Council's unanimous opposition to rural fracking bid

The three rural road routes proposed by Cuadrilla to service the fracking site at Roseacre Wood
The three rural road routes proposed by Cuadrilla to service the fracking site at Roseacre Wood

A traffic safety scheme for a revised bid by Cuadrilla to frack at Roseacre Wood has been rejected by Fylde council and has been recommended for refusal by experts at County Hall.

Fylde Borough Council's planning committee have voted unanimously to oppose the shale gas exploration company's move to construct a drill site near Roseacre and Wharles.

Barbara Richardson from the Roseacre Awareness Group

Barbara Richardson from the Roseacre Awareness Group

Fylde planning officers considering the application said that the plan to have trucks use three rural routes instead of one to service the site was totally unsuitable and councillors, who had all inspected the site and surrounding roads, agreed.

They are now to write to Lancashire County Council to voice opposition and are considering offering help in opposing the application at the public planning inquiry in April.

Cuadrilla hopes to drill and test frack up to four wells at the rural site.

Planning inspector Wendy McKay in 2016 recommended that the original planning application for Roseacre be turned down on traffic safety grounds but Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said he would be minded to allow fracking if a suitable traffic management plan could be devised. He then reopened the inquiry which will now start on April 10 at Blackpool Football Club.

Cuadrilla has come up with a plan to have its HGVs use three routes to the site to lessen the impact on the original preferred route which was from the A583 to the site via Clifton Lane, Station Road, Dagger Road, Salwick Road and Inskip Road and through the Ministry of Defence radio facility to reach the site.

It also proposed using a route from the A585 at Singleton to the site via the B5269 Thistleton Road, Elswick High Street and Roseacre Road.

The third route would be from the A585 to the site via B5269 Thistleton Road, Elswick High Street, Lodge Lane, Preston Road to Inskip and then Higham Side Road and through the MoD's radio to reach the application site.

Truck movements would be limited to 50 movements a day 25 in and 25 out and put in passing places and a traffic light systems where the road is too narrow to allow two HGVs to pass in opposite directions.

Treales, Roseacre and Wharles Parish Council, Kirkham Town Council and Inskip with Sowerby Parish Council, Elswick Parish Council and Greenhalgh with Thistleton Parish Council have all objected to the revised plans. Fylde and Wyre MPs Mark Menzies and Ben Wallace have both written to oppose the application.

Fylde council planning officers' report stated: "It is recommended that LCC be advised that this council considers that matters of highway safety have not been adequately addressed and that the proposed red and green routes which are along narrow country roads with tight bends and restricted forward visibility are not appropriate as an alternative or additional access to the appeal site."

It points out that "Whilst the proposal to spread HGV traffic across three alternative routes rather than relying on a single route will lessen the impact on any one route, the additional red and green routes that have been proposed would introduce additional HGV traffic onto the Thistleton junction of the A585.

"The operation of this junction is known to be of concern to Highways England. There would also be potential for conflict with other road users, including vulnerable users such as pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians and children using the routes."

Barbara Richardson from the Roseacre Awareness Group was one of several local people to speak at Fylde's planning committee and said she was delighted with Fylde Council's decision.

She said: "Thursday's meeting could not have gone better for us. We feel totally vindicated. For four years we have been saying that this site is unsuitable for a development of this nature with all the associated traffic including the largest of all HGVs.

"Roseacre is in the heart of the rural Fylde and can only be reached by miles of narrow unclassified rural lanes with blind bends, few pavements, no lighting used not only be the residents and commuters but thousands of visitors many of whom are vulnerable such as pedestrians, cyclist and riders.

"We were impressed with the FBC Councillors and would like to thank them for taking the time to listen to our concerns and travel all the routes for themselves to see the problems first-hand."

Meanwhile Lancashire County Council's Development Control Committee is due to decide on the issue on Wednesday, and planning officers have said HGVs servicing the site "would have unacceptable impacts on vulnerable road users and on highway safety in general."

A report by planning officer Jonathan Haine says that the roads are narrow with "many sharp bends with restricted visibility" and the trucks would have to pass through villages.

Residents say that the roads are regularly used by cyclists, walkers and horse riders and allowing trucks to use them would cause safety issues.

The report states: "Whilst it is considered that the revised proposals represent an improvement over those accompanying the original application, it remains the fact that the Roseacre Wood site can only be reached by using a number of unclassified roads that are unsuitable in a number of respects to accommodate large numbers of HGV movements."

It adds that mitigation measures that Cuadrilla has proposed to allow movement along the various routes would not work.

Mr Haine also said that Cuadrilla's plans for up to nine overnight convoys of trucks designed to avoid protesters who may be planning to block the drill rig going on to the site, would have a bigger impact at Roaeacre compared to the Preston New Road site where they have been allowed.

He says: “The relationship of the properties to the access routes in these villages together with the quieter ambient noise levels during the night would mean that such amenity impacts would be unacceptable.”

Members of the committee are recommended to “instruct officers to present evidence to the re-opened public inquiry which maintains the County Council’s objection to the development”.

A Cuadrilla Spokesman said: “Our expert transport consultants have concluded, and will demonstrate at the Public Inquiry in April, that the proposed routes can adequately and safely accommodate the level of traffic proposed in our application along with the existing car and lorry traffic they already safely handle.”