.
Bob Dennett and Helen Chuntso, who worked on the injunction bid to prevent Cuadrilla starting fracking, pictured outside the Preston New Road site.

Fylde anti-fracking campaigner Bob Dennett has failed in a High Court bid to temporarily block energy firm Cuadrilla from fracking at its site at Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton.

At a hearing in London on Friday, Mr Justice Supperstone dismissed Mr Dennett's application for an interim injunction preventing Cuadrilla from fracking the UK's first horizontal shale gas well pending his proposed legal challenge.

The Preston New Road fracking site, where Cuadrilla is now expected to start the first fracking since the tremors of 2011, following the failure of an injunction bid at the High Court

The Preston New Road fracking site, where Cuadrilla is now expected to start the first fracking since the tremors of 2011, following the failure of an injunction bid at the High Court

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It means Cuadrilla is now free to start fracking one of the two horizontal wells it has drilled deep into the Bowland Shale rock, and is planning to start on Saturday. It will be the first horizontal gas well fracked in the UK and the first fracking Cuadrilla has done since the two earth tremors in 2011 which centred at its Preese Hall site.

Mr Dennett claimed that Lancashire County Council's emergency response planning and procedures at the site were inadequate if there was to be a serious incident at the site, but the judge ruled that there was not a "serious issue" to be tried which would justify an interim order.

On Thursday, Nathalie Lieven QC, for Cuadrilla, told the judge that her client "had been intending to start fracking" on Friday, but had "put that off to Saturday" in light of the late hearing.

She added that "every day, it costs Cuadrilla £94,000 to keep all that kit and equipment on site".

Marc Willers QC, for Mr Dennett, had argued that Lancashire County Council failed "to take account of relevant material considerations" and also took account of "irrelevant matters" in its assessment of the alleged environmental and health and safety risks.

He added that a risk assessment which "underpinned the hydraulic fracturing consent" was "fundamentally flawed".

Dismissing Mr Dennett's application for an interim injunction, Mr Justice Supperstone said: "I do not consider that any of the grounds of challenge raise a serious issue to be tried."

Mr Justice Supperstone said the site's safety had been assessed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and there was "no evidence" to support Mr Dennett's argument that it should have been categorised as posing more than a "medium risk".

Dismissing the application for an interim injunction to prevent Cuadrilla fracking at the site, he added: "The claimant first has to establish that there is a serious issue to be tried.

"I am satisfied that the claimant falls at the first hurdle."

The judge also refused permission for a judicial review of Lancashire County Council's emergency planning procedures regarding the site.

He said: "I am entirely satisfied that the claim as formulated is unarguable."