Lancashire fracking site could get approvals next week

| Global Environmental Processes

Lancashire County Council is sitting next week to consider approvals for a shale gas fracking site on the Fylde Coast.

In a statement released by Lancashire County Council this week, approval has been recommended for energy company Cuadrilla to carry out shale gas exporation activities, including hydraulically fracturing (or fracking), near Little Plumpton not far from Blackpool on the Fylde Coast.

Fracking at Little Plumpton

According to Lancashire County Council, the recommendation is subject to a number of 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.

Monitoring arrays designed to monitor seismic movement and water quality proposals have also been recommended for approval.

Reacting to the recommendation for approval at Little Plumpton, a Cuadrilla spokesman stated, “We are pleased that Lancashire County Council’s Planning Officers have recommended that the Councils’ Development Control Committee grant planning consent for our application.  In January 2015, Officers recommended refusal at Little Plumpton only on grounds of night-time noise and we duly submitted additional information on mitigation measures, which was publicly consulted on, to further bring down noise levels well below limits set out in government guidance.”

Roseacre Wood Site application

A second application for exploration at the nearby Roseacre Wood site has been recommended for refusal. Refusing Cuadrilla’s application to open this fracking site was based on the fact 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.

Cuadrilla expressed its disappointment in the application’s refusal recommendation as the company had performed work to resolve the issues surrounding traffic at the site. Cuadrilla’s spokseman continued, “For our application at Roseacre Wood we supplied additional information regarding traffic routes which we and our expert advisers believe addressed issues which were raised in the Officer’s report in January. Whilst we remain confident that our original proposed route was adequate, the alternative route suggested also met with all necessary guidelines in our view.”

Addressing fracking objections

The prospect of having an approved fracking site on the Fylde Coast is receiving mixed reactions amongst local communities and within the popular press with most objections centering around the fracking process itself rather than matters of impacts on traffic. Clarifying the environmental impact issues and other areas that need clarifying is a job for energy companies and technology experts, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Commenting on the applications for Fylde Coast fracking, Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the IMechE told us: “The sites, if approved, will be closely monitored by both the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive to ensure environmental impact assessments are carried out and appropriate well depth and integrity is maintained.

“The fact that thousands of objections have been lodged about the plans shows that there is a lot more work that needs to be done by engineering institutions, oil and gas companies and experts in the subject to convince the public that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of rock for shale gas extraction is safe. If local authorities and communities are to make informed decisions on whether to allow fracking to take place in their locality they need to understand all the issues and have an opportunity to discuss them sensibly.”

The applications relating to the Little Plumpton site are scheduled to be decided at meetings to take place on Tuesday 23 June and Wednesday 24 June 2015. The applications relating to the Roseacre Wood site are scheduled to be decided at meetings to take place on Thursday 25 June and Friday 26 June 2015.

Jonathan Newell
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