Fylde anti-fracking campaigners fail at Court of Appeal to halt drilling

Anti-fracking campaigners at the Appeal Court , including Gayzer Frackman at the far right
Anti-fracking campaigners at the Appeal Court , including Gayzer Frackman at the far right

Campaigners have failed in their bid to halt fracking exploration at a Fylde drill site after judges threw out their appeal.

Challenges brought by the Preston New Road Action Group and Fylde environmental campaigner Gayzer Frackman, were rejected on all points by the three judges sitting at the Appeal Court in London.

Cuadrilla's drill rig at Preston New Road

Cuadrilla's drill rig at Preston New Road

It means shale gas company Cuadrilla may continue its drilling operations in the farmer’s field near Little Plumpton and, after drilling a vertical well is this weekend, is set to drill horizontally ready for actual fracking later this year.

Cuadrilla has welcomed the ruling.Chief executive Francis Egan, said: “We are very pleased that the Court of Appeal has robustly dismissed both challenges on all the grounds presented, as well as dismissing requests for further appeal.

“The same challenges were previously dismissed by the High Court in a similarly detailed judgement made in April 2017.

“We have always remained confident that the planning consent would stand, particularly after such a lengthy and thorough review of the application and positive recommendations for approval by both the professional planning officers at Lancashire County Council and subsequently an experienced planning inspector.

“As our lawful planning consent remains in place, even whilst the Court of Appeal case was heard, operations on site have continued to progress well.”

But protesters have vowed to fight on, with Gayzer Frackman saying his team will now go to the Supreme Court for permission to challenge the decision further.

He said: “The government has signed up to the Paris Agreement and so must be held accountable for supporting the fracking industry and the consequences for increased carbon emissions.

“We also hope that the precautionary principle will be properly applied, which is part of our case, because of the potentially devastating impacts of fracking on pollution and our health.”

Estelle Dehon, environmental law barrister at Cornerstone Barristers, who represented Mr Frackman, said: "There is no logic in granting permission for shale gas exploration if the production phase will emit so much carbon and methane that its environmental impact is unacceptable.”

The judges yesterday turned down the challenges which had claimed that Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has misinterpreted planning and environmental guidance when he allowed Cuadrilla to go-ahead with its exploration plans at Preston New Road.

They said the Secretary of State had made no errors under planning law and had not neglected environmental consideration of greenhouse gas effects in the exploration phase.

But they pointed out that such considerations should be taken into account if fracking moved on the full production phase.

They were called in to rule on the appeals following a defeat for the protesters at the High Court last year when they failed to persuade a judge in Manchester that the decision to grant a planning application was not fair or lawful.

The appeal was held over a two day period in September last year and the three judges deferred judgement until yesterday.