Campaigners have reacted with shock and anger over a last minute bid to postpone the hearing into a planning application to frack for gas on the Fylde.
They had been delivering presentations to Lancashire County Council’s Development Control Committee at County Hall in Preston on Friday when they heard the news energy company Cuadrilla Resources had written to the committee to ask for a deferral of the hearing.
Cuadrilla said it could offer more mitigation to reduce noise levels from the fracking process at the sites in Roseacre and near Preston New Road Little Plumpton and to reduce traffic issues at Roseacre, but it needed to go out for consultation.
But residents and anti-fracking campaigners, who believe the process of extracting gas from shale rock would damage the environment, say a deferral would not be fair.
Barbara Richardson, from the Roseacre Awareness Group, said: “We are shocked and surprised by this application.
“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 deferral would be difficult.
“We have been arguing about the appropriate noise levels for months so they should have known what the acceptable limits were. We think the hearings should go ahead as planned.”
John Hobson, from Defend Lytham, said: “Defend Lytham is not surprised to hear that Cuadrilla has requested a deferral in the determination of its 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.
“Any deferral of this meeting will be hugely inconvenient to a large number of people, including the councillors on the Development Control Committee and those who have arranged to speak to the various issues at the meeting.
“Unless Cuadrilla can come up with an altogether more convincing explanation we can see no reason why the meeting should not go ahead as originally planned.”
Tina Rothery, from Residents Action on Fylde Fracking, said: “We were in a presentation to the committee when we heard.
“It’s a huge shock and will be for the county council too.
“They have had to put all sorts of thing in place for this hearing. We have people coming from all over the country for the main meeting this week. Councillors have had to wade through a 4,000-page document already and now Cuadrilla wants to put them through all that again with these new proposals, it is not right.”
Lancashire, Friends of the Earth’s North West Campaigner Helen Rimmer said: “This is yet another example of Cuadrilla trying to circumvent the planning process and creating more uncertainty for communities by doing so. They’ve had months to get the information right and it’s outrageous to make such a last minute request.”
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 Development Control Committee, regarding our planning applications for shale gas exploration at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood, outlining additional information regarding further mitigation measures on noise and traffic concerns. The detail of this additional mitigation requires proper consultation and planning regulations clearly require this.”
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “The applicant has made a request to members of the Development Control Committee to defer its decisions on the planning applications relating to shale gas exploration at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. That request will now be given due consideration.”