By Kyla Mandel and Ben Lucas
Shale gas developer Cuadrilla will be appealing against Lancashire County Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for its proposed exploratory drilling sites at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road.
After six months of delay, the council rejected Cuadrilla’s planning application for both sites last month. While environmental campaigners hailed this as a major victory, the threat of an appeal has been looming in the background ever since; councillors were advised at the time that their rulings would likely be subject to appeal.
Bob Dennett, one of the founders of Frack Free Lancashire, told DeSmog UK: “This is not unexpected. Personally, I expected them to take a little bit longer to announce that they were going to an appeal but they have done it. We are ready for it.”
Dennett added that the group is planning to fight against Cuadrilla’s appeal. “It’s safe to say that we have sufficient grounds to fight their appeal and we have the legal teams lined up ready to do it.”
In addition to the two drilling sites, Cuadrilla will also be appealing the council’s refusal of a separate planning application to install seismic and groundwater monitoring stations at the proposed Preston New Road exploration site. While a similar proposal for Roseacre Wood was approved by the council, Cuadrilla will be appealing “certain conditions imposed on this planning consent”.
All of this means that the Lancashire fracking saga is likely to be drawn out even longer now, as appeals for planning permission typically take about six months to be decided upon, according to the Planning Inspectorate; about a third of all appeals are successful.
The fracking company’s plans for appeal confirm many people’s fears that central government might seek to overturn a local planning decision. This is despite much talk from Chancellor George Osborne about devolving powers in the north, as well as the government stressing the importance of community views on wind power.
In June, Communities Secretary Greg Clark announced that local residents will be given the final say over whether onshore wind farm applications get the go-ahead in their area.
In the event that Cuadrilla’s appeal lands on Clark’s desk, should he decide to “call in” the appeal, questions are likely to be raised about whether this same intention to back local people “on the issues that really matter to them”, as Clark put it, will be applied to fracking.
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, said in a statement: “I understand that some people would prefer that we did not appeal but I am confident that we will demonstrate to Lancashire and the UK that shale gas exploration and fracking is not only safe but represents a very real opportunity to create jobs, fuel businesses, heat UK homes and stimulate significant local economic growth.”
He added that the company was committed to engaging with local communities to reassure them that fracking could be undertaken safely.
However, Furqan Naeem, Friends of the Earth’s North West campaigner, argued: “An appeal will put further pressure on residents who have been fighting to keep their community free from this filthy industry for four years now. Cuadrilla bullied their way into a second change to make the case for fracking in January, they don’t need a third.”
He continued: “David Cameron must stick to his commitment that fracking decisions belong with local councils and not allow Lancashire’s decisions to be overturned.”
Photo: Justin Woolford via Flickr