Cuadrilla’s application for fracking at Roseacre Wood site was unanimously rejected by Lancashire County Council last night following three days of heated discussion and months of public anticipation.
The decision follows recommendations made last week by council officials that the Roseacre site should be rejected because lorries to and from site would have a “severe” impact on road safety. On the other hand, the officials advised that Cuadrilla should be granted planning permissions for its second site at Preston New Road.
And when it comes to this second site, discussions this week have become tense as a legal row has erupted in the midst of the highly anticipated decision on whether or not to accept Cuadrilla’s planning application to begin fracking at the Preston site. The decision was originally due on the 24th of June but has now been deferred to Monday.
On Thursday morning, the council released the details of the lengthy legal advice made to councillors ahead of the Wednesday vote on Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site. The legal advice has now raised fears that the council is being pushed to back fracking or risk exposure to expensive legal action from Cuadrilla.
The committee was told that there were no “substantial” grounds to refuse this planning application – meaning that Cuadrilla would likely appeal such a decision.
“While a refusal which is not backed by substantial objective evidence cannot be described as unlawful, it nonetheless can readily be described as unreasonable in planning terms,” the advice note reads.
It continues: “In the absence of clear evidence… there is a high risk that a costs penalty will be imposed upon the Council.”
It appears that the legal advice dismissed concerns related to impacts upon the landscape and amenities. This includes air quality, groundwater, noise, and lighting.
Preston New Road
This advice was received by the council in private, ahead of its Wednesday vote. The proposal to refuse the Preston New Road application was narrowly defeated – seven councillors voted to refuse, seven voted not to refuse, and one abstained. However, this doesn’t mean consent has been granted, as there would still need to be a positive vote for the application.
In order to digest the legal advice, the council has now deferred a decision on the application to frack at Preston New Road until Monday.
This comes after several prior delays. The decision was originally due to be given in January until councillors, citing concerns over noise and traffic, deferred the decision first to April before setting a final June date.
If, on Monday, Cuadrilla is granted planning permission at Preston New Road, this will be the first time Britain will see shale gas exploration since 2011 when operations were suspended following earth tremors in Blackpool where Cuadrilla previously drilled. However, full-scale commercial production is unlikely to take place before 2020.
Photo: Justin Woolford via Flickr