Cuadrilla in call for hearing deferral

A  Cuadrilla Resources rig in Lancashire  2011
A Cuadrilla Resources rig in Lancashire 2011
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The company that wants to frack for gas under the Fylde has dramatically called for a deferal of the key County COuncil hearing into its planning applications to drill at two sites.

Cuadrilla Resources has written to County Hall’s Development Control Committee, with just days to go before the potential three day hearing, in the light of the planning officers’ report which has recommended that its two bids to drill and frack at Roaseacre and Little Plumpton on he Fylde.

County Hall planning officers had said that the applications should be refused by the committee because of excess noise issues at both sites. They also said that traffic issues casued by up to 50 HGVs a day visiting the fracking site at Roseacre were also unacceptable.

Cuadrilla’s statement says: “Lessening any potential impact of our proposed operations on local residents is important to us. We have therefore written to the Chair of Lancashire County Council’s DevelopmentControl Committee (DCC), regarding our planning applications for shale gas exploration atPreston New Road and Roseacre Wood, outlining additional information regarding furthermitigation measures on noise and traffic concerns. The detail of this additional mitigationrequires proper consultation and planning regulations clearly require this. We have therefore also requested a deferral1in the determination of our planning applications to allow for this consultation to take place.

“The Planning Officer’s recommendation to refuse planning permission for the Preston New Road exploration site was on the single ground of night-time noise levels at the nearestresidential properties. For Roseacre Road the Officer recommended refusal on two grounds (i) noise and (ii) traffic. We note that the Planning Officer’s reports are satisfied with allother aspects of each of the two planning applications.Regarding our application at Preston New Road the sole reason given by Planning Officers for their negative recommendation was ‘it has not been satisfactorily demonstrated thatnight-time noise levels would be reduced to acceptable levels’.

“In our planning application, we committed to achieving a night time noise limit of 42dB atthe nearest residential property.

“During six months of consultation the Planning Officers never advised this would not be an acceptable limit. We are aware that 42dB is the limit that Lancashire - and other County Councils - have previously typically set for night-time onshore drilling operations.

“In a report sent to the DCC Chairman we have committed to the additional noise mitigation measures of a further sound barrier around the major parts of the drilling rig along with other measures such as additional shielding around individualcomponents of the drilling rig. These additional measures will reduce the night-time noiselevels at the nearest residential property to no higher than 39 dB (less than the sound of arefrigerator humming from 2m).

Night-time noise was also cited as a potential issue at Roseacre Wood and whilst we believe that our commitment to achieving a night time limit of no greater than 40dB at the nearestresidential property fully complies with National Planning Policy Framework, we have proposed additional noise mitigation measures that will now reduce the levels to no greaterthan 37dB.

“We have from the outset recognised the importance of traffic to communities local to the Roseacre Wood site. It is for this reason that we have agreed in principle with the Ministry of Defence to route all HGV traffic during operations through the RAF Inskip site, ensuring that HGV traffic does not pass through the local villages of Wharles or Roseacre during siteconstruction, drilling or fracturing operations.

“We have already shared with the planning officers extra information regarding traffic routes which we believe addresses all the newissues which have recently been raised. We remain committed to a maximum of 25 HGVs per day for the relatively short peak periods (approx. 12 weeks in aggregate over a 6 year period) with the average number of HGVs over the drilling and fracturing operational period being just 5 HGVs per day.

“We and our expert advisers believe these mitigations address all issues which have recently been raised by the officers and should be more widely discussed before the Development Control Committee determines the planning applications.

Francis Egan, Chief Executive Officer of Cuadrilla said that his company had no choice but to ask for a deferal as they had come up with new proposals to leseen the impact at both sites and these would, under UK planning law, have to go out for a consultation period of 14 to 21 days.

He said: “We have now proposed additional measures which will take it down to 39 decibels at Preston News Road and 37 decibels at Roaseacre. That is below any standard night time noise level limit. This needs to be consulted on which should take 14 to 21 days.

“We have already agreed to three requests for deferals from Lancashire County Council and we don’t think it unreasonable for them to agree to a deferral now.

“This is not some sort of smoke and mirrors act, we have already committed to real time monitoring of noise levels at eachg site and would shut down operations if they were breached. Thes new measures represent a significant investment for us.

“So this is new additional information for the planning application and under law should be consulted on. We do not know whether the council will grant a deferal.”

Barbara Richardson from the Roseacre Awareness Group said: “A deferral will throw a spanner in the works for our presentations. We have people coming from London and even France to present evidence to the hearings. People have had to take time off work and we even had a QC lined up. All the groups were geared up to go now. A deferal would be difficult.

“We are shocked and surprised by this application. We have been argueing about the appropriate noise levels for months so they should have known what the acceptible limits were. W e think the hearings should go ahead as planned.”

John Hobson from Defend Lytham said: “Defend Lytham are not surprised to hear that Cuadrilla have requested a deferral in the determination of their planning applications No doubt they are uncomfortable about LCC councillors deciding the fate of their exploration wells in a week where the former Conservative Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman has called for a moratorium on shale gas exploration, citing concerns over climate impact, and when the fracking related proposals in the Government’s hugely unpopular Infrastructure Bill will be coming under intense scrutiny.

“It is hard to understand how, having failed to satisfy the planning officers in the first instance they now expect to be allowed back for a second bite of the cherry, and we note that whilst they claim to be able to reduce the noise from their activities to a level no greater than 37dB, they appear to have had problems in Balcombe keeping to the 42 Db limit imposed by the council there, and had to stop work whilst this was investigated.