Britain’s Fracking Industry - What Next?

On Monday 29th June, 2015 a momentous decision was made at Lancashire County Council offices in Preston. Councillors refused the second planning application to construct four exploratory shale gas sites at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton. The impacts of this decision and the Government’s next step to balance the public’s opinion and establish a fracking industry in Britain is going to be a key area of contention within the public domain over the coming months.

Cuadrilla had submitted two planning applications for the development of temporary exploratory drilling and testing facilities associated with extraction of shale gas. The sites related to land at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood, Roseacre. Both sites are located in Fylde Borough Council and located within 7.5km of each other.

Where we stand

On 25th June 2015, following a lengthy planning and environmental assessment process, Councillors refused the shale gas development based on the grounds of significant transportation impacts at the Roseacre Wood site. Whilst the Transport Assessment submitted in support of the Environmental Statement predicted no significant impacts, the Council ruled that “it [the development] 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.”

Following this decision, the anti-fracking protesting machine upped the ante and demonstrations have been held outside the County Hall in Preston for the past week or so in relation to the Preston New Road site. Lancashire Councillors voted 9-3 to refuse with 2 abstentions. The refusal was based on significant adverse landscape and noise impacts and contrary to Development Plan Policies.

Repercussions

Following recent events the Government will need to rethink their strategy to deliver a shale gas industry and meet the energy commitments set out within their manifesto. David Cameron’s official spokeswoman said:

“We respect the planning process. The Government has been clear that we think shale has got huge potential and presents us with an opportunity to develop a new energy resource and create jobs. We will continue to look at how we can develop this industry in the UK.”

It is unclear at this moment in time whether Cuadrilla or the government will react first, however, it is likely that Cuadrilla will lodge an appeal to overturn the Council’s decision. From the Government’s perspective they may now be tasked with streamlining the fracking development programme across Britain. In the short term, Greg Clark, the Communities Secretary, has the powers to recover any appeal by Cuadrilla and take the decision himself instead of leaving it to planning inspectors; whilst in the long term the Government will need to devise a new development strategy and this may see fracking for shale gas listed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and be determined by the Planning Inspectorate for the foreseeable future.

Whatever unfolds over the coming weeks, it is clear that fracking is not going to go away with the Conservatives in power; there is going to be an ongoing battle between local residents, land owners, developers and the Government.

Following this blog we will provide a review of fracking’s impact on land and property values – watch this space.

Jamie Lynch
Graduate Environmental Planner
jamie.lynch@howplanning.com
T: 0161 831 5868

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Published: 30/06/2015


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