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PNR Presentation Day, 18th June
majority of the members of the Lancashire County Council Development Control
Committee attended this closed (i.e. not open to the general public) session
which included six half-hour presentations by local groups, plus expert
witnesses and lawyers speaking on their behalf. The afternoon ended with a
presentation by Cuadrilla.
morning opened with a short video introduced by Pat Davies. The video gave a view of the area and community under
threat from fracking, contrasting the current farmland vista with the impact of
a drilling rig, and demonstrating to the councillors that the community
included many ageing people, as well as children who could have their whole
childhood impacted by fracking.
continued with some detail, describing the area as some of the best quality farmland
in the West of England, with farms, little villages and pockets of houses. She mentioned
the number, age profile and vulnerability of residents living nearby, the fact
that there is a primary school 3/4 of a mile downwind of the site, and the fact
that she herself, with a serious illness that might be exacerbated by
pollution, lives only 230 metres from the planned site. There are 328 residents
at Carr Bridge park, within 900m of the site, the youngest is 65 the oldest
over 90. There are over 4,000 residents within a two mile radius of the site.
1400 new homes are planned within this distance in a new development at Whyndyke
Farm, which has been described as a new mini-town.
councillors that the council’s Director of Public Health had produced a lengthy
report on potential health impacts of the development and had listed over 60
recommendations, many of which had not been met.
moment was when Pat showed a slide illustrating the size of the walls that Cuadrilla
need, varying from 4 metres on the site perimeter to 10 or 14 metres around
noisy equipment, and contrasted that with the size of the wall separating
Israel from Gaza.
talked about employment in the area, mentioning in particular the thriving
business at Ribby Hall which could come under threat from fracking, with risk
to many jobs and local suppliers. Whilst appreciating that the committee would
have difficulty in taking reduction of home values into account, she quoted a
specific example of a property which was valued in 2012 at £725,000, and now
was valued under £200,000.
second presentation was from Mike Stigwood of MAS Environmental, who
had done a thorough review of the potential noise impact of the application,
and the mitigation measures proposed by Cuadrilla which now, after LCC officers
recommended refusal on noise grounds in January, appeared acceptable to the
Stigwood described his qualifications. He spent nearly twenty years as a local
government environmental health officer, and for the last twenty years has
worked in consultancy with particular focus on noise issues. He runs courses
for environmental health officers, has particular expertise in enforcement of
planning conditions, and has frequently acted as an expert witness and was
prominent in a 2014 Supreme Court case judgement.
proceeded to surprise us by launching a strong attack on the officer report, in
particular the noise conditions, which he described as inadequate and
unenforceable. They are full of loopholes and could be undermined very easily.
In his view if the committee agreed these conditions this issue alone would
justify the launch of a judicial review.
described a number of defects in the consultant report that LCC are relying on.
technical in nature, his presentation included some easily-understood points.
For example the fact in his view that no difference had been drawn between what
he described as “Benign” noise, and “Psych-acoustic” noise. Benign noise is of
a type which becomes accepted by the brain, and the irritation factor is
switched off. Non-benign noise is of a type which the brain does not learn to
accept, and this is potentially damaging. Mr Stigwood claimed the officers had
misrepresented World Health Organisation guidelines, and he spent some time
explaining why, and how British Standards should be applied. He criticised the
acoustic wall for failing to block low-frequency noise, potentially more
harmful than higher frequency noise. He made the point that any limit was not a
target to be achieved but a maximum value. He compared this with road speed
limit. The limit does not mean it is acceptable to drive at the maximum speed at
all times. It is a maximum, and the actual speed must vary often well below
that maximum, depending on conditions. Another point made by Mr Stigwood was
that arrangements for noise monitoring were quite inadequate, consisting of a
single monitoring point only, and that in the wrong position due to prevailing
presentation was given by Dr Ashley
Bowes, a barrister with Guildford Chambers who has expertise and experience
in planning and community matters. He stated quite clearly in his opening
remarks that in his view the application merited a refusal on two principal
grounds. Firstly the noise impact, which he agreed with Mike Stigwood was
unacceptable and contrary to local and development plan policies EP27 and DM2,
and that conditions were unenforceable.
Dr Bowes also recommended refusal on visual and landscape grounds, citing plan
policies DM2, EP11 and SP2. He referred to the officer acceptance that the
development was not in keeping with the landscape area. He pointed out the
intrusion of a rig 35m high, 15m storage silos, 10m high flares, fencing and
lighting. All these intrusive effects exacerbated by removal of 35m of
hedgerow, plus a further 100m of hedgerow to be reduced in height. It was
admitted that there would be an unavoidable landscape impact. The applicant was
wrong to assert the construction of a 4m high wall would help. Lighting would
be intrusive for 5 months for the first well and 3 months for each subsequent.
The sky glare for up to a total period of 19 months would add to the landscape
left the councillors with the thought that this was a value judgement to make,
whether the undeniable impacts were acceptable.
David Smythe, emeritus professor of Glasgow
University, opened the fourth presentation. He started with a strong criticism
of the officer report, which said
"Comments that the geology of
Lancashire is not suitable for fracking have been provided by a professor who
retired 18 years ago and is now living in France running a B&B.
Evidence in the US and UK is to the contrary."
Prof Smythe called
these comments not only prejudicial to his evidence, but wrong. Since leaving
university employment he had spent over ten years in consultancy for the oil
and gas industry, followed by two years
work on the suitability of the geology of West Cumbria for nuclear waste
disposal, and more recently studying the suitability of the Fylde and Weald
geology for fracking.
Smythe presented a series of slides demonstrating the differences between the
Fylde geology and the geology of fracking regions in the US. Essentially the
message was that the US geology is built of a series of layers which are
uniform and extensive. In the Fylde the layering was very disjointed by
extensive faulting. The faulting of the Fylde was something like 500 times more
than in US fracking areas. This meant firstly that the Manchester Marl was not
a uniform barrier at all to migration of fracking fluids as had been suggested.
Secondly the faults themselves formed migration channels for fluids, and a
recent study in the US had proved conclusively that in the US fluids had
migrated horizontally along faults to pollute groundwater sources a couple of
kilometers from a fracking well.
point Prof Smythe made was that the freshness or salinity of the Sherwood
Sandstone in the Fylde area is inadequately known. There is insufficient data,
and the conclusion that the Sherwood aquifer locally is highly saline is likely
to be wrong. The high levels of salinity were found in Manchester Marl, not the
Sherwood Sandstone. At two wells in the area the use to which water was put, at
a dairy and at a farm, suggested the water was in fact fresh.
Prof Smythe demonstrated why he thought the existing mappings of the geology
and faulting were mutually inconsistent. His interpretation of the likely fault
triggered by Cuadrilla’s fracking at Preese Hall indicated to him that
Cuadrilla’s information was wrong and in his view they had mistracked a fault
in their mapping and it was this fault which had in Prof Smythe’s view
intersected the area of the PH1 well, resulting in its deformed casing.
Prof Smythe went further in describing Cuadrilla as technically incompetent,
not only as evidenced in the Fylde but at Balcombe.
on from Professor Smythe we heard another local voice. Robert Sanderson is a Fylde farmer, the Chair of the local branch
of the British Dairy Farmers. He described himself as a third-generation
farmer, and over those three generations his family had built a dairy and beef
herd which had achieved national acclaim. The herd of 150 cattle ran on 400
acres. The milk production provided sufficient milk for 4,500 homes, two litres
per day. Robert has six full-time and further part-time employees. They have
won many prizes for herd management, and in fact sold their cattle to Canada
and other parts of the world.
A dairy farmer depends on the integrity of the soil, clean water and good air.
Robert cited an example from Pennsylvania of 140 cattle being exposed to fracking
pollution. 70 died and of the rest they produced only 11 calves of which only 3
Robert is not only concerned about potential soil, water and air pollution. Noise
and light pollution could also have a negative effect on his herd. Robert stressed
that a happy cow is a healthy cow, and a healthy cow is a productive cow, and
economic cow. The value of his land and stock is of paramount importance. If
these are affected then he can not borrow money to survive. There is no
compensation scheme for farmer losses due to fracking. And there are 171
farmers in the Blackpool and Fylde region. They are not hobby farmers. Fylde is
one of the richest productive areas in the UK, and farming is the backbone of
Dr Paul Kelly, the director of Medact, spoke
next. Medact is a UK organisation of health professionals active in raising
awareness and speaking out on health issues, a registered charity, it has over
a thousand members, health professionals with a wide range of experience and
Dr Kelly’s presentation highlighted the concerns raised in a recent Medact
report on the potential health issues of fracking. In December 2014 Medact
wrote to LCC expressing the view that the council should not grant permission
for the application. This view was strengthened in light of ever-emerging new
evidence on health risks.
Medact believes that fracking poses significant risks to the health and
well-being of local residents and the wider general population, questions any
belief in fracking providing a clean energy solution, and also questions
whether any sustainable economic benefits would accrue to the local population.
view is that the government-inspired PHE (Public Health England) report
produced in 2014 is inadequate, incomplete and out-of-date. It furthermore
arrived at an erroneous and unsubstantiated conclusion based even on its
limited scope. LCC’s own health impact assessment is also limited in scope and
fails adequately to address uncertainties in health impacts of fracking.
is an inherently risky activity and the precise level of risk is not known.
Despite the level of uncertainty there is a mounting body of evidence from the
US that suggests exposure to toxins such as benzene, emissions of particulate
matter and the generation of smog (in particular) is a substantial and serious
health issue. A growing body of data shows that fracking will also impact
negatively on human health through the effects of noise pollution, heavy
traffic, spoilage of the natural environment, and social and economic
disruption. The predicted levels of future fracking demand a full health impact
assessment. The merits of exploration can only be assessed if the safety of
industrial-level fracking is examined.
these considerations provide sufficient reason for the application to be
refused, Medact believe there is weak regulation, regulatory bodies are increasingly
poorly resourced, there is little experience of an onshore industry, lack of an
appropriate monitoring framework, poor industry compliance and potential
conflicts of interests within the planning regime. In short, there is
inadequate safeguard in place.
Medact have also examined the role of fracking in relation to climate change
and found no substantiation for claims that fracking can provide a cleaner - or
cheaper - source of energy.
prudent course is for LCC to refuse the application.
Dr Kelvin Mason objected on grounds of no assessment
made of human rights impact. Dr Mason is a member of the Human Rights Consortium, Extreme Energy Initiative, School
of Advance Studies, University of London. He referred to the Human Rights
Assessment which was made on fracking and commissioned by the Bianca Jagger
Human Rights Foundation.
referred to a report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in
2011 which described environmental damage caused by fracking as a new threat to
human rights. He drew the committee’s attention to their clear legal duty to
properly consider human rights in its decision-making process. This should
include best-available evidence including data from health professionals and
Regarding health, Dr Mason pointed out that over ninety new reports on health
and fracking had emerged since those considered by the PHE review of June 2014,
and many of which were considered by the recent New York State report and the
He made the point that the way fracking is experienced by people is as an
industrialisation of their locality, together with traffic, pollution and
environmental degradation, and although fracking can be made “safer” it can
never be made “safe”.
emerging from the US and Australia documents a wide range of social adverse
impacts. Dr Mason quoted a Texas study which concluded the benefits of fracking
were outweighed by adverse impacts, on public health and safety, environment
and quality of life.
The conclusion is that the breadth and nature of documented harms in the US
means they can not dismissed as unlikely in the UK due to the regulatory
regime, which itself is subject of much concern. A full impact evaluation must
not be limited to technical matters, and the public must be involved in and
informed by a full impact assessment. Until that is produced fracking should
not go ahead.
Dehon is a barrister instructed by Friends of the Earth.
outlined a number of areas she believed were problematic in the officer report.
Firstly it did not address in any way the cumulative effect of different
objections. She stressed that to be lawful planning decisions have to meet a
number of criteria. In her view the fact that the officers felt it necessary to
impose 48 conditions, of which 46 were necessary to render in their opinion the
proposal acceptable under the main relevant planning policy DM2, graphically
illustrated how the application was indeed in conflict with DM2.
made some significant points about the conditions. In her view many were
unenforceable. Secondly the applicant Cuadrilla had a poor track record of
keeping to conditions. Both in Lancashire - where Cuadrilla breached conditions
at Becconsale imposed to safeguard wildlife, and in Balcombe. In Balcombe West
Sussex County Council had confirmed that Cuadrilla breached a number of
conditions of planning permission Ms Dehon asserted that knowledge of previous
breaches is a relevant issue. Not only will public confidence be affected, but
if the authority is aware that conditions may not be complied with this must be
taken into account in coming to a decision. Just one example served to clearly
show this. There were no facilities to properly monitor noise, and Ms Dehon
queried whether in fact the noise conditions as they stood were even legal.
Session 7 Cuadrilla
Egan reminded the committee this was a small application, just to drill four
deep slender holes , injecting one non-toxic chemical. The application was
small in scope and scale. To drill and frack would take only 24 months.
be highly-regulated and intensely monitored, the most scrutinised exploration
in the world. Egan listed a large number of factors that would be monitored.
the committee should approve the application because of the current reliance on
imports and the commercial benefits including jobs. He said it can and will be
carried out environmentally safely.
Mark Smith of Arup spent most of his few minutes telling us about how much
money had been spent on publicity and public engagement.
Sloan, an engineer, was hardly comprehensible as he spoke with a thick accent.
What he was saying was largely misleading, his main deceptions were that well
monitoring would be independent, and telling the committee that the model of a
well he showed them was the same design as had been used without problems in
the past in the UK.
Egan finally wrapped up suggesting to the committee what they had heard from previous
presenters was untrue.
Frankly, this was a totally unimpressive performance, but of course we don’t
know how the committee saw this.
The Presentation Video