UK fracking: one down, one to go

26 June 2015, News Wires – Greenpeace activists are hoping for a further vote against UK fracking after a local government rejected an application to explore for shale gas, in northern England, made by Cuadrilla Resources.

GreenpeaceThe Roseacre Wood refusal was a “victory for local democracy”, energy and climate campaigner Daisy Sands said, as before the vote, environmental activists were protesting outside the Lancashire County Council’s offices in Preston, pointing to the potentially damaging impacts on water supply and air quality.

“The people’s elected representatives found their voice again and shouted a very clear no to Cuadrilla’s plans,” she said.

Following officers’ recommendations, members of the Council’s development control committee unanimously voted to refuse the application to drill at Roseacre Wood in northern England, as it “would have an unacceptable and potentially severe impact on the road network, both in terms of traffic and the increased danger to other road users”.

However, the committee approved a separate application for the same site to enable Cuadrilla to monitor its operations, the council said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, another application made by Cuadrilla, this time to drill at the neighbouring Preston New Road site, also went before the council, but it was postponed until Monday 29 June, as a decision couldn’t be reached.

The Preston New Road, however, received a positive recommendation from planning officers earlier this month.

According to Sands, “the local councillors were paralysed by fears of a legal challenge from the frackers”.

“Tens of thousands of Lancashire residents will now be hoping that, emboldened by today’s decision, the councillors will ignore the enormous pressure from ministers and the fracking lobby and stop fracking at the Preston New Road site too,” she said.

Meanwhile, Cuadrilla said that the Roseacre Wood decision came as no surprise following the negative recommendation it received from the planning officers.

“After a year since our application was submitted, the planning officer has cited just one reason of traffic concerns for giving a negative recommendation,” it said.

“We remain confident that our original proposed route, together with the proposed road improvements and traffic management plan, was safe and suitable for the modest level of HGV journeys proposed and met all necessary guidelines.”

According to the explorer, research from independent expert environmental scientists and other engineering specialists demonstrated that shale operations “can and will be conducted safely and without damage to people’s health or their environment”, a view supported by the planning officer’s report “which only cited traffic concerns as a potential issue”.

Therefore, Cuadrilla will now take time to consider options, it said, “including our right to appeal”.

The refusal also comes as a blow to the Department of Energy & Climate Change that said earlier in the year that it “believes that it (shale gas) has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs”.

“Should the committee ultimately reject the Preston New Road application this would be very significant given the government’s support for shale development in the UK, delaying the industry still further, creating general uncertainty and potentially triggering a review of whether planning decisions for fracking operations should be centralized to Westminster,” London-based partner in the energy & technology focused law firm Baker Botts, Hamish McArdle told Upstream.

“Cuadrilla has indicated it would appeal any rejection, and the outcome for the council should such appeal be successful may be significant,” according to McArdle.

McArdle said that the council committee’s reasons for rejecting the Roseacre Wood could also prove to be “significant” for the delayed Preston New Road site, as it did not hinge on broader environmental concerns often cited by opponents of fracking.

“If so that would be potentially significant for the Preston New Road application because the planning officer’s report which supported that application did not raise objections on such broader environmental grounds,” he said.

– Upstream

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