UK council recommends approval for one out of two Cuadrilla’s permits

Fracking protest in UK
Source: Wikicommons

Shale gas exploration should be allowed at one of two sites on the Fylde coast in Lancashire, UK, according to Lancashire County Council’s most senior planning officer. The officer – responding to an application by energy firm Cuadrilla, which wants to have up to 100 production sites across Lancashire, covering a net area of 2sq km – recommended one site, in Little Plumpton, for approval, while recommending another, in Roseacre Wood, for refusal.

Lancashire county councillors will have the final say next week but The Financial Times suspects that they are likely to agree with their officers. It has to be noted, however, that the permissions are for test fracking only and if Cuadrilla intends to undertake commercial fracking it would require a separate application.

According to the recommendation, drilling at Little Plumpton should be allowed “subject to conditions controlling time limits, working programme, restriction on permitted development rights, highway matters, soil management, hours of working, safeguarding of water courses, control of noise, dust, lighting, security, ecology, archaeology, landscaping, restoration and aftercare.”

The Roseacre Wood licence was refused as the location is more rural, and therefore further from main roads, and the planning officers were concerned that: “it would generate an increase in traffic, particularly HGV movements, that would result in an unacceptable impact on the rural highway network and on existing road users, particularly vulnerable road users and a reduction in overall highway safety that would be severe.”

The report concluded: “It is therefore concluded that the proposal complies with national guidance regarding the exploration and appraisal for shale gas.

“Whilst there would be some negative impacts, most particularly for those living in closest proximity to the site, they would be for a temporary period and could be made acceptable by planning condition.

“There is no evidence to demonstrate that the proposal would have a negative impact on tourism, culture, socio-economic factors, agriculture or local employment opportunities.

“The proposal would bring benefits by establishing the presence and viability of exploiting an indigenous resource which could contribute to the national energy needs of maintaining a diverse energy supply and would bring some local benefits to the area in terms of employment and contributions to the local economy.”

In response to the recommendation Cuadrilla said in a statement that they are pleased that the planning officers thought that the drilling at Preston New Road should go ahead, but noted that at Roseacre Wood they supplied information regarding alternative traffic routes which should address the issues raised by the Council.

“Whilst we remain confident that our original proposed route was adequate, the alternative route suggested also met with all necessary guidelines in our view,” the statement read. “We are disappointed that Officer’s do not support this in their negative recommendation today, however we are pleased to note that as with Preston New Road, they are satisfied with all other aspects of the Roseacre Wood planning applications.”

Friends of the Earth’s north-west campaigner Furqan Naeem said: “We are disappointed that planning officers have not recognised the unacceptable impact that Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at Preston New Road would have on local people, climate change and the environment. The council must now listen to the tens of thousands of people who have objected to fracking at both sites … and reject both of Cuadrilla’s proposals to frack.”

Speaking to the BBC, Tina Rothery anti-fracking campaigner with Frack Free Lancashire said she was “concerned” but it was “not a done deal” yet.

“Councillors still have a lot of people to listen to including presentations from residents who are opposing fracking before a final decision is made,” she said.

The Councillors’ decisions on both of the Cuadrilla applications is expected to be delivered at the end of June.

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