British shale exploration company Cuadrilla has suffered another setback after the Lancashire County Council’s planning officer recommended that the permission for fracking on two sites, in Preston Road and Roseacre Wood near Blackpool, be refused on the grounds of noise pollution and increased traffic.
The planning officer said likely noise levels at the Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood sites would have “significant adverse effects on health and quality of life”, while adding that at the latter site the traffic of up to 50 lorries daily to and from the site would have an unacceptable impact on road users, with “severe” reduction in safety.
However, The Daily Telegraph has noted that at Preston New Road, planners’ only objection appeared to be that a handful of nearby properties would experience night-time noise levels from drilling of 12.5 decibels (dB) above normal background levels – despite being within the limit set by Government of 42dB, similar to the hum produced by a typical fridge.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla chief executive, said 42db was comparable with “a library” and that the “surprise” decision appeared to set a tough new precedent below that. “I don’t think its good news for investment in the UK,” he said.
If the Lancashire County Council decides to refuse Cuadrilla the fracking permission it could seriously damage UK shale prospects. UK has already been criticised for proceeding at “glacial pace” with shale exploration with only 11 wells scheduled to be drilled in 2015.
Despite the government’s support for shale – along with the support from the Labour, Liberal, and UKiP parties – unconventional oil and gas exploration in Britain is a contentious issue. In Lancashire itself the Council received an open letter signed by more than 100 business leaders from across the North West in support of shale gas exploration as well as one signed by 25,000 individuals asking for the plans to be ditched.
In a statement, Cuadrilla said that it was “disappointed” by the planning officer’s recommendations but welcomed the fact that they did not oppose fracking in principle.
“We note that the Planning Officer’s report has accepted the principle of our proposals and is satisfied with all other aspects of the planning applications and in particular their conclusion that properly regulated hydraulic fracturing is ‘very low risk’” the company said, adding: “We believe that the limited grounds on which the officers have recommended refusal can be satisfactorily resolved.”
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change told The Daily Telegraph: “This is a matter for the local planning authority to determine. The Government cannot comment on a live planning application. The Government continues to support the development of the shale industry in the UK.”
The North West Energy Task Force, a coalition of more than 500 businesses and academics, called on councillors to back the applications.
Cuadrilla Resources said that: “In the end the councillors on the Development Control Committee will have to weigh the relatively minor impacts which affect only a small number of households and for which we have proposed adequate proposals for mitigation against the wider local and national, jobs, growth and economic as well as energy security opportunities.”
Prime Minister David Cameron, whose support for shale gas exploration in the UK is well known, said it was entirely right that communities made their own decisions on planning applications.
Last week, Cuadrilla Resources was granted by The Environment Agency the environmental permits for their proposed shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road, Plumpton in Lancashire. The company also awaits the EA permits for their second site in Lancashire, at Roseacre Wood, Roseacre.
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