Fylde's Fracking Marathon
This is a very long counterbalance.
That's because this meeting of Fylde's Development Management Committee addressed probably the most important planning issue there has ever been in Fylde Council's history
So we're taking the time to report it in detail, partly for those who could not attend on the day (s), and partly for posterity.
We suspect that, in the future, people will want to revisit what was discussed and said at this meeting.
We did consider breaking it down into separate reports on each planning application, but keeping it whole keeps the flow of the meetings easier to follow. Sadly, it also makes it very long.
We have put links to each Application to help you find your way to it if you want to read it on separate occasions
Also, if you find the chosen counterbalance format and colour difficult to cope with in a very long article, remember that you can click the 'text/printout' link at the top of the page to open a new window with full-width lines and black text on a
white background and where you can alter the size of the text for your own comfort.
Our Newsflash to subscribing readers said the Development Management Committee meeting of 17th September (to respond to LCC's invitation to comment on the fracking applications) had turned into a pantomime. We thought it had all the elements.
We were subsequently challenged by a Member to say which pantomime we would name it.
We considered 'Jack and the Beanstalk' where a simple farmer narrowly escapes being devoured by a giant.
We also wondered about Robin Hood, but taking from the rich to give to the poor seemed the wrong way round for what was going on here.
It certainly couldn't be 'Sleeping Beauty' but Alice in Wonderland seemed to come close (and is a favourite saying of Cllr Fiddler in respect of the planning system),
But in the end we thought it was most like 'Treasure Island'
That's because it has plans for 200 or so 'island sites' to range throughout Fylde, producing treasure for the nation (and the fracking companies), whilst delivering a degraded lifestyle and, quite possibly, poor health for the people who live here.
But the reality of the meeting was even worse than a pantomime.
It has been nothing short of a momentous shambles.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for Fylde, it did.
With each meeting that passes in its recent history, Fylde seems able to surpass itself for shambolic conduct of meetings.
Unfortunately, the meeting wasn't filmed for a webcast. If it had been, it would easily have won a BAFTA as for being so awful.
This meeting had it all.
- Banners held up in the public gallery.
- Arguments between the Chairman and the Public Gallery to the extent that he lost control of his meeting and had to adjourn it to allow tempers to cool.
- A Public Gallery that was frustrated and angry.
- A Chairman
who adjourned the meeting and came down from the chair to the floor where he used the Public Platform's microphone to lecture everyone present.
- The EU's shale Gas Expert was unceremoniously asked to leave the meeting.
- Officers were apparently unable
to agree with each other and seeming to argue amongst themselves about procedure.
- There were arguments about Cllr Threlfall's chairmanship of the Task and Finish Group, his Disclosable Pecuniary Interests, and Mike Hill's 'sacking' from the Shale Gas
- Common sense was thrown out of the window in buckets.
- Different decisions were made about virtually the same application on different sites when the decisions were nothing to do with the location.
The last time we had such hiatus at Fylde was the meeting to close the swimming pools back in March 2008.
It seemed to us that at this Development Management Committee meeting, the planning officers wanted to get their recommendations approved whatever happened.
It also seemed to us that most, though notably not all - of the Conservative Councillors all co-incidentally saw things the same way, and were voting in the same way, whilst Independent councillors had other ideas.
And the public gallery was insistent on their being no support for fracking at all.
It was always going to be a difficult meeting.
But in reality, it became a disaster of a meeting, which turned from pantomime, to farce, to an absolute shambles.
It was probably the most important Development Management Committee meeting in Fylde's history as well.
So what happened?
Well, mostly what we saw was 100 people who were hugely frustrated - and some very angry - that their views and concerns had not been embraced more enthusiastically in the hearts and minds of both the officers and the Conservative members of the
On the other hand, the public gallery held - and spoke from - the perspective that fracking should not proceed per-se.
They were mostly not prepared to consider it from a planning perspective.
Even some of the councillors spoke from an anti-fracking perspective, when in reality the debate should have been more about the specific planning applications before the Committee, not the principle of fracking.
Cllr Aitken might be a nice man, and we mean nothing personal toward him when we say his Chairing of this meeting was simply awful. He was far too dismissive and combative in his tone with the public, and he antagonised people unnecessarily. We
wondered at one point if he was doing it intentionally to provoke disorder that would result in the exclusion of the public.
In contrast, we saw a masterclass in how to disagree with people whilst, at the same time, not getting their backs up, from Cllr Redcliffe.
We didn't altogether agree with what Cllr Redcliffe said, but his manner of disagreeing with what appeared to be the majority view, was exemplary.
So, having whetted your appetite dear reader, prepare for the long haul that is this article.
By five to ten, just before the meeting started, there were less people present in Lowther Pavilion than we had expected to see there.
We thought that was probably because it was a Wednesday daytime meeting (which DMC meetings usually are) and most folk were at work.
We made it about 100 or so in the public gallery.
It was respectable, but not heaving, as we had seen in the debates to sell a quarter of Ashton Gardens to
Safeway, and the Lytham Quays meeting.
We saw lots of faces we knew from local groups.
And just on that, we were especially pleased to see Edward Cook from Defend Lytham who was seriously injured whilst cycling on holiday, but who is obviously on the mend. We hope he is soon fully recovered.
Interestingly, we noted that Cllr Fiddler (who is a member of DMC) was not present at the meeting. Readers will remember he declared a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest at the last Full Council meeting, in respect of a payment made to him in 2012 by
Cuadrilla for the use of some of his land.
Whether he was absent because of declaring that interest, or whether it was some other reason, such as the bad health that has plagued him recently, we don't know.
The Chairman (Cllr Ben Aitken) said there were 45 members of the public listed to speak. We pretty much think that's a record for Fylde.
He also reminded councillors that they were there to make what he called "sensible planning recommendations" on what they should say to Lancashire County Council.
His tone was sharp and, we thought, a bit dismissive of those wishing to speak against the applications.
He had the air of a man whose mind was already made up, and the meeting he was chairing was an irritation. We're not saying that *was* the case, only that it felt like it.
Personal interests were declared by The Chairman as a member of Fylde Rugby Club, Cllr Heather Speak, and Cllr Pounder.
ITEM 1 GRANGE ROAD, SINGLETON
The first item was about Cuadrilla's Grange Road site, and it sought to retain the site and extend and modify the planning permission for a further three years to undertake monitoring
The Public Platform is technically not part of the meeting so it comes before the meeting or the item starts.
We can't do all 45 speakers, so we're going to pick out the ones that made an impression on us
But first, we need to step aside for a moment to explain something.
The Public Platform limits speakers to three minutes, and it was probably originally intended to allow Mr and Mrs Public to say how awful Mr Next-Door's extension was going to look, and the Committee shouldn't give permission for it.
But what the Public Platform is becoming, is something quite different.
Where there is large scale objection to some proposal, such as a large housing development or something like fracking, it produces an opposition group who use the extensive talents available in the community, and who divide up the various aspects of
the application and research them in great depth.
This produces a whole series of very narrowly focused, often self taught (though sometimes pro-bono professional), independent 'expert witnesses' whose depth of knowledge in relation to the narrow field they have researched is greater than any to
which Fylde's officers or members could even aspire.
Collectively the Public Platform, when used effectively, simply swamps the technical knowledge of both officers and members.
This was painfully obvious at the meeting.
example, one lady had a 4,000 page Cuadrilla document index-tabbed and cross-referenced to her presentation.
There's no way any of Fylde's councillors would have had the time to even read 4,000 pages in respect of one application, let alone analyse and digest it as she had done in order to prepare counter arguments.
Clearly this knowledge imbalance is uncomfortable for members and officers.
We suspect they cannot admit to knowing less (otherwise logic dictates that the public should be taking the decisions), so it leads to situations where the great weight of evidence presented by the public is.... - we don't want to say 'disregarded'
because that implies intention, and for the most part it appears to us to be not intentional - we see it as much more a sub-conscious reaction than a decision - so perhaps 'switched off' would be a better term.
This 'switching off' leads to the public participants being wholly unable to understand why officers and councillors don't seem to
understand the matter as well as they do (which in fact, is actually an unreasonable expectation on their part), and
it induces frustration amongst the public that officers and the elected representatives are not properly responding to the evidence they have supplied.
Quite how you solve this, we don't know, but we think it was the underlying cause of much of what happened at the meeting.
Either that, or it was a conflict between an unspoken national agenda on the part of Conservative members that was in conflict with the local agenda of the public speakers.
The first public speaker (on item 1, the Singleton Time Extension) was a Mr Harrison who said there was no clear reason given to extend the timescale other than to do pressure testing that would defer restoration of the site. He
wondered whether the
applicant was unable to complete the restoration of the site, or whether they didn't want to because there were other issues perhaps to do with seismic activity, or whether they want to keep the site for future drilling and fracking. He argued it was
a temporary site and the extension should be refused.
Another speaker highlighted the importance of the European specially protected bird species that, he said, has not properly been taken into account. he went into detail on the numbers and types of birds affected.
There was a lady from Singleton who we thought spoke very well. She said the application didn't have enough information to allow a full assessment of the processes involved. Although they said there would be no fluids involved, it did involve drilling
and small charges to perforate the casing which involved blasting 3mm holes through the metal casing.
She was specially concerned (as are we) about what are called 'drilling muds' (the ground up rock which has been there since the shale was formed), and drill lubricant which come back to the surface during drilling, but which our dear Environment Agency says is 'out of scope' as far as they are concerned
(despite them having a lot of say about how the fracking fluid (which has only been in the
shale for - comparatively - ten minutes ) was monitored and treated).
She asked how could the Council trust Cuadrilla when they had got equipment stuck at Annas Road and made serious errors of judgement at Preese Hall which led to the
seismic activity. She was also worried (as are we) about fractures travelling
vertically through the shale and connecting with natural fractures that could connect the fracking with rock that is much closer to the surface.
There was much applause after she spoke, as there was for many of the speakers during the day. We saw several sustained,
and what can only be called 'standing ovations' accorded to speakers.
Another lady said the DM Committee has recently refused an application for two detached dwellings on Singleton Road, and the refusal was upheld at appeal because "the site is in open countryside with an open and spacious appearance which forms part of
distant views across the countryside to the north east and beyond." She said this was also an accurate description of the Grange Road site except the views there were all around. She said Singleton wash a designated conservation area and this helped
to preserve Singleton's unique nature and character. Planning policies of FBC and LCC are designed to protect this.
She challenged the term "temporary" which she said was granted in March 2010 for 18 months which had seen two further applications for time extensions and no current planning permission, and said this application
sought to retain the site for a further
3 years for a different and intrusive method of data collection. She believed that the applicant was manipulating the planning system in order to retain the site. She argued that seven years for a temporary permission was unjustified, she spoke of her
experiences as a resident who had been disturbed by the site since it was installed and urged the committee to recommend refusal. We thought she spoke very well and argued virtually the whole of her 3 minutes on planning policy.
Next was our friend Helen Rimmer the local representative of Friends of the Earth. We first heard this lady at one of the early meetings where we thought she was very much on the button - more than anyone else we had heard speak at that time. She's
very good, even if her delivery style is less 'punchy' than some, and might not have the same 'impact'. But we have found what she says is always worth listening to.
FoE have also recently produced a
very good paper about Planning and unconventional gas
In respect of this application she said no Environmental Impact Assessment had been carried out for this development despite a
decision by Lancashire County Council that this site constitutes EIA development (it needs one). She argued that without an
EIA, the full impact - and any mitigation required - could not properly be understood and taken into account in the decision. She also referred to the special protected area for birds and said the applicant had not done the necessary winter studies on
internationally important bird populations.
She also said there was insufficient information on the processes to be undertaken during the extension to enable proper decisions to be made about it - including in one place a mention of gas flaring. She argued 8 years (from an original
permission of 18
months) was not temporary and was setting a bad precedent for the future. She urged councillors to object on the grounds that there was insufficient information, risks to groundwater, inconsistency with the time limited original permission,
inconsistency with Fylde's Local Plan.
Next was a lady from Freckleton, followed by local expert Mike Hill who used to be an official advisor to FBC's Shale gas Task and finish Group, but whose role as Fylde's Shale Gas Adviser was discontinued when Fylde's Scrutiny Committee
independent Councillor Kiran Mulholland), lost responsibility for investigating shale gas, and it became a monitoring role which was transferred to the Shale Gas Working Group chaired by Conservative Cabinet Portfolio Holder Tommy Threlfall.
We recall Fylde putting out a very unusual statement around September 2012 coinciding with this changeover.
We detailed it in 'Snippets September 2012'
under the sub-heading Shale Gas Adviser. Readers might want to refresh their minds about what happened then in the light of more recent events.
Mr Hill introduced himself to this meeting and declared his interest as being employed within the oil and gas industry. He also said he had been recommended to advise the Development Management Committee that he was an EU Expert Adviser on shale gas.
He said high volume hydraulic fracturing was new, it was not an established technology, and only one site in the UK (Preese Hall) had been subject to this treatment. He said the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) agreed with him on that.
He said Preese Hall was fracked to Stage Five and caused two earthquakes and, as a result, the site was shut down.
He argued that because the regulations we have in place were not prepared for the higher pressures Cuadrilla planned to use, there were no specific regulations in place, nor were existing regulations sufficient to deal with well abandonment either. He
argued that a bond was needed for well abandonment because there was evidence of companies in the US passing ownership of liability to subsidiaries who declared themselves bankrupt to avoid meeting the cost of abandonment and monitoring, and the State
was left to pick up the bill.
He said that people were talking about monitoring abandoned sites for one or two years, but in his view there was a need to monitor abandoned wells for one or two decades because they leak. The cement itself degrades and the steel casings degrade, and
when they leak they leak methane, radon, and flowback fracking fluids can be leaked as well.
So, he concluded, the regulations to effect abandonment of the well were not in place and, in his view, the well should be maintained until they were.
Quite where that left the application to do further monitoring we were not sure.
To us, he seemed to be arguing *for* the extension of time in order for longer monitoring to take place, but we weren't clear.
The Officer then made his presentation saying that the application was to extend the use and retain the compound and use it for monitoring. He said it was a temporary use, and that LCC
would make the actual decision. Fylde was just making a
recommendation to them.
Cllr Linda Nulty said she was concerned that the Committee didn't have any choice than to allow it, but she said the permission must have a condition that no further drilling or fracking should take place, and the site should be restored.
Cllr Heather Speak asked some questions then said she strongly believed Fylde should not support the continuation.
She did not think the applicant had explained the need well enough. She said it conflicted with SP2, it was not a countryside activity it was an industrial activity, and she proposed
"That we don't support the applicant and we object to a further
Cllr Peter Collins seconded Cllr Mrs Speak's proposition. He said there was no such thing as a temporary fracking site, they can keep it going with extension after extension.
Cllr Alan Clayton said he thought this would be a new site by the back door and the site needed to be restored, and he supported Cllr Speak's proposition but wanted something adding about a
period in which the site must be re-instated.
Cllr Albert Pounder said the Committee was a major consultee on this site but its officers were recommending no objection. He said they were also being told they don't need an EIA. "How can we be a major consultee without the information in front of
us?" He asked.
The Chairman read out what he thought was Cllr Mrs Speak's proposition as he understood it: "That we raise objection to Lancashire County Council for the extended period of operations at this site as it is considered to be an inappropriate use of the
site and contrary to SP2, and Lancashire County Council be advised that they should seek abandonment and restoration of the site as a matter of urgency."
The officer indicated a timescale for restoration without the monitoring.
Cllr Eastham then spoke up and said the Committee should support the officers
recommendation but to add that they ask LCC take steps to arrange for the restoration within the three years. The Chairman quickly seconded his proposition.
He was not well received by the public gallery.
We now seemed to have two competing propositions that had been seconded.
To our way of thinking the Chairman should not have allowed this to happen (let alone have seconded the second one himself). We subscribe to the procedure that says a proposition (duly seconded) must be debated until either a vote resolves it, or an
amendment is made.
We also believe that an amendment must be something that changes the wording - but not the sense - of the proposition. It is, in our view, wrong to accept something which is completely different from the proposition, especially when it is the direct
negative of the proposition which Cllr Eastham's appeared to be except that a time limit for restoration had been added.
Fylde's own rules on this say "When speaking on a motion, a member may propose an amendment to it. An amendment is a proposal to change the motion that is being discussed by taking words out of it or adding words to it or both, as long as the effect
of the amendment could not be achieved by defeating the motion."
In our way of doing things, the Chairman would have been wrong to have accepted it, but not only did he accept it, he was it's seconder! This is a travesty of what we believe should have happened.
But that's only because we take issue with how FBC now interprets propositions and amendments.
Using Fylde's own lights, Cllr Eastham and Aitken were in order to regard it as an amendment because of the extra words they had added about the timescale to what was otherwise a direct negative.
We next watched discussion that appeared to be an attempt to try to prevent Cllr Speak's proposition from being debated.
But then, amazingly, Cllr Aitkin said he was going to the vote, and he would put Cllr Speak's proposition first.
What on earth was he thinking of ?
Cue committee members questioning exactly what she had said and, as big a heart as she has, (and it's undoubtedly big), and in the right place, but she ought to know the procedure by now.
You write a specific form of words that you want to propose. You read it out slowly so the officers get a copy, then, if it gets seconded, it gets voted on.
But proper discipline and order in committees at Fylde has been all but lost, so we had a muddle about what the words of her amendment
actually were. She even tried to change it herself - after it had been seconded!
This uncertainty gave he detractors the advantage they needed, and we had a short break whilst officers tried to create a form of words to express what Cllr Speak had said.
This was more utter nonsense. It was up to Cllr Mrs Speak to give HER proposition to the officers not have them invent it for her.
Yes, it's true they now adjourn to agree the reasoned justifications for the motion if it opposed the officer's recommendation on
a planning application decision, but not on the wording of the motion to recommend something to LCC for heaven's sake!.
In the 'interregnum' (the meeting was not adjourned, it was sort of 'suspended') Cllr Eastham spoke and won himself no additional friends when he said it would be a good idea if those objecting to the applications wrote letters to the County Council
who would be making the actual decision!
We wondered where he had been for the last few weeks.
We thought everyone knew that upward of 17,000 letters of objection have already been received by LCC.
Cue a lot of anger in the public gallery that he didn't know what was going on.
People started to tell him, and he raised his voice to make himself heard before the Chairman intervened - pouring petrol on the troubled waters - and said: "Listen people, let's be sensible now" (which insulting approach only served to make them more
angry. And noisy).
So the Chairman started shouting too "Excuse me, lets be sensible, we're undertaking this, and we're being democratic. We're listening to you, You listen to us. Don't start making enemies. I mean, let's be sensible now, we're trying
our best to listen to everyone and to be - professional"
Cllr Mrs Speak then tried to alter her proposition again to include the words 'due to the lack of information' which (thankfully) was disregarded.
Then the meeting resumed, but the Chairman had clearly changed his mind
about the order of things and said he was going to take 'the amendment' first.
A strong sense of de-ja-vu came over us.
Here we go again. we thought....
No-one had proposed an amendment. There had been no amendment. But, either because of the chairman's partiality or his incompetent chairing - we can't tell which - two different people had been allowed to make propositions, and both had been seconded.
But in the 'anything goes' way of doing business that Fylde has adopted at present, what we regard as proper procedure no longer matters, and the result is inevitably, that their meetings become shambolic.
It is only proper formality and adherence to
established and well tested procedure that prevents this sort of disarray from taking hold.
To be fair, it wasn't only the Chairman at fault here. Individual members have also become very sloppy and lazy about procedure.
What the Chairman had
actually done was to treat Cllr Speak's request as a proposition, and then treated Cllr Eastham's proposition as an amendment to it.
Cllr Eastham did not propose an amendment, he made a counter proposition, but the Chairman had decided to treat it as an amendment - perhaps so it would be voted on first.
Outside what we regarded as these disastrous procedural failings, we found this argument a really interesting situation.
It's the first time we have ever seen Councillors being sensitive to the electorate's view on fracking, and it increases the prospect of it
becoming an electoral issue next May.
Sensing the questionability of what was going on, the Planning Officer took to instructing those assembled about procedure.
He said in clear tones "Obviously there has been a proposition made by Cllr Speak and seconded by Cllr Collins, then we had an amendment put forward by Cllr Eastham, seconded by yourself as Chairman, so we deal with the amendment first. So that
amendment was that there's no objection to the extended period of operations at the site, but we request that the County Council satisfy itself that the decision on appropriate restoration is carried out as proposed within the three year development
period. That is the amendment that is proposed."
Quite frankly, in our view it wasn't. It never had been an amendment. It was an alternative proposition. But Fylde's rules now allow such things to be regarded as amendments.
And we were
surprised that a planning officer was giving advice on protocol. That's usually the role of the Chief Executive's representative who was also on the dais.
Then the Chairman said "Would you read out Cllr Speak's proposal please"
What on earth was he playing at?
He was ruining the carefully crafted perception which others were creating that they were debating an amendment, and here he was, asking for the original proposition to be read out!
Cue another private conflab amongst those on the dais culminating in yet another wait until in a resigned and
exasperated tone the Chairman said "Right, we're going to vote on that one first."
Disquiet arose amongst the public gallery who by now could not only smell - but see - a large brown rodent scurrying all around and over the top table. The Chairman said
"Do please be quiet. I need you to be quiet whilst we're doing this"
Restoring equilibrium and pushing Cllr Speak's resolution further from the mind of the committee, the Planning Officer read out the 'amendment' again.
Cllr Mrs Nulty said "Can you just clarify that that is an amendment and not....." her voice trailed off.
The Chairman said "I am being advised that is an amendment and you know what my rules are. I have been advised that that is an amendment."
Cllr Nulty said "That seems to be contrary.... "
The Chairman said "Yes, I am noted that" (sic).
Cllr Pounder wanted some words adding about abandonment restorations.
Chairman: "I think that's fairly obvious."
Cllr Pounder; "Well no it isn't...."
Chairman: "Restoration of the site" - "Satisfactory restoration of the site"... OK?
What we had here was a proper amendment being proposed by Cllr Pounder, but the Chairman either decided to add it to the motion himself (which is wrong), or he simply didn't accept it.
What he didn't do was what he should have done and call for a seconder.
The Chairman said they were going to vote 'on that' - and by now, even seasoned watches like us didn't know what 'that' was.
Then Cllr Mrs Speak asked again for her proposition to be read out because she said she needed to be very clear in her own mind about what the difference was and members need to know as well.
The Chairman compounded the confusion by saying "Yours is raising objections etcetera, but without act... err, caveat bit at the end - about the one year business that......"" (his voice trailed off)
The planning officer then bowed to the pressure and read out Cllr Mrs Speak's original proposition.
She then said "What I wanted to add in was the lack of technical information. It is important because that is true.
If the Chairman had been dealing with an amendment as he claimed, the debate should have been about the amendment, and he should have stopped Cllr Speak from trying to change her original proposition.
He did try, saying they would come back to it, but was interrupted by Cllr Mrs Nulty who said she didn't understand how this could be an amendment. She said "If Cllr Speak's [motion] was to raise objections, and the amendment is to raise no objection,
those two are in conflict aren't they? They're exact opposites. I don't understand how that can be an amendment."
The chairman said "Cllr Nulty, this is advice from the Council's legal officer. Ok, and Head of Governance, and the Head of Governance is here today."
(It looks as though Cllr Nulty sees the definition of amendments and propositions in the more traditional way that we see them)
He then said "The first proposition we're going to look at today is the one put forward by Cllr Eastham and seconded by myself, and the names will be read out and it's for or against"
The Committee Clerk then chipped in and asked once again, whether members were clear about what they are voting on. The original motion from Cllr Speak had been read out, but they were voting on an amended motion proposed by Cllr Eastham, which she read
The recorded vote was:
For the 'amended motion' to raise no objection:
Cllrs Aitken, Eastham, Armit, B Nash, Redcliffe, Jacques.
Against the 'amended motion'
Cllrs Collins, Nulty, Brickles, Clayton, Speak.
The Chairman declared the vote 6 - 5 to raise no objection to the extension.
He then tried to move onto item 2 but Cllr Nulty said "Chairman can I then ask...." and her voice trailed off as the Chairman interrupted her and said "Councillor Speak, you had an extended...., another option. As you've heard what's
happened there, do
you want to carry on and ask for that vote as well?"
Cllr Speak said she would, and she'd like something to be said about not having enough information to make a decision.
So it was that the pantomime became a farce.
Dear God, what's going on here. The lack of order and structure had turned what should be a formal decision-taking meeting into a communal discussion group.
She was about to try and amend a motion that said they raised no objection, by adding that they didn't have enough information to take the
decision they had just taken - not to object!
Then, to our amazement, the Planning Officer started to read out her original proposition, saying "OK, the proposition put forward by Cllr Speak and Seconded by Cllr Collins. This is to raise objection to Lancashire County Council to the year of
operation of the site....."
His voice trailed off because at this point (quite rightly) the officers on the top table, and some more senior ones at the side of the dais went into overdrive - arguing with each other as to what was going on.
At this point farce became shambles.
The Chairman said "Hang on a minute" and gave one of those deep sighs that said 'I really don't understand any of this'.
Then he said "I've just been told that that is a substantive motion as it is"
The 'informal adjournment' continued a while longer until the Committee Clerk said they now needed to take a vote on the substantive motion.
For readers who are confused by this - and we think that will be everyone - the proper process should have been:
- Someone proposed a motion
- It was seconded
- It became open for debate
- An amendment may be moved to it.
- If it is, debate on the motion stops and debate on the amendment begins.
- Then either a vote is taken on the amendment, or a further amendment is moved.
- Fylde's current system takes Amendment No 1 and debates it until there is a vote on it. If any other amendments come in the meantime, they are temporarily 'parked' until either Amendment No 1 fails, or it amends the original motion and becomes known as
the Substantive Motion (it is now *the* motion), in which case Amendment No 2 is then tested against that amended motion, and so on, until you get back to a situation where there are no amendments left.
- If all the amendments are lost, then you revert to the original motion.
So, after all the amendments are played out, it is possible that the original proposition (and several amendments) have changed what was originally proposed, and, (in what is usually a well intentioned attempt to unite the disagreeing factions who
have lost out on their propositions and amendments), the 'final' version of the amendment is sometimes voted on as what is known as the 'substantive motion' in a vote that confirms that a majority are happy with the eventual outcome.
We don't think this is specifically required or essential, but we can see the benefits it can bring.
We think that's what the Committee Clerk was trying to do here, except that the Chairman thought (probably correctly) that Cllr Mrs Speak had indicated her intention of proposing a further amendment to what had become the Substantive Motion. He had
told her he would come back to her, and he was (sort of) giving her an opportunity to propose it whilst, at the same time, gently reminding her that it would probably get voted down anyway, so there was no point really!
We then had another few minutes of various people trying to explain what had happened and what should happen now.
It was an utter shambles.
Then Cllr Speak said "Chairman, can you please add that an Environmental Impact Statement be carried out and we insist there is one carried out by Lancashire County Council"
Although this was badly phrased
(she should have said I propose a further amendment that...."), this was an attempt at a further amendment to the substantive motion.
The Chairman asked for a seconder and Cllr Mrs Nulty obliged.
The Planning Officer read out the substantive motion with suitably corrected wording at the end
of it about the Environmental Impact Statement.
Cllr Clayton said he proposed a further amendment about allowing no further extensions beyond the three year period. That too was a proper amendment, but the Chairman, instead of asking for a seconder, asked the planning officer to speak. Paraphrasing
his answer he told Cllr Clayton he couldn't really do that.
We absolutely think they could make whatever views they wanted known to LCC, but this one was not to be added today.
The substantive motion with the EIA amendment was read out again.
The shambles continued as an (it appeared to us) irritated Cllr Eastham said "Can I have some clarity please. I don't want an EIA and I haven't proposed an EIA. do I therefore vote against this? Surely the substantive motion must be where we've got ourselves"
Having (improperly in our view) amended Cllr Speak's original motion to reverse its intention, he was now complaining about a proper amendment someone else had made to change the wording of what he had proposed.
Sauce for geese and ganders came to our mind.
The answer, of course, should have been, yes, vote against it - because if it was lost it will revert to the substantive motion which he had proposed, but he seemed to think they were voting for the whole wording, not just the amendment tagged on at
The Chairman said "I Agree with you, but unfortunately I've been advised....." his voice trailed off, as the public gallery started to see what they (and we) thought looked increasingly like a Chairman who was trying to engineer a particular outcome.
The legal officer tried to explain they were only voting on the amendment, but by now most of them had lost the will to live.
Confusion reigned again, and there was more to-ing and fro-ing as councillors staggered hopelessly through a sloppy mire of procedure - led by a Chairman who was not competent in his role. We don't mean that as an insult to the individual. For all we
know he might have been trying his best, but the effect of his efforts did not result in competent chairing or proper procedure.
And it was to get worse. As we shall see.
Finally, the vote was taken
For the EIA amendment
Cllrs Aitken, Eastham, Armit, Collins, B Nash, Nulty, Pounder, Redcliffe,
Against the amendment
We couldn't hear how Cllrs Brickles, Speak and Jacques voted, but the clerk declared the amendment carried and the new Substantive Motion (now a composite) included the EIA request to LCC.
The Clerk asked if there were any further amendments. There were audible groans, but no-one had any further amendments.
She then invited the Chairman to propose the substantive motion - which most of the public gallery simply didn't understand why it should happen.
They, and most of the councillors, all thought they had just voted on the whole of the wording of the motion (because that was what had been read out).
But they had not voted on the whole of the wording. They has only voted whether to add the words
about the EIA at the end of it, and the Clerk was now saying that if there were no more changes to be made, they should vote on the whole of the wording - which they did.
It was carried, as almost all votes on Substantive Motions are, and, in the end, everyone had voted for what the Committee decided, which is a very unifying process.
This was an opportune moment for a ten minute break.
It had taken two hours to reach this point and deal with the first item - which was quite minor in comparison to the two main items about permission to undertake fracking at two sites.
ITEM 2 PRESTON NEW ROAD SITE, LITTLE PLUMPTON.
This was the one of two main applications for fracking . It involved
- Construction and operation of a site for drilling up to four exploration wells,
- hydraulic fracturing of the wells,
- testing for hydrocarbons,
- abandonment of the wells and restoration, including provision of an access road and access onto the highway, security fencing, lighting and other uses ancillary to the exploration activities, including the construction of a pipeline and a connection
to the gas grid network and associated infrastructure to land to the North of Preston New Road, Little Plumpton
The officer gave a brief outline, then we had the Public Platform.
The first speaker was a chap who said he would address one specific point. He said the wells at both Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood would have a negligible impact on the country's energy needs. Using an average of average well output in America
and Cuadrilla's own reports, he said the lifetime output of a well (over 20 or 30 years) would be about 2 billion cubic feet of gas and the four wells now proposed would produce around 8 billion cubic feet over their whole lifetime. He said this
sounded a lot, but in terms of UK consumption, these four wells, over 30 years, would produce the equivalent of one day's supply of gas at the rate the UK uses it. He sad their contribution to the nation would be miniscule.
He said Cuadrilla had claimed to be able to meet 25% of the UK's gas need, but he argued, to do that, simple maths showed it would need over 11,000 wells over their license area, with several thousand of these in the Fylde, which is a large part of
the non-urban license area.
He went on to say he believed Cuadrilla had the technical expertise to create 40 wells per wellpad, and the Institute of Directors report funded by Cuadrilla has said there would be between 10 and 40 wells (including horizontals) per wellpad. Even if
there were to be only 4,000 wells in the Fylde, this would mean a minimum of a hundred wellpads spaced over all the rural area.
He then went on to argue that if fracking cannot take place over the whole of the Fylde, it would give no significant economic benefit for energy security.
Turning to the Preston new Road site, he said if it was successful, it would be expanded to 40 wells, but would only produce about ten days supply for the nation over its 30 year life. He said these applications were not just for exploration, but were
for production, including laying gas carrying pipes and so on, and he called for refusal of the application.
Next was a lady who was speaking on behalf of the lady who chairs the Preston New Road site but was unable to be present herself. She had a terrific presentation style to the extent that we wondered if she worked in the broadcast media.
She said she
lived at Foxwood Chase which was the closest development to the frack site at less than 300m. She said many elderly and infirm residents live on Carr Bridge Park, within 1,000m from the site. Residents on Moss House Lane will be less than 1,000, from
the site. She said in Australia, frack sites are not allowed within 2km of homes, and that was because of safety and chemical pollution risks to air, water and soil, from the massively increased transport on local roads, and the risk of illnesses that
were directly attributable to this industry.
She said Fylde would have to be industrialised on a very large scale to extract the level of gas that Cuadrilla were talking about. She stressed the Fylde demographic with its elderly population, the tourism in which Lytham St Annes and the Fylde
Countryside accounts for one in ten jobs and generates £22m spending in the local economy, but tourism would be sacrificed to fracking. Who would want to drive to holiday in Fylde when the first sight from the M55 would be a huge drill rig, possibly
flaring gas off.
Quoting the NPPF she said planning policy should ensure development was appropriate for its location, and this wasn't appropriate for a Greenfield agricultural environment and conflicted with the NPPF. Nor was it appropriate so close to residential
homes, and it was in conflict with Fylde's local planning policy.
Stressing their responsibility to the Fylde electorate she cited the 'Precautionary Principle' and concluded "Your local residents and over 20,000 objectors are calling out to you to avoid that harm by objecting to this application"
The 3 minute bell
It was a perfectly timed, well delivered, punchy presentation that had struck home and raised the first standing ovation.
She was followed by two more ladies, then an older man who said they had heard a lot about technical issues, but being a bit older he was more concerned about the human issues.
He said he lived on Carr Bridge Park which was just 1km from the proposed
It housed 169 park homes with approximately 300 people aged over 60, many with health vulnerabilities. He said he came 8 years ago after retiring, to an area where it's most attractive qualities are its peace, quiet and tranquillity but the
impact noise and disturbance of this development would completely destroy those qualities.
He said Cuadrilla claimed they could overcome resident's concerns with mitigation, the major plank of which was that they promise only to operate between 7am and 7pm Monday to Friday and on Saturday morning. He said residents didn't want it anytime of
the day or night because they would feel the full force. He said the increased traffic on an already busy road would make it all but impossible for elderly people to cross the road to the bus stop, and several had told him they worried about being
trapped in their own homes or have to pay a lot of money to get a taxi to take them out.
He concluded with "People Matter. Mr Chairman, the idea that the residents of Westby with Plumpton, Little Plumpton and Great Plumpton can be treated as
collateral damage is disgraceful" and he called for the technical arguments to be disregarded and
said the Committee should focus on the needs of the residents and ask LCC to reject the application.
Next was Ian Roberts who chairs the Resident's Action Against Fracking and he spoke on behalf of a lady who could not attend. He said it had been fascinating to observe the debate, because some Councillors who expressed views acknowledged they knew
very little or not enough about the subject, and those who had offered no opinions whatsoever, but who had automatically supported the industry, it seemed to him, must know even less than those who admitted they knew very little.
There was a lot of public support (cheering etc) for what he said. We took this to be an implied criticism of the vote that had seen all the Conservative councillors (including those who had not spoken in the debate) vote in favour of the applicant on
the first agenda item.
The Chairman intervened and said that was a little OTT and he appeared as though he was about to continue, when Mr Roberts spoke over him to say he wanted to draw attention to the report just published by Breast Cancer UK who exist to prevent
cancer and they had undertaken their own research and concluded that there were health risks from Fracking. He quoted from the report and said they support the European calls for a moratorium on all exploration and licensing in all European countries
including the UK, and a review of all EU policies which pertain to fracking. He said health was the most important thing to all of us and he urged the Committee to take a copy of the Breast Cancer report. He received another standing ovation.
Then we had
the exocet missile - as one reader has already described him to us. This was a physician and visiting research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
He had a short and incisive delivery technique coupled with the
confidence of authority in what he said.
He began by saying that in May, eminent doctors had written to the Government of New York State saying that they requested a moratorium on fracking for up to five years, whilst crucial medical data continues to
emerge. The expressed alarm at the surge in preliminary data suggesting evidence of harm to health from fracking. He went on to say "However, in the US doctors and patients are legally gagged, and commercial secrecy refuses to disclose the chemicals
He then said that fracking posed inherent public health risks, the extent of which was, as yet, unknown. he said " Factors include: site proximity to homes; transport and storage of large volumes of chemicals; compressor engines; ozone;
benzine - is
a volatile toxic carcinogen which may be inhaled and absorbed through the skin. There is *no* safe level. It causes acute myeloid leukaemia. High level of benzine can be found in the air at frack sites, and benzine metabolites in worker's urine. A
preliminary Colorado study states that benzine was the most important cause of cumulative cancer risk of ten cases per million within half a mile of fracking sites, compared with six per million living further away.
In a study of mothers living within ten miles of site, there was and increased incidence of heart defects in newborns. Sand producing silica dust is a hazard for workers and it causes silicosis, lung damage and cancer. Silica dust may be of concern to
residents living very near fracking sites. Benzine and silica related diseases may be uncommon, but fine particulate matter air pollution from diesel engines is a widespread public health hazard. There is no safe limit. PM 2.5 penetrates deep lung
tissue, directly into the bloodstream causing respiratory, arterial diseases, lung cancer, and heart attacks. There *will be* over 2,000 large diesel truck visits per drillhead"
He went on to say "However page 12 of your own appendix states that there has been no assessment of PM 2.5 detailed in the environmental statement by the applicant. The main winds on the Fylde are westerly. Growing children may be susceptible to risk
from pollutants. This site is only one mile from Weeton school and 1.6 miles Wrea Green school."
Concluding, he went on to say "Public Health England's draft conclusion that shale gas operations present a low risk to public health has been severely criticised by the British Medical
Journal. The impact remains undetermined and research is in its
infancy. Fylde is densely populated at 460 per square Km. An impartial local health impact assessment *is* required. In the absence of any current major study of [???] near frack sites, please do not allow Fylde residents to be experimented on. I
request a moratorium for five years, to await further crucial research."
That produced an absolutely huge bout of applause and the longest standing ovation so far. Even with the microphone, the Chairman could not make himself heard until the applause died down.
But when it did - in our view unwisely - after a couple of shouts from the public, he chose to take them on.
He asked the next speaker to wait a minute - then he said something we couldn't hear that provoked a reaction - and the volume from both him and the public increased to become a shouting match.
He lost control of the meeting and called a five minute adjournment for tempers to cool down.
Incredibly, after vacating the chair on the dais, he came down to the microphone for public speakers just in front of the Public Gallery and harangued the public for their behaviour. His action in this regard might have made him feel better, but
did nothing at all to produce order or to bring the meeting together.
He appeared to think he could threaten and insult people into submission and subjugation.
They were having none of it. It became a shouting match.
It was so bad that one lady came up to us and said so. She also said she thought the noisy ones amongst the public had let the side down and she didn't want to be
associated with that sort of behaviour.
There was right and wrong on both sides (as usual), but the primary role of a Chairman is to keep order during the meeting, and he did not do this.
Once again it was evident that the Chairing was not being done competently.
Once he stopped his invective, the meeting did calm down of its own accord.
Eventually he reassumed the chair and the next speakers had their say
Thankfully the next chap spoke in a slow and calm style which always gets attention. He said he lived at a farm about 400m from the proposed site. he said
"I sympathise with the Chairman today, he's got a difficult task to get through this, particularly in view
of the technical complexities of it, and the borough is not resourced to cope with that level of technical complexity. What I would also commend the Chairman saying today that this is democracy in action. Well the proof of the democracy in action today
will be whether the party line - the whip, if you like, is applied or not applied, because if - and I've been on the street campaigning for the Tories in Manchester before now - if they follow the party line from HQ, at central Government, they are
not doing their job in my opinion, not representing the local community.
Quite frankly, what has happened at central government is that the need for extra energy which we all accept, but they haven't - if I may use the expression - drilled down enough into what is required. They've made a speedy
decision to fast track
fracking and this is what David Cameron has said. Fracking needs to be fast tracked.
The problem is, and you've heard technical experts who've said this today, there is no independent, properly resourced, with the proper expertise in place. There's no fit for purpose regulatory system. It relies upon self regulatory self monitoring of
the fracking companies"
He went on to say what we were doing here was charging forward into unknown territory, and he begged the members today to vote independently with their consciences and with all the information from people who had spoken and whose presentations had been
phenomenal, and he hoped the Chairman's views were reflected that people have been listening, and there was going to be leadership at an individual level today, because he would be very disappointed if there was a party whip just applied to this,
because that would mean that all the good people who had come to the meeting had just wasted their time.
Again there was long and sustained applause.
Next was a lady who was also a local resident who made a heartfelt plea. She said they lived 800m away from the proposed site. She said lots of local people she spoke to don't know about the dangers of fracking because they have not been told about
it. She wanted to know why her neighbour had been so anti social that he had allowed these people to frack on his land. She said maybe he wasn't told or didn't realise at the time he gave permission that it caused us harm. she also wanted to know why
our Government wanted to frack here when a lot of other countries had said it was too dangerous and had banned it. She also asked why lots of people had taken money from Cuadrilla and why Cuadrilla were paying toward village halls. In a dejected tone
she said if it went ahead she would almost certainly have to move in order to protect her children's health, but that would mean leaving all her friends. It was a terrible choice.
There were another couple of speakers before Mike Hill spoke again.
He can have an acerbic manner and there was always potential for a run-in between him and the Chairman. Before starting his speech he said he had heard councillors saying they needed
technical advice, and he had offered his services for free to the Council to provide independent technical advice as a professional chartered engineer of 20 years oil and gas experience. he added "I must say, if it's good enough for the European
Commission, I'm surprised it's not good enough for Fylde Borough Council."
He then made a comment we couldn't quite catch but it sounded as though he said it had been Cllr Threlfall who has discontinued the help Mr Hill had been giving the Council.
He then started his 3 minutes. He began by saying everything is a balance and you have to weigh up the pros and cons. He said on the pro side there would be a small number of jobs, he knew that because his job as a process automation engineer was to
minimise the number of people that were needed. He said there would also be a certain amount of gas because otherwise the companies would not be making the applications, and some organisations would also receive certain amounts of money from the
He said he saw three key areas of cons. The first was lifestyle degradation through noise traffic etc in the area, the second was personal financial loss as redacted from a recent government report predicting a reduction in housing values, and
business and tourism losing out as well, and then of course public health which he said he would speak more of as he thought it was the most important.
He said he had a 'Lancet' article published in June which he would be happy to circulate to members. It was published by the Lancet after they had vetted his personal background and the accuracy of his article before printing. That took place over
three months before it was published.
It looked at studies of preliminary information from respected academic sources in the US (M.I.T, Princeton, Colorado School of Public Health) that a previous speaker had alluded to with several types of problems.
But, he said, if you just look at the issue of birth defects, this preliminary data has shown that birth defects were increased by 30% within areas in a 10 mile zone around fracking sites, and we're *all* soon going to be within 10 miles not of a
fracking well, but multiple fracking wells, because Francis Egan is planning the most intense fracking pads anywhere in the world here, with 40 boreholes per pad.
He said "So I have to ask you as councillors and, indeed, residents of the Fylde coast, how many birth defects is it worth for an extra 2% of gas. You have to decide that. This is a fact.
So would it be worth an extra five birth defects a month?
Is that worth an extra 2% of gas?
How many birth defects is it worth having for Lowther Pavilion's £10,000?... You have to decide. It causes birth defects and that is a fact.
If you decide it's zero, it's not worth one more birth defect, then you're also deciding fracking can not happen. Thank you"
As readers will expect, this hard hitting but measured delivery produced the loudest, and most sustained applause of the day.
Next was Cllr Ken Hopwood who spoke very technically to outline all 22 of Fylde's planning policies with which approval of the application would be in conflict. Cllr Hopwood's presentation style is quiet, slow and not usually 'colourful'. This often
belies the importance of what he says. But every point he made was solid, well made planning policy.
Three-quarters of the way through, he quietly removed the pin and lobbed in a grenade. He said "Before I finish there is another matter I would like you to consider. Do Cuadrilla still have a valid licence to operate in Lancashire? They were issued with
a license Petroleum Exploration and Development License No 165 which came into force on 1st July 2008, for a period of six years, expiring on 30th June 2014. They had an option to extend this license and should have done so prior to the expiry date."
The licence covers 400 square km of Lancashire and was issued by the then Secretary of State in the Department of Business, Enterprise, and Regulatory Reform which is now defunct. Cllr Hopwood said it was now incorporated into the Department of Energy
and Climate Change. He continued "As this licence is ongoing with a 20 year plus lifespan, we are assuming an application to extend the licence beyond the initial six year term was agreed, and the annual premiums paid. However this committee should
confirm this before making any recommendation regarding this application."
Mote sustained applause.
We've heard stories about this before. The license ran out and it was said that it had been renewed (But then with a government determined to push fracking onwards, in the inimitable words of Mandy Rice-Davies - they would say that,
We do know there are those who cast doubt on the legality of the process to 'extend' the license.
We guess that could only be challenged in the courts, and the Government and industry has deep pockets.
Finally in the public session on Item 2, a planning specialist from Arup (who are employed by Cuadrilla) spoke in favour of the application.
He said he was responding specifically to the recommendation to object on the grounds of 24 hour drilling.
They had done a survey to establish existing noise levels around Staining Wood cottages, the closest to the site. He said if there were no significant effects there, it's unlikely there would be any at greater distances at that location.
He explained how they had done the noise assessment an created a 3 dimensional noise model. He said they remained of the opinion that there would not be a significant effect from noise and overall there would be no significant visual
effect either. he
asked the Committee to consider the technical evidence and wanted to discuss planning conditions with the officers for the mitigation as set out in the Environmental Statement.
Three hours from the start of the meeting, the planning officer began his presentation on Item 2.
There were no surprises in what he said.
Then, following an administrative error, a lady who had registered to speak but had not been called, was called to speak.
She spoke about the geology on behalf of the Preston New Road Action Group. She said the area had geological faults that could slip or leak adding that it was slipping at Preese Hall after the fracking that had cause the tremors and led to the
wellbore being deformed to the extent that it cannot be use again.
She said the faults can also leak and act as a pathway through the earth for gases and fluids to travel up to groundwater. She said geological faults were complex and unpredictable structures, so the default position in the hydrocarbon industry is
that faults are leaky unless proved otherwise.
She said in 2012, the Geological Society of London asked the Royal Society Royal Academy of Engineering to consider this problem of pre-existing faults, but they did not.
A large German study of the environmental risks of fracking advised that the method be banned for use in any area which is faulted. Despite this, Cuadrilla were proposing to drill two faults at Preston New Road and the drill will go very close to
the faults. She said this was to see if they can. It was an experiment. She asked "If it doesn't work, what are the consequences?" and if it did work, she thought they would go all out for the 4,000 wells outlined in their business case.
She asked the council to consider why parts of Lancashire should be put at potentially grave environmental risk, when the economic benefits are entirely unproven.
The public speaking and officer presentation over, the debate began.
First to be called was the Vice Chairman Cllr Eastham who said the advice from officers was the same as all the speakers - that the Committee should raise objections.
He also said the views of
Environmental Health Officers were in the 'Late Observations' sheet, and he thought those should be sent to LCC as well. He proposed they accept the officer's recommendation, together with sending in the Environmental Health Officers' comments.
He was seconded by Cllr Barbara Nash.
Cllr Julie Brickles spoke. She first thanked all the speakers and said whilst she would go along with the recommendation she was very, very disappointed with the actual report. She had been at a meeting with a senior County Planning Officer and had
asked him a specific question on local plan policies and he had said that within Fylde's local plan we had the policies to protect Fylde from shale gas and that they should use them, and she didn't actually believe that they were.
She said she thought it was a 'half report' and given its importance she was not
satisfied, saying "I've seen more detailed reports on bathroom windows and extensions, and garages and conservatories. This is going to impact Fylde forever, it's going
to impact on our children and our children's children and we need to use our local plan document - the policies within it"
She concluded by saying " I'm not interested whether LCC will be making the final decision. As I've said, this is Fylde. We represent the people of Fylde, and we should be acting to represent them and their wishes"
Cllr Heather Speak agreed with Cllr Brickles that more should be made of all the policies that could be used because this application was in conflict with most if not all of them. She said Cllr Hopwood had given a good exposition of more policies that
are affected and she wanted them to be considered and added to the objection. She said she fully supported the recommendation but didn't think it was strong enough and she wanted Cllr Hopwood's list of policies adding to the recommendation.
The Committee Clerk intervened to say Cllr Mrs Speak appeared to have proposed and amendment
(which it was close to being) and it ought to be tested to see if there was a seconder. She also suggested that the proposer and seconder of the original
motion should be asked if they would be willing to accept the amendment.
Sanity at last!
Cllr Brickles seconded it, and Cllr Linda Nulty said she agreed with previous speakers. She didn't think the officer's recommendation was strong enough, and they should spend time now to get it right.
Cllr Richard Redcliffe said he wanted to make a couple of points. He said "It was sad earlier on in the session - you can't win on this can you - people who listened, sat quietly, but perhaps didn't express a view at a particular time, didn't seem to
care. It's a little bit weird that argument, because at times, we're accused on talking too much, and not listening enough."
He went on to say he has spent the last few hours listening to the most sensible and rational arguments that have been put forward adding that
"Make no mistake, whatever views we have as councillors, we come to those views - and I'm speaking
personally here, on this particular occasion - without any party line. I dismiss that. We come here as individuals who are exposed to an awful lot of opinion - quite rightly as councillors - from the local community. We have to take those thoughts and
concerns on board. We have to weigh the pros and cons of what has been proposed. And we know that any development, anywhere, has an impact. And what has to be measured is that particular impact, and then what are the benefits.
No party line. I've listened all morning to the arguments that have been put forward. I will tell you now, I came to this meeting as person
who's been involved for three years on the Task and Finish Group. I've met anti-fracking groups, I've had
meetings with Cuadrilla. we've had many meetings in the Town Hall. Fylde Borough Council, believe it or not, has been on the front foot in terms of at least engaging with some of the issues, and I've been one of those. I've been with other colleagues
who've done the same.
Some people say 'sitting on the fence you're not making your mind up.' I sometimes say 'sitting on the fence you can see both sides of the field. Once when you come down, do you always see the other point of view.' I've kept an open mind, and I will
listen to anybody that puts forward a polite, respectful case."
He said he had come with an open mind in terms of what they should do with the Officer's recommendations, and that you don't easily go against officer recommendations because they're the professional planning officers.
He concluded "And can I just say that one of the things that bedevils the debate about shale gas and everything else is the snobbery of expertise. The put down person that doesn't know as much as you, when actually most of the members of the public
don't know as much as you or I do. But they still have their opinion, based on what they do know, and we ought to respect that particular opinion. It's called democracy. After all, if people only did what the most knowledgeable expert in the world
told us to do, we'd only be listening to one person. there's always someone who apparently knows more than you do
What I'm coming round to saying is this: No party line. I've listened. I'm sure other colleagues have listened and come to their own conclusions. We are going to support the officer's recommendations, not because I feel I've been bullied or
intimidated, but because I've listened to the arguments. I'm not fundamentally opposed to shale gas. I'm not one of those who are opposed to Cuadrilla doing their job, but it has to be in the right place and at the right time. I am not convinced that
we have sufficient information before us to take that momentous decision. I also add a word of caution and back up the request from other colleagues because when I looked at the officers recommendation I wasn't sure that that would carry much weight at
Lancashire County Council level without being 'beefed up' considerably. I will support the motion that a sub-committee - a group of people get together and make sure that Lancashire County Council take this seriously. They have to take it seriously,
because we have to get them the serious arguments, but we have to make sure that this particular objection is substantiated dispassionately, objectively, by information, not just - justified though it is - a lot of raw emotion.
I want to reassure the people here, whatever side you sit on, that myself and my other colleagues will not follow party rules. We do listen, and that is why, I, personally am now in a position to be able to support the officer's recommendation"
We were puzzled by this oration. There were conflicts within its logic (don't go against officers but the best expert in the world is still only one person's view), and elsewhere it felt as though he had been sharply stung by the comments of one of the
public speakers about a taking the party line.
But there was more to it than that.
It was a masterclass demonstration of cooling down a heated meeting, and a way of invisibly taking control of events. It was in sharp contrast to the approach of the meeting's Chairman, and we wondered what was going on here.
We've always thought of Princess Karen Buckley as the next leader of the Fylde Conservative group when David Eaves stands down
(hence the 'Princess' epithet, but this felt to us like a positioning speech. We saw Princess Karen in the public gallery
for most of the meeting and it was good that she had taken the trouble to attend. But we couldn't help wondering what she made of the speech as well.
It could, of course, just been a bit of 'vamping till ready' to give Cllr Mrs Speak a
bit of time to prepare her wording, in which case our speculation here might be miles from the mark, but as a seasoned watcher we felt there was more going on.
Back to the meeting, and Cllr Tim Armit spoke next. He said the expertise and the detail some of the speakers had had today had been fantastic, and he'd like to start by saying he's spent many hours in small rooms with Mike Hill and other councillors
on the shale gas group.
He said his concerns here were that they had one proposal the day before which said it would be too noisy, but had woken up to the Late Observations sheet which said it probably wouldn't be too noisy, then Cllr Mrs Speak was
scrambling around working her way through 22 planning policies that may or may not be relevant, to try and solve it in a five minute period.
He said he didn't think this was the right was and he proposed that the Committee defer the decision and go on a
Tellingly, the chairman did not call for a seconder (because his normal practice is to take a vote on deferment immediately it is called), so Cllr Armit's proposition slid into the long grass.
Cllr Clayton had said it was a momentous
decision for the whole of Fylde and Fylde's planning policies and vision didn't accord with the application, and it would have an adverse impact. He said they should object much more widely than noise alone.
The Chairman then said they would adjourn, and over lunch they would go through all the issues
in the wording and reconvene when ready.
He reminded members to be careful about speaking with the public over lunch. (That a long standing issue for him because there was a fuss when someone was making unguarded comments to a member of the public and their conversation was overheard by an
applicant a while ago)
After lunch, the wording of the amended motion was read out.
"This Council recommend that the County Planning Authority be satisfied that the below and above ground operations will not have any significant adverse impact, as well as ensuring the views
of the County Highway Authority, County Archaeologist and the County Ecologist are addressed in full, particularly in respect of Policies SP2, TR9, TREC10, EP10, EP11, EP12, EP13, EP14, EP15, EP18, EP19, EP21, EP22, EP23, EP24, and EP25.
Notwithstanding Lancashire County Council's assessment of the above matters, the proposed drilling operations would be in relatively close proximity to residential properties, and the noise and general disturbance from 24 hour drilling operations and
associated activity would be significant. For this reason it is recommended that Lancashire County Council be advised that this Council make objection to the proposals and recommend that the planning permission be refused as being contrary to the
Policy of PM2 of the minerals and waste local plan, as well as EP26, EP27, and EP28 of the Fylde Borough Local Plan."
The Vice Chairman (Cllr Eastham) said, subject to Cllr Nash who seconded the original proposal, he felt that what had been said there incorporated everything that they asked for in their original proposal, and goes beyond that. So he was happy to withdraw
the original proposal.
Cllr Armit wanted an explanation of the policy numbers sending as well.
The officer said they were only drawing attention to SP2, they were not using that as grounds to object to the application. Their objections were listed in the second part of the resolution.
That made us quite uncomfortable.
Although it appeared that Fylde was objecting strongly, it was choosing a very narrow beam of policies as its own objection, and it was mostly simply drawing the County Council's attention to its other policies and leaving them do determine the weight
to attach to them.
It seemed to us that the whole of Fylde's objection rested on the 24/7 drilling, and if the period went to - say - 23 hours for example, it would no longer be a sustainable objection.
We hoped the officers had not constructed a response that appeared to object, but pulled it's punches, and didn't really.
Cllr Pounder wanted someone to go to LCC to make the presentation on behalf of Fylde. The officer said they could ask LCC for that facility and he would be happy to say that the strength of feeling was such that they would like a member to address the
There was a further minor change to add that PM2, and EP's 26,27, and 28 were in accordance with the NPPF, and that the council would request that Lancashire County Council invite a member of this committee to address their committee as they determine
They moved to the vote. The Clerk explained the position and all were satisfied.
For the proposition
Cllrs: Aitken, Eastham, Collins, B Nash, Nulty, Pounder, Redcliffe, Speak, Brickles, Clayton, Jacques
The amended resolution was carried.
The chairman said before they move to Item 3 they had to be finishing by four o'clock. This turned out to be bit of a porky-pie (because he later said 4:30 and eventually as time went on it became 5 o'clock that they ACTUALLY had to be out for).
ITEM 3: MONITORING OF PRESTON NEW ROAD
This started out as an innocuous-sounding plan to install monitoring equipment, so
that possible tremors could be detected.
When seismic monitoring had happened once before, there were cables laid for miles and miles across many areas of Fylde, and - we suppose - like others reading the agenda, we thought that's what was going to happen again.
this item would turn out to be a very controversial matter that was only seriously thought about after the meeting closed.
More about that shortly.....
The first speaker was a chap who had asked Mike Hill to read his presentation out.
Mr Hill said he could first just respond to the question of the Licence raised by Cllr Hopwood. He said Cuadrilla did indeed have a license extended to June 2016 covering the full 100% of the PED area. The Secretary of State had given that information
two weeks ago and had extended it on the basis that their time had been affected by the tremors and subsequent moratorium.
(We're less sure about this, and our uncertainly is about compliance with the lawful procedure for issuing extensions but, as we said before, that could only be tested by a Judicial
Review, and it would be a brave soul who takes on both the Government
and the Fracking Industry in that regard, so there won't be a challenge).
Mr Hill said both he and Mark Miller (former Cuadrilla boss) came up with a figure of around 3,500 wells in 2012. That would mean 180 to 200 wellpads depending on how many boreholes you could get on a pad.
He said he thought typically if you took an
area 5 miles wide on either side of the M55 that's where most of the pads would go. He said it didn't matter whether you lived in Roseacre or Preston New Road, we were all going to be drastically affected by this for the next 20 plus years.
He said "Onto the regulation side of things..."
when the Chairman interrupted him and said "Can you address the issue that's in front of you please"
Mr Hill said "I am addressing the issue. In terms of the seismic arrays etc and the regulations relating to them (we had to smile at his nimble sidestep),
the situation is at present that the Royal Society, in June 2012, recommended ten
recommendations to allow fracking to continue at that point in time. Of those ten, nine have been ignored by the Government, and those nine are crucial to allow fracking to remotely continue"
He said as a result, he thought risks at the present time were far, far too great, and the risks had not been mitigated.
Once again the Chairman interrupted him and said "Mr Hill can you address the issue that's in front of you"
Mr Hill continued saying he believed the risks were far too high to the environment, far too high to the public and they would not be addressed by Government, so Councils should not ignore that.
He said "You have the facts. You know what the truth
actually is. You can't any longer claim ignorance on these topics. You can't pass the buck either. You have to represent the people that have elected you to represent them. And on that basis you can't possibly allow any fracking to continue in this
county at this point in time because it simply is not regulated. It is not controlled. It is not monitored. And until it is, you can't possibly accept fracking in Lancashire."
Then we had the officer presentation.
He put up a series of slides that stunned the room to silence.
They showed that 'around' the Preston New Road site there would be 96 monitoring sites constructed. These were not just in the wellpad area, and not just in the fracking area
(as we and others had called for), but they extended well beyond - we
thought they ran more or less from B and Q at Whitehills through to Kirkham.
He said for the 'surface arrays' each of ten sites would have a 20m x 20m area fenced in, and an area in one corner with a 1.2m high fence that's about 2m x 2m and that would be where there was a manhole cover and an equipment cabinet similar to the
BT cabinets we see on streets today.
In the rest of the 20m area there would be a 'welfare facility', stores area, an excavator a laydown area and vehicle parking for the staff.
Another plan showed a similar facility of the same size, and another with groundwater boreholes also of the same sort of size and layout.
He said that was what was involved in each of the areas. There would be a series of 20 x 20m pads "dotted across the area" and in total there would be ninety-odd of these, so it was quite a lot of them.
As this information from the officer sank in, you could see it had come as a complete shock to everyone. There was a stunned silence as the officer's explanation unfolded.
We think that no-one - not any of the Councillors, not any of the protest groups, not any of the experts and not even ourselves, had seen the scale of what was being applied for here.
Everyone had been focussed on the actual fracking site
applications and no-one had paid sufficient attention to the scale of these monitoring stations.
But as soon as the officer said there would be about 95 sites on each of the applications (this one and the one for Roseacre to follow later)
we saw what we thought was being laid in these plans.
To us they looked awfully like a precursor of the 96 fracking sites that will each hold 18 or 20 actual wells to give the 3,500 wells that Mike Hill said Cuadrilla were planning.
96 sites, each the size of two houses scattered throughout the Fylde countryside each with a stone carpet parking area and an access road where none existed would change all 96 areas into effective 'brownfield sites' that would be
three quarters of the
way to getting permission as a site for drilling rigs.
There was no mention of this in the officer's report, but to us it was as plain as the nose on your face.
But not everyone had seen it yet.
The officer continued with plans to show that they were generally positioned along hedgelines and existing tracks, and for most of the time it would only be the small cabinet area, manhole, and the hardstanding. The drilling equipment to do the
monitoring holes would only be on site for a short time.
He went on to say that the issue here was rather like conditions on a planning appeal. They might have refused the application but they needed to agree the conditions in case it was won on appeal. So with this, although they had objected to the
fracking application, they should accept the monitoring sites in case they were needed if LCC disagreed and granted permission for fracking.
So the officer recommendation was to raise no objection to the proposal subject to a condition that required restoration at the end of the monitoring use.
As we all know that's a condition that can easily be changed at a later date.
The Chairman said "You're probably thinking the same as me. If we've raise an objection why do we need not to object to this?
Well, if we're overruled on our objection and we have objected to this, we might be a little bit out of order"
First to speak was Cllr Nulty who said she had only realised the scale of this application from the officer's presentation. She said 96 sites each 20m x 20m brought new meaning to the saying "It's coming to a field near you"
adding " It's huge. I was
going to speak to just say I think I understand what Mr Hill was trying to say that fracking shouldn't happen, therefore these things shouldn't happen. But actually you rightly say if, if it happens then I suppose we're going to have to say these
monitoring sites are essential. But, surely, the size of them is absolutely huge, I hadn't realised the size of them"
Cllr Armit said If LCC does not approve the previous application and there's no fracking, there's no need for safety monitoring. But if it was going to happen it had to be as safe as it can. He said Mr Hill had
constantly spoken about monitoring and
control, so if it was going to happen they should allow this application or at least not raise any objection against it.
At this point, a loud voice from the back of the hall said "It's nothing to do with safety". The Chairman replied
"Thank You" (in what seemed to us to be a loud and 'sarcastic' manner because he wasn't actually thanking whoever it was for their
He called Cllr Brickles to speak, but the chap at the back was insistent.
The Chairman shouted "Don't be rude please" into the microphone. The chap at the back (who turned out to be Mike Hill) wasn't prepared to let what he clearly thought was incorrect information sit with the Councillors - especially after Cllr Armit
appeared to have linked him to the need for this monitoring.
The Chairman again shouted "Don't be rude please" even louder into the microphone. He did it again and again, like a child trying to shout over another at school.
In between the shouts, we managed to hear either the Chairman (or Mr Hill?) say "do you want me to" - then we heard "adjourn", so it was probably the Chairman, because he then said "Do you want me to adjourn Mr Hill?" (although we didn't think he was
actually asking Mr Hill's permission to adjourn).
Mr Hill again said "This is nothing to do with safety" To which the Chairman responded with "I'll do it with [indistinct??] if you want.
Then he said "I'll ask you to leave"
Mr Hill said "Shall I do that." The Chairman sad "Yes" and Mr Hill said OK and left the meeting.
The chairman said "OK", but members of the public were calling out in criticism.
The Chairman singled one of them out and said "I'll ask you to leave if you don't be quiet"
He called Cllr Brickles to speak but the public gallery was now incensed and shouting.
Once more the chairman had lost control of his meeting.
He could not restore order or make progress with the meeting. People were shouting "we should all leave" and several were getting up to walk out in anger.
Some did, but then others within their number called on people not to leave but to stay in
Most sat down again.
Some left - apparently in disgust.
Again shouting into his microphone the Chairman said "We are trying to do this as sensible, democratic, sensitive people".
but his tone did not back that up very well.
Despite just having asked Mr Hill to leave he continued "We want to listen to all arguments, not people screaming and shouting in the back."
The irony here seemed to be lost on him.
He again called Cllr Brickles to speak.
She said she had to admit she had not understood the vastness of these until the officer's presentation. She thought they must be consistent, and if LCC choose to go against what FBC said, she was sure they
would put the safety equipment in there as well. She said "So we should be consistent and say 'No' to this application as well."
Cllr Speak supported her and said if they were seen not to be objecting to this application, it would give LCC the wrong message. She said these were mini industrial units in our countryside. She said
"We've objected to the process on one site, I
really do object to these monitoring stations."
She concluded "I will move an objection if it's, not been moved". Cllr Nulty was quick to second her.
The Vice Chairman (Cllr Eastham spoke). He said the room they were in was about 20m wide. He said if they simply said 'No' they would be seen to be lacking in their judgement
(he does know how to rile an audience - he had already raised shouts of No
from the public gallery.)
He went on to explain the principle of attaching conditions at a public inquiry. We're sure he meant to be helpful, but he had lost most of the people altogether.
Using that analogy, he tried to justify treating the consultation on this application as though it were a condition to be attached to a permission grated at appeal. He said if they didn't do that they would look stupid.
The point he was missing was that the agenda item was an application in its own right, not a condition.
To exclamations of exasperation from the public gallery he said "Well, that is my view, having worked in planning for many years."
Cllr Collins said he would support Cllr Speak and Cllr Brickles. He said he had listened to the health issues associated with fracking and said some of them had, quite frankly, shocked him. He said "I think we should be sending the clearest possible
message to Lancashire County Council."
Cllr Clayton said it would make a complete mockery of their objection to the original application if they approved this application. He said he would be supporting the objection.
Cllr Armit came back with a question to the planning officer about scale. He said there was a 20 x 20m site with various facilities. He wanted to know if they all needed the welfare cabin, the parking area and so on. He wanted to know if the officer
had, or could, discuss with the operator halving the size of the site.
The officer said it was a compound area, so he couldn't see it could be any smaller whilst the work was in progress. He said it was a similar type of area to the one at Singleton now. They were dealing with the application before them and that was 20m
Cllr Redcliffe said people were concerned about sending the wrong signal to LCC, but he didn't agree with that. He thought LCC would have a host of considerations to take into account, and he didn't think this was "going to be absolutely anywhere on their
list of considerations." He understood what people were saying, but the reality was that LCC may decide for the application. He said if they go against, this won't happen. If they decide for, this will happen anyway, adding that he thought
the Committee was putting their own heads in the sand and making a sort of posturing, political statement, rather than saying - It will be your decision
He noted that in his opinion, they are not going to take this into account at all. So he said his honest view was they should take the pragmatic position, and that was actually to go with the officer's recommendation.
The officer said he thought they could make it a sort of condition so that if the first (main) application went ahead they would agree to this, but it did not go ahead they would not.
Cllr Redcliffe said he would go with that and if the officer would give him the wording he would propose it.
Cllr Speak said she just disagreed.
Cllr Nulty said they had to object to what was before them today.
Cllr Redcliffe said "We have already sent an important message, and that was the important one."
Cllr Speak countered with "Why should we accept built development, in our countryside, for an industry, that nobody wants."
Cllr Pounder said they could only hope that the application for drilling would not be accepted, and then this one would not go ahead. But, he said that if the drilling got passed then there would be nothing more sure than chickens from eggs that the
monitoring sites would be passed as well.
Cllr Armit came back with a question for the officer. He had clearly only just grasped the scale himself.
He said "20 x 20 is 400 square metres, times roughly a hundred gives roughly 40,000 sq m of concrete if my maths is right. That's a village."
The officer said it was not concrete it was hard surfacing, and they were spaced out, so it would not be one block of surfacing.
Cllr Armit came back and said "Just remind me of the scale again, would that be roughly the same footprint as 200 houses?"
You could have heard a pin drop.
The officer's first response was plaintive and rather high pitched "Hrm" as though he had only just realised the implications of what Cllr Armit had said.
He continued "I suppose that erm, sort of 50 square metres, so, err so yes, I think it would be that....." and his voice trailed off like dog with its tail between its legs.
It looked as though Cllr Armits analogy had made him realise he would never contemplate agreeing 200 houses on isolated plots across Fylde's countryside, yet here he was, recommending the same areas as mini-industrial sites.
If any of our readers submitted a planning application for just one new house down a farm track in the countryside, they would be laughed all the way out of the DM meeting -
(if their application ever got that far). And here he was, recommending
approval of 200 development sites.
He began his recovery with "Again Chairman, these are for a temporary period of time"
Cue groans from the public gallery.
After a moment of stunned silence from members, the Chairman said he would take Cllr Redcliffe's amendment first.
The Committee Clerk said there had been a proposition from Cllr Speak, seconded by Cllr Nulty to object to the application. Subsequent to that they had what could be deemed to be an amendment from Cllr Redcliffe and Cllr Eastham to support the
recommendation, and she said they had to consider whether the effect of the amendment could not be achieved by defeating the motion. She said looking at the wording from Cllr Redcliffe it would be better in this instance to deal with that as an
amendment, and because of that, the planning officer should read it out to members before they voted.
Cllr Pounder had left the meeting for a short time, and just short of an hour into our audio recording of this section of the meeting, there are heavy footsteps (sounding like shoes with metal segs in the bottom) which start faint (as in the
distance) and grow louder, concluding with a sound like a chair scraping on the floor. We think this might have been Cllr Pounder's return.
At the time, we didn't realise how important his short break from the meeting might later become.
The amendment was read out and (to paraphrase) it was to raise no objection and there should be a condition that would only allow the implementation of planning permission in the event of planning permission being granted for the earlier one.
The vote was called
Those for the amendment were
Cllrs Aitken, Eastham, B Nash, Pounder, Redcliffe, Jacques
Those against the amendment were
Cllrs Armit, Collins, Nulty, Brickles, Clayton, Speak
The Chairman said "It's six each, and my decision is 'for'."
So the Chairman had used his second and casting vote to vote for Cllr Redcliffe's amendment and the Preston New Road Monitoring application had been recommended for approval if the drilling application was approved.
This was late to prove to have been a hugely contentious decision, and it called into question the Chairman's judgement in this matter.
ITEM 4: ROSEACRE WOOD SITE, ROSEACRE. FRACKING.
The officer gave a brief introduction of the Roseacre
application, which was for
- Construction and operation of a site for drilling up to four exploratory wells,
- hydraulic fracturing of the wells, testing for hydrocarbons,
- abandonment of the wells and restoration, including provision of access roads and improvement of accesses onto the highway, security fencing, lighting and other uses ancillary to the exploration activities, including the
construction of a pipeline and a connection to the gas grid network and associated infrastructure to land west, north and east of Roseacre wood and between Roseacre Road, Roseacre and Inskip Road, Wharles
He included a comment that there was a plan to put a road through HMS Inskip to bypass some of the narrow roads in the area.
Before the public speaking Cllr Speak said she wanted to point out that the preferred route in this
planning application is through Wharles village and not through HMS Inskip.
What she had pointed out was the sort of thing that makes the public distrustful of what Fylde's officers are telling them.
It may have
been that, in his brief introduction (which is simply to identify the application and what it entails) before the public speak on it, the officer simply didn't have time to mention there was preferred route as well as the
possible one through the land at HMS Inskip (a land based naval site).
On the other hand it could have been that he was trying to defuse opposition to the application by deliberately failing to mention the applicant's
Whichever of these it was, or whether it was something else altogether, the selective presentation of just one option, when he knew there were two or more, was bad practice. It should have been either both, or
Officers are there to serve the whole Council not a sub-set of it, and their advice must be impartial - otherwise they lose trust. You could sense a little of that loss of trust happening in this little cameo.
The first public speaker was a chap who wanted to speak about traffic. He talked about narrow rural roads, an unsustainable increase in traffic and it was just not safe. He said there were restricted sight lines, poor junction
visibility, narrow lanes, blind corners, soft verges and steep drop offs. He said the additional HGVs would lead to road conflict.
Next was a lady from the Parish Council she said this was not a temporary site and the applicant
had admitted they could not meet all the requirements (we think she was speaking about flaring and other lighting), she spoke of thousands of HGV movements affecting Wharles, Clifton and Salwick. She said the application would
flare off over 15,000 tons of methane gas rather than converting it to power contrary to LCC policy. She said "This is an industrial process in the countryside and the applicant has failed to use the noise assessment standard that
reflects the impact on people rather than construction sites".
She said the correct standard (BS 4142) requires that people should hear no more than 5 decibels above their normal background noise.
Nor had the applicant modelled the cumulative impact of the noise on the site and on their preferred transit route which runs from Wharles, Treales, Clifton, Newton, Kirkham, Ribby and Wesham with Medlar
[This means that
the HGVs are expected to be leaving Treales and making their way south to the A583 at Clifton, then turning west toward Blackpool, before turning north again at Kirkham toward the motorway. It's an awful long way round - but necessary
to avoid even more country roads and villages. We think this really shows up that this site is absolutely the wrong place for an industry that needs a lot of HGV's]
She said the applicant had fundamentally underestimated the impact on people. It was an industrial process not supported in the countryside and in conflict with Fylde Borough Policy.
She was saying which policies when the Chairman switched off her microphone (after three rings of the three minute 'over time' alarm) and rudely said over her, "Thank you very much, can I have the next person please"
From the tone he adopted during this meeting you couldn't help get the impression that the public speakers were an irritation to him.
Yes he had said they had listened politely to the speakers - and they had - (and no doubt some of the
councillors on his committee were very appreciative of the information they were being given) but his manner and tone gave the impression that this was all under sufferance, and he really didn't want to have to put up with the delays caused by
It seemed to us that he really wasn't that bothered about what they had to say, and that keeping people to three minutes was more important than what they had to say. It sounded to us that he had absolutely not bought into the idea of the Council
being part of the community and representing their wishes.
It was more like he believed the council's role was to 'lead' the community, and, in effect - tell people what will happen.
The sustained public applause for the last speaker
showed exactly how much he was out of tune with the public gallery.
In expressing his irritation once more (perhaps spiked by the applause) he said "I must insist that people...., three minutes. When you get the first bell, please
conclude. When you get the second bell you should have finished. When you hear the third one..." and his voice trailed off.
Next was another chap who focused on the conflict with Fylde's local plan and he said the applicant should have
looked at the industrial zones and sited his business there. He said they had failed to demonstrate a more suitable site could not be found and that was in conflict with policy.
Next was the lady from the Friends of the Earth again. In a short
presentation cut down to avoid repetition, she spoke of well integrity, ecological sensitivity, limited economic contribution, and the responsibility of councils to represent their electorate.
Next was a lady who was a member of the Roseacre Awareness Group and a neighbour of the Elswick gas field, so she could speak from experience.
This was a lady who spoke with no 'errs' and no hesitation whatsoever.
She spoke with tremendous confidence, clear and precise diction, a vocabulary to die for, a presentation style that commanded attention, and a strong message to deliver. It was always going to be worth hearing.
She said she had been "next
to Elswick since it was a baby, watched it though infancy, right up to its present dotage, and I can tell you that Roseacre Wharles and Treales is *nothing* like the Elswick site."
She said the Environmental statement runs to 4,500 pages.
She held it up and emphasized "That's pages, not words. That is just one volume. Four and a half thousand pages to try to convince you that those two hectares between the villages of Roseacre and Wharles are the only two hectares that will do.
And it's good. The environmental statement. 4,500 pages is convincing, it's comprehensive, it's scientific, apparently, and totally committed. And if you thought that you'd be right.
It's totally committee to its client.
The client is Cuadrilla.
And who can interrogate it as it should be interrogated?
This represents one file and we have done it. We have been through it. We have walked the route, described in here as generally wide. We have
looked at the noise calculations and recalculated them. We, we have plotted the homes that were redacted, and measured the distances. We have done this. Because this is a desktop exercise.
It looks convincing because it started with its
conclusion and it worked towards it. It's all on paper. This is the Emperor's new paper clothes
But this will not happen on paper - it will happen on the ground. It will happen to real people; it will happen to community, and community does not
depend on population density - ask anyone in a high rise flat
Community. This is a convenient, *convenient* message for Cuadrilla
The inconvenient truth, is very different. You did not become councillors for their convenience, and
thus are equipped to look at the inconvenient truth, which is compelling"
She said she begged the councillors not to approve it.
As will by now be expected by our readers, there was sustained applause and standing ovation as she sat down.
Another lady followed who said she was one of the people who the report said would not be significantly affected. But, she said, she would because she was so close. Giving a very personal human forecast of what would happen, including a personal
account of her mother's disturbance over 1,000m from Preese Hall when that was being drilled. She said that distance would affect all the residents of Treales, Roseacre and Wharles. She also quoted Cuadrilla's boss Francis Egan as saying on the radio
'You need to understand the scale of this. This will be the largest has field in the whole of Western Europe'
She concluded "So, as Cuadrilla have plans to turn the Fylde into the largest gas field in Western Europe, everyone in this room will be
affected. Everyone." And she urged refusal of the application.
Next was one of the more high profile anti fracking chaps. He said he would begin by concentrating on what had been said. He said "We're talking about people here, talking about families, talking about your families, so what I'd like to do is focus on
the people who've suffered.
I'd like to have a minutes silence - for Terry Greenwood, who died of brain cancer and was fighting fracking. He's no longer with us. Jessica Ernst from Canada who's taking on EnCana (the Canadian power company), and for Brian (??) who can't sell his
house, his children get nose bleeds, their house is filling with gas. His life is ruined.
We have a choice. We've been given all the evidence here today, so I'd like to have a minute's silence and search your consciences, because this is what it's about. It's about people."
The Chairman said he would take the minute off the speakers time.
There followed a minute of silence.
The speaker concluded by urging the committee to do the right thing.
Next was a man from Arup (the consultants) representing Cuadrilla.
He began by saying that the applicant had been given very short notice to respond to the issues that have been raised. He said they had met with council officers and discussed the
issues raised in the report and they wanted to continue the dialogue in order to address the issues.
He said that fundamentally, they did not agree that the issues raised were significant, and they would not outweigh the benefits of the application. He said they believed they fully accorded with the national NPPF policies, and the benefits, in their
view, clearly outweighed the environmental impacts.
He said the officers report had no reference to the NPPF and it should have, especially when, as at Fylde, the Local Plan was out of date.
Getting into his stride, he continued "As well as being contrary to National Policy, the officer's recommendations - if followed to their logical conclusions - would close the door on the potential for this temporary exploration to help answer
questions about the potential to recover huge amounts of gas that the National Geological Survey has identified.
This in turn will close off the opportunity over time that will drive local job creation and..." but at this point he was drowned out by hoots of disagreement and laughter from the public gallery at what he had said. He continued, picking up about
"tax revenue to the..." and again the gallery would make itself heard.
The Chairman - quite properly said "Please don't interrupt the speaker, we're being democratic, sensitive and polite"
The speaker continued about transport, and discussions they had had with Lancashire County Council, and he asked the Committee to consider the technical conclusions of the Environmental Statement which - he said, countered the
recommendations of the
Next to speak was Cllr Elaine Silverwood
She first gave Cllr Oades' apologies to the committee as she was away on holiday, but said as a County Councillor, she had been closely involved with residents of Treales, Wharles and Roseacre. She said they'd all heard about the 20,000 objections
submitted to LCC and it would be their decision, but Fylde was responsible as a council to advise Lancashire that we do not want this in this area. She drew attention to the shocking health issues, to noise pollution, the highways, and our precious
countryside that they had all heard.
She drew Committee's attention to the statement in the NPPF which speaks about avoiding negative impacts on human health.
She said "We've got to remember that this industry is unregulated, and the risks multiply with the creation of more and more wellpads. Also I think Appendix 1 sums up very very well, the list of reasons that we should be taking into account. It's not
just emotive issues, there are policies."
She continued "But there's one question I would like to ask this afternoon, and I don't know who can give me the answer, whether it's you Chairman, is: Why on earth, when we have had the offer from Mike Hill free of charge to this council, who is an
expert, as he's explained. He advises the EU on shale gas. Now, we know as councillors, that very often, consultants are employed, whether we accept their advice or not. And God knows how much money is spent on these consultants. But we've got a
gentleman here, who is a professional in the field, has so much more technical knowledge than any of us - all of us put together - and is there willing to give this advice to this council.
So I don't understand why, when a task and finish group was set up, chaired by Cllr Threlfall, that he was sacked.
Why was he sacked?
Why is he not sitting with this Council - I know you're going to stop me - but why is he not sitting advising the Task and Finish group. Because there is a number of Councillors sitting round this table today, who've said that they aren't
knowledgeable on this subject. None of us were at the beginning, but a lot of us have taken the time and the willingness and the effort and energy to learn about this, this thing that's going to affect every one of us in this room.
So, simple question Chairman, that I hope you can answer.
Why has Mike Hill not been allowed to advise this Council free of charge?
Am I - and I'm being careful with my words here - Am I being cynical in saying has Mike Hill not been allowed to advise this Council, because the Chairman of that Task and Finish Group, the Portfolio Holder for the Environment, has declared a
prejudicial interest, and taken money from Cuadrilla."
The public gallery erupted with applause and cheers.
The Chairman said "You'll have to ask Cllr Speak because she did exactly the same"
Cllr Silverwood responded
"No, before you give me an answer to that question there's a big, big difference. The Portfolio Holder has the power to make Individual Cabinet member Decisions. The Portfolio Holder declared a Prejudicial Interest and had to
leave the Council room. The Portfolio Holder isn't here today because of his prejudicial interest. I have not mentioned Cllr Speak, I'm talking about the Portfolio Holder."
The Chairman said "Cllr Speak, Cllr Threlfall and Cllr Fiddler were one of five hundred people who received one thousand, five hundred pounds....."
A very angry Cllr Speak demanded to speak "Excuse me Chairman"
We have to say at this point, that the look on the Council solicitor's face - which is normally even straighter than poker faced - was abject horror. To us it screamed
'what am earth am I doing here surrounded by people who have no idea how to
behave'. He mouth opened and closed like a goldfish in exasperation as the item went deeper and deeper into the mire. Other officers were shooting glances at each other wondering who was going to stop it and what to do about it.
The Chairman interrupted Cllr Speak and said, to correct himself
"one hundred and fifty pounds, I do beg your pardon, for access to their land...."
Cllr Silverwood interrupted him and said "With the greatest of respect - and I do hate that statement but - with the greatest of respect, we have one Portfolio Holder. I don't care - well I do care about other people that took money - but one
Portfolio Holder can make a decision, and my questions was, we have an expert at our fingertips, who lives in our area, who will...."
And she was in turn interrupted by the Chairman who said "I'll try and answer you very quickly, you'll have to ask Cllr Threlfall, or the Chief Executive, but not me"
"And I don't think it's appropriate to talk about this and I shouldn't have said what I did about the hundred an fifty pounds", but, (quelling Cllr Silverwood again) "get your point across, but don't be personal like this."
Quick as a flash, Cllr Silverwood said "It isn't personal. It isn't personal when it affects every one of us. The Portfolio Holder's making decisions, the simple thing is we have somebody..." and at this point the Chairman switched off her microphone
and she could not be heard.
The public gallery erupted again at what they saw as Cllr Silverwood being prevented from making her point.
She got up and left the speaking table. She received sustained applause and a standing ovation for raising yet again, what many see as a matter that Fylde appears to be trying to ignore - hoping it will go away.
When it became quiet, Cllr Mrs Speak said she wanted the right to reply. The Chairman agreed.
She said "Thank you Chairman. At the full Council meeting I explained I had a personal interest because my husband and I live near the site, and don't have a prejudicial interest, even though two and a half years ago, my husband arranged for
Cuadrilla to come though parts of the back of my garden for three and a half weeks, for which we were paid a minimum sum of money. That was two and half years ago, and at every meeting I have been to where shale gas has been brought up, I have
declared an interest. I have not got a prejudicial interest because I am not a Portfolio Holder, nor am I a chairman of the shale gas working group, and I am deeply offended that you should categorise me in the same...."
Her voice was
drowned out by applause.
We know this is the case because, as we reported in 'Fracking Interest', at the Development Management Committee of 26 February 2014 regarding the LCC Scoping Opinion for fracking. Cllr Speak said tried to declare her interest but the Chairman, Cllr
Aitken, interrupted her and said "No, this is just to talk about a Scoping Report Councillor Speak, so don't worry about that one."
He was entirely wrong to do so. As we have been told many times, it is the Individual member's responsibility to decide whether they have an interest or not.
That said, Cllr Mrs Speak had accepted the Chairman's ruling at that meeting, and stayed in the meeting. So no record of her declaration of interest appears in the minutes of the meeting, although it remains audible on the webcast video.
Keen to move on, the Chairman called Mr Evans to make his full presentation.
He did, and there were no further surprises in what he said.
Cllr Speak moved an objection ton the application, and she wanted to be reminded of all the relevant planning policies as had been used on the previous application. She said "What is proposed for the highway - I cannot believe that the applicant is sat there and thinks
that it wouldn't have a significant impact on Wharles village it's a very narrow road, or even Clifton Village. It will be horrendous. And in Wharles itself, where they want to put the passing places along the road are grass verges, in springtime, full
of daffodils. That is the nature of our community. It is a rural community. A hamlet. We have three hamlets make one parish, and we adore the countryside we don't want to be a rat run for HGV's and tankers and the like"
She said nothing had been agreed about using HMS Inskip, it was speculation, and even if they were to reach agreement, there would be restrictions on who can used it when they could use it and so on. So there would still be traffic through the
She said she strongly objected on highway grounds. That needed to be a stronger objection than the officers had made. She also wanted something to protect Roseacre Wood. She was also not happy with the applicants reasons for the lack of assessments on
wildlife. She said "The Farmer who sold this land told me three months ago that they're kicking themselves because they've found great crested newts, and they are protected. But the main objection that I have is this proposal is an industrial
business, a big business, and it should not be allowed to take place in the countryside, on agricultural land."
The Chairman asked members to have regard to the time because they had to be out by 5pm
Cllr Armit asked some questions which the officer answered.
The Chairman asked Cllr Speak if she felt able to simplify the additions to her recommendation. She was not, so he said he would adjourn the meeting to have the wording worked out, but they had to be out for 5pm.
Cllr Collins drew attention to the route from this site to the motorway and asked for a picture of the route to be displayed. A picture was put up and it was as we described earlier, a very long way round. He said
"If you were to pick the single worst
site in the countryside, this is it." He said if this was to be passed by Lancashire County Council it opens up the whole of the Fylde for fracking"
The meeting adjourned for a short time.
When it reconvened, and the officer read out what they were about to vote on.
He said "This Council recommend that the County Planning Authority be satisfied that the below and above ground operations will not have any significant adverse impact, as
well as ensuring the views of the County Highway Authority, County Archaeologist and the County Ecologist are addressed in full, particularly in respect of Policies SP2, TR9, TREC10, EP10, EP11, EP13, EP14, EP15, EP18, EP19, EP21, EP22, EP23, EP24,
Notwithstanding Lancashire County Council's assessment of the above matters, the proposed drilling operations would result in the introduction of traffic onto the rural highway network that would require alterations that would detract from the
of the rural area and cause significant environmental harm, particularly given the distance from the primary highway network and the uncertainty surrounding the alternative access through HMS Inskip
In addition, the noise and general disturbance from 24 hour drilling operations and associated activity would be significant as would be the impacts on Roseacre Wood. For these reasons it is recommended that Lancashire County Council be advised that
this Council make objection to the proposal and recommend that the planning permission be refused as being contrary to the provisions of Policy of PM2 of the minerals and waste local plan, as well as EP12, EP26, EP27, and EP28 of the Fylde Borough
Local Plan, which are considered to be consistent with the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework
Furthermore, Lancashire County Council be asked to invite a member of the Fylde Borough Council's Development Management Committee to address their committee prior to determination of the application."
That's a stronger objection from Fylde, but not that much stronger.
Cllr Speak wanted something adding about health but in the end said she was satisfied with the wording as was.
They moved to the vote
For the objection were
Cllrs Aitken, Eastham, Armit, Collins, B Nash, Nulty, Pounder, Redcliffe, Speak, Brickles, Clayton, Jacques.
The Chairman declared the vote unanimous, and said they were objecting for those reasons.
He said "Items 5 and 6 will have to be deferred to a future meeting because people have to go to other parts of the Borough and outside, but thank you very much for your attendance"
Cllr Nulty said the LCC have an agenda item about Preese Hall next Tuesday and they needed to respond before then. Cllr Eastham said they could just send the officer's report. After a discussion, they agreed to sort out a date before Tuesday and it
was to be on Monday evening (22 September 2014) 6:00 at the Town Hall.
And with that the first day of the DMC meeting closed - well, technically adjourned - until Monday.
Again, we had a slightly uncomfortable feeling about the way Fylde's policy concerns has simply been advised to LCC, they were not actually part of Fylde's own objection.
As we left Lowther, you could sense the issue of the monitoring stations was sinking in to the collective conscience of both Councillors and the public, and we had no doubt that there would be ructions about it on Monday.
Over the weekend we had heard about flurries of phone calls and emails, as more and more people began to believe the monitoring stations were precursors of fracking sites as, indeed, we had thought in the meeting. By Monday, there was a head of steam
Nothing exemplified this better that the first lady who spoke at the first item on Mondays re-convened meeting. It was the same lady who had spoken so well and so clearly on the previous Wednesday.
ITEM 5 ROSEACRE HALL FARM: APPLICATION FOR MONITORING WORKS.
The Chairman welcomed everyone and ran through the procedure as usual, then the Officer did a very brief presentation (which showed this application was virtually the same as the Preston New Road on which had been won on the Chairman's casting vote on
First to speak in the public platform was a lady who spoke on the Wednesday, and again we're going to reproduce more or less the whole of what this lady said.
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Actually I spoke to you last week, you might recall, about the planning application for Roseacre Wood. I opposed it. I saw the danger. I thought it was dead obvious.
And it was.
Because actually, that was fracking
with it's boots on. Really, very clear.
What got past me though was - fracking in a frock.
Something quite different. The seismic monitoring sites.
Because *they* are what I think of as 'fracking in a frock.'
They look quite innocent, because they are presented like *this*. There you go [drawing held up]. It's quite pretty, it's quite little, it's all dressed up, very innocent. It's being presented like that over, and over, and over again. And I confess I
was taken in. Taken in. No need to worry. No Fracking. No problem.
But I was wrong. I was seriously wrong. If you could show the other slide please.
Now, they are *sites*. Each one with its own planning permission. Each one, a hostage to fortune. Large sites, not [??} as has been shown. And if, in the future, there's an application for a change of use, or an extension, the planning application
approval would already be in place.
The development will be there. It will have no further impact on he countryside. The officer told you that last week over Grange Road.
It's very clever. It's not very honourable, but it is very clever. Cuadrilla is collecting sites, it's banking sites. Banking. How do I know?
Look at the transformation between that, and what we have in [??]. Look at the area that's going to be covered. Look at the number of sites which is going to be spread out across your Fylde. Nearly 200 with Little Plumpton's. Look how many are for
safety, and how many are not. This is industrialisation by stealth.
Control of development belongs here in this committee. In this committee, not banked. If Cuadrilla's motive is safety, there's no problem. If Cuadrilla's motive is stealth. They will squeal, loud and long.
Please retain control."
The next speaker was a chap who handed out some maps to pass around the committee. Cllr Eastham expressed his irritation at the delay. He said "We must..., we can't delay like this. If everyone does this, three minutes is going to be six minutes each
The speaker apologised and said "On Wednesday, none of us understood the full impact of the monitoring work application around the Little Plumpton area. Tonight, we're looking at the application for the monitoring works around Roseacre Wood Farm. In
this application, there are 91 monitoring sites being applied for, and the new information before us tonight, is that only eleven of those sites are required by the regulations.
The other 80, eight zero, are for Cuadrilla's own commercial operations. The eleven sites required include three for monitoring groundwater and gas, and eight as the earthquake 'traffic light' system. The rest, all eighty of them, are not necessary.
The applicant has chosen them as a commercial system.
The eleven monitoring sites required should have been included in the main application. But, as a separate application, it gives the applicant the possibility of acquiring 91 additional parcels of development land.
These 91 sites are in addition to the 93 sites recommended on Wednesday, which make a total of 184 options for well sites, stretching all the way from Blackpool to Preston. A hundred and eighty four completely new choices for development sites in the
countryside, all done in two, simple, planning applications. And each individual site needs to be considered in its own right, just like every other application.
Once an application for development has been approved. The principle of development is established, and is not temporary. We know this because the officer's report from the Singleton application says: 'The principle for using this site for minerals
exploration was first established in 2010, when a temporary use of the site and an access point were granted planning permission by LCC.'
The industrial activity in this application is not permitted in the designated countryside, and therefore the application is in conflict with policy SP2, which aims strictly to control development in open countryside, so as to protect its value and
He summarised his main points and said the sites must be recommended for refusal.
The next lady thought if the application for the drilling was recommended for refusal, they both should be. She wondered if all the sites they did not need for safety were "a massive laboratory experiment, a teaching aid, for an inexperienced company
like Cuadrilla." She said "The sites are all in and around and amongst the area where we all live. Unnecessary. Unacceptable. And potentially, devastating to us all."
Cllr Ken Hopwood said he wasn't going to speak on either the Preston New Road or Roseacre applications, but he'd changed his mind. He said he thought the Committee should offer an apologies to residents living in the area of the Preston New Road site
for "...taking the decision relating to the installation of monitoring devices without any understanding any of the consequences on residents living in the area of the proposed installations." He thought it was in breach of the Planning Code referred to
in section 5d of Fylde's Constitution (subsection 10).
He said members had focused on the application for drilling and he hoped they had now spent time examining both monitoring applications in more detail because in his view they were not in a position to determine either of those applications.
He said the fencing alone for them amounted to over 4 miles, and wondered about arrangements for de-commissioning the wells after use.
He also referred to his earlier question about whether Cuadrilla had a valid licence and said he now had the paperwork to show that PEDL165 was amended by a deed of variation on 20 November 2013, to extend it's initial term from 6 years to 8 years,
and the requirement to surrender 50% of the initial license area is linked to the end of the initial term which has now become 20th June 2016, with an anticipated end date of 30th June 2039.
He wondered how temporary was 'temporary'.
He said if this application was successful and moved into a production phase, the good people of Roseacre would have to live with these monitoring sites for the next 25 years.
We looked at the planning application form and that says the permission is only sought for six years, so it looks as though either something is out of kilter here, or there are going to be applications for extensions again.
He concluded by saying that if the Committee rejected the officer's advice and refused this application, he would expect the Committee to re-visit their decision on the Preston New Road Monitoring Application.
The Chairman asked him to clarify the paragraph in the planning code he had referred to and wanted to know if it was section 5. Cllr Hopwood said "That's one of them, yes. The next two are, er, certain elements of them...."
The Chairman interrupted him and said "One's about voting if you missed part of the presentation, and that doesn't apply. I think that's the one you mean because the other one's about being contrary to officer's recommendations, which is....."
his voice trailed off
This is an interesting exchange that most probably won't have followed, so we're stepping outside our main topic for a moment to look at it.
At the Council meeting on 28th July, a new (or at least a revised) 'Planning Code' was approved, and it replaced the protocol in section 5d of Fylde's Constitution.
Technically, it has not been completely adopted yet because the minutes are yet to be approved by the next Council meeting on 6th October. However, approving the minutes is 99% a formality in that they can only be changed if they are shown to be not a
correct record. They can't be changed simply if you've changed your mind.
So we think they will stand as they are.
None of their new provisions has been used so far, and councillors are unfamiliar with them.
There's all manner on interesting stuff in the new code about prejudice and not having closed minds, and not following a party line, but item 10.6 (which Cllr Aitken skipped over in his quick summary) could be a very interesting addition for the
[members should] "10.6 Not vote if they have missed any part of the of the officer presentation, public speakers or discussion;"
Now, the decision on the Preston new Road Monitoring Site is recorded above. We have it on audio, and we also noted that Cllr Pounder left the meeting. We assumed for personal needs or something similar, because he came back in fairly quickly.
He then voted to raise no objection to the monitoring site. The vote of the 12 people present was 6/6 and the Chairman used his casting vote to vote in favour of raising no objection.
We assume under the new Planning Code Cllr Pounder should not have voted, because he left the room during the discussion and according to the Code, if he missed *any* part he should not have voted.
We're not trying to pillory Cllr Pounder here. We don't believe for one minute this was a disregard of the new Code. We suspect he simply didn't think about it, and didn't realise he should not have voted when he came back in.
But what it does show is that if he had not of voted, the Chairman would not have had to use his casting vote, because the vote would have been 5 for and 6 against the resolution.
We believe this situation offers the strongest possible grounds to re-open the decision which was, according to the new Planning Code under which they were working, Ultra Vires, and should not stand.
The argument about re-opening the decision on Item 3 blew up big-time later in this meeting as we shall see.
So, getting back on topic, the Chairman's sliding over 10.6 saying 'that doesn't apply' might have been a bit premature.
The next speaker in the DMC Meeting was a chap from Arup/Cuadrilla. He said he would "Describe the array network as I do not believe you were given a full and accurate description at the last meeting on the17th.
There are two types of array, the
buried array and the surface array..."
He then went on to describe what each of them was and how they worked.
He said the 20 x 20 m area was required for construction purposes only and for not more than a week, adding "There's no materials to be laid
in that area. Any vehicles or any storage will be placed on the soil. The array points will take 3 to 4 days to drill with the installation finishing in a day or two, so for no more than a week would that 20 x 20 m area be required. The other
aspect is that once completed, the array station comprises a concrete collar with an inspection cover and this provides an illustration of the surface treating and fencing once installed [he had a photo of something similar with a post and rail square
fence about 2m square.] The fencing is around 1.2m high and the dimensions of that area are 2m x 2m. This is what you will see once the array is in place."
He then went on to describe the surface arrays which he said were a network of shallow buried monitoring stations to monitor the fracking process in real time. This would be 8 shallow pots about 0.8m deep with measuring devices located within them.
The equipment would be located in a small kiosk [a bit like the BT phone cabinets on our streets]. He went on to explain these too would be fenced, but the visual impact would be minimal. These again would have a construction area 20m x 20m, but it
would take a shorter amount of time to construct them - approximately 1 to 2 days to install. Therefore the 20 x 20m site is not needed for more than a couple of days.
Oh dear. In his attempt to explain better what was likely to happen, he may have sown the seeds of his own defeat.
His opening line said that the meeting on 17th September at Lowther was not given a full and accurate description of what was proposed.
If that was the case, how could they then have come to a proper decision on it?
We're pretty sure this isn't what he intended to do, but by introducing new and additional information *from the applicant* at this meeting (with every good intention) he has created disparity between the decisions at which the Committee might arrive.
Like Cllr Pounder before him, we think this will result in a weakness in the advice given to members in respect of one of the decisions they made at this meeting, as we shall show.
The Planning Officer then gave his detailed presentation. He tried to reassure people and said he didn't think these were potential future fracking pads, but in any event, a change like that would need a separate planning application.
After asking the officer to confirm that only the small monitoring stations and cabinets in 2m x 2m fencing that was 1.2m tall, the Chairman then said "Move the recommendation"
He was immediately seconded by the Vice Chairman.
We noted that proposition was after the public had spoken, but before the committee had debated the matter.
It probably isn't in conflict with, but at least it doesn't seem to embrace the spirit of their new Planning Code which says members should:
"Act fairly and openly and without prejudice;" and they should "Take care about expressing an opinion which may be taken as indicating they have closed their mind to further arguments"
But there we are.
The Vice Chairman, having decided that he was going to second the proposition, asked the officer for clarification He said "It's been more than suggested, that from a strict regulatory point of view, only a very few of these sites, I think it was
nine, need to be put in. They have chosen to put all these extra sites in, and I thin, the implication of the speaker was that there's been some sinister reason for that. Would you please comment in relation to those two facts and help clarify that
matter for us please"
The officer said "As I understand it, the surface array will actually provide the real time feedback in the traffic light system that's been referred to, so that's on a real-time basis, and the buried array was geared to more longer term monitoring for
the below ground operations. That's the difference between the two elements. So I think it's safe to say that the above ground is more related to an ability to stop drilling during operations, having regard to seismic activity. The below ground is
more of the long term impact on the drilling, and it will also assist in the company monitoring their drilling operations of course."
We wouldn't exactly call that a clear answer to the question about how many were needed for regulatory purposes and how many for other uses.
It was hinted at, right at the end of what he said, but either he didn't know and was trying to bluff his way though, or he did know, but gave the appearance of not wanting to say.
Either way, once again, it's the sort of reply that erodes trust in the officer in whom the Committee is supposed to be able to place its trust.
Next was Cllr Speak who said "I would like to move an objection please, that we really strongly object, but first of all can I say that I'm not dead against fracking. I should have said this last Wednesday. I'm not."
She went on to say if she could feel safe and confident, and it was going to be sited away from people and their families etc, she would support it. But she said "There is nothing I have read in all this application that gives me confidence to support
fracking in its present form.
When it comes to these seismic arrays, I've taken it apart since last Wednesday because I too, like a lot of the Committee, was quite shocked at the scale of the principle of development if this was allowed, the twenty metre by twenty meter - alright
its said you'll only see a little plate in the ground, but the principle and the permission has been granted for mini-industrial areas"
She went on to say that the 11 that were needed for regulatory monitoring were backed up by another 80 which she believed were simply to help Cuadrilla refine the geological data from their first seismic survey, and to target the most productive areas
She said "These points go out as far as Catforth, Inskip, Elswick, Thistleton, Greenhalgh" She referred to the map on the screen and said "Those two areas deliberately join together, and we're not giving permission for a little seismic array, and going
down for the traffic light 100 metres, we're giving permission for future potential expansion of that site to accommodate fracking in the future. The principle will have been met by giving planning permission. All they have to do - and they say it's
temporary - but Preese Hall was temporary. They keep coming back to get extensions on them. All they have to do in the future, is to come back and ask for extension to that site to accommodate fracking."
She said they should look at some of the sites in detail because it was very hard to understand the access arrangements to the sites. She said "they follow a farm track or cow path, and in the future, and I'm thinking ahead 5 years, 10 years, 20
years, we could end up - and I'm serious about this - I've been reading all weekend, it's *ruined* my weekend, we could end up with a situation like that - [the officer showed a photograph of a production area somewhere probably in the USA]
- now, they are
the same distances as a lot of these seismic arrays.
So if I could please ask Mark if he could put - I've got one here for Roseacre and I've got one here for Inskip - how do we go on making this decision when some of these sites are in other boroughs - Wyre Borough, Preston Borough - are we giving the
nod on their behalf as well?"
Answering her own question she said she took it they'd be consulted separately, but she was well wound-up by what she had read, and it was not like her to mount such an attack on any application. She is usually quite - we might even say - timid in
committee. But not this time. She was clearly very concerned.
She was eventually interrupted by the Chairman who said he had noted her proposition to recommend strongly refusing the application.
Cllr Mrs Nulty spoke up second Cllr Speak
The chairman asked the officer to explain about the areas. He said the officer had spoken about fenced areas 2m x 2m but Cllr Speak seemed to think the areas were a permanent feature at 20m x 20m.
The officer put up a slide and said "What you've got is a 20m x 20m of hardstanding - I think you can see the nature of the hardstanding there in that photograph, its a limestone crusher-run type that you'd get on a temporary car park. So within that
area, you'd have a welfare facility, a stores area, vehicle parking, a lay-down area and on this one a drilling rig with this type of machine here. That there is a wheelbarrow, so that gives you an idea of the scale of that - it's builders
wheelbarrow. So that's what you've got for the construction period. The this is the fenced in area, the 2m square area, which is the size of area that will be left" and he put up photographs to show the smaller area.
Cllr Speak interjected - and the principle?
The officer said as he had done before, he didn't think the two types of area were comparable and so on. He said a fracking site was of a completely different character.
The body language and tutting of several people present (members and public) suggested they did not agree with him.
What we noted was that he steadfastly refused to answer Cllr Speak's question. We suspect he could not do otherwise because the application before them was for a 20m square site. It was not an application for a 2m site with temporary access
arrangements. Although he may have seemed to be acting like it, this officer is no fool. He is a senior and very experienced planning officer who can smell a 'ransom strip' on an application before the plan is unfolded. We therefore have to conclude
that, having made the recommendation to raise no objection, he was doing what he could to make sure that happened.
He may believe that is - but we'd argue that's not - his job.
In our view, his job is to be an impartial adviser for ALL the councillors. His role is to provide those wanting to oppose and those wanting to support applications with all the arguments to
help them argue their case. Partiality has no place in an officers lexicon.
The debate ebbed and flowed a bit rehearsing the arguments we'd already heard.
Then Cllr Armit took off on a very different tack, he said he was a bit disappointed that both this week and last week hadn't been filmed.
The Chairman said "When we had the webcam on in the corner, it was an experiment. I did ask straight away, because I thought it was a good idea, why can't we have it. The answer to the question would be - it's too expensive. Now I don't know why, but
let's push it because I'm..."
Cllr Nulty interrupted him to say "Chairman it's been approved to continue. I was at the meeting...."
The Chairman responded "Good Good, well lets hope it is, because I want it on, and perhaps we'll have the site again reinstated. The room's being done up and it's not being shown but someone told me it was on Wednesday. Did anyone see the webcam being
used at all? So I'm asking questions again. You've got my full support that we want the webcam reinstating in these meetings."
Cllr Armit made his second point which was that he saw a parallel between how Parish Councils respond to FBC an how FBC's response would be seen by LCC. he said he was a little disappointed there was no-one from LCC here nor had there been the previous
Wednesday because he's have liked them to hear all the debate and discussion.
The Chairman then said "Sorry Cllr, can I interrupt you for a moment. Legal Officer: What's the implications of a member of the public videoing this meeting?"
She didn't have a microphone so we couldn't just catch her reply.
The Chairman sighed, then caught sight of a raised arm in the pubic gallery (us) and called us to speak. We said "It was simply to offer, I have an audio recording of the previous meeting and will have one of this if you require it"
The Chairman asked if we would offer it to Fylde Borough Council. We said absolutely we would.
He then turned to the Committee and asked "Is there anyone here who has any objection to a member of the public at the back filming on a webcam". We thought he meant us and explained it was only an audio recording. But what we had not seen was a chap
with a digital video camera further along the public gallery from us.
The Chairman said to him that it would have been prudent if he would have asked before he started videoing, and he asked him to stop for a minute. The chap shook his head. The Chairman appeared unsure what to do and said "Members, is there anyone here
who would like to object to that particular...."
One of the members (not sure who) said "Chairman if we're all above board and...."
The Chairman interrupted and said, "Just a minute. Just a minute, I'm addressing Cllr Jacques. Please"
Cllr Jacques said "The point I was going to make was that he hadn't had permission, and I think it was very rude of the public. I've no objection to it happening, but because it has happened without our permission I do object."
The Chairman said "Could the gentleman at the back just stop for a minute and just stand up?.....
The man shook his head.
Well, he's telling us he's going to put the webcam up no matter what you say, members, are you happy with this?"
There were several calls of "yes" from councillors.
The Chairman said "Right, OK, I've no problem with it. It would have been polite if he's asked, it would have been polite, because he's not being polite at present by not stopping and asking us, is he?"
Cllr Speak said "Chairman, when the webcam's on at meetings, do the public get asked if they..."
The Chairman responded "That's a totally different ....."
At this point we think the Legal Officer must have had a conflab with her colleagues because she intervened and spoke inaudibly to the Chairman.
His response was to say "If the members agree" and hers - as much as we could hear was "No" and some further inaudible advice.
The Chairman said "New one on me that one.... That's different altogether, so that's OK" and turning to the chap at the back said "Help yourself"
The Chairman must not be a counterbalance reader. If he was, he would have read 'Their Worst Nightmare?' our article of August 2012 in which St Eric did one of his favourite Friday announcements and issued a press release called
"Town Hall Doors Unlocked To Social Media And Bloggers'
After the meeting we sent him a copy of St Eric's press release so he would be more reliably informed for the future.
And so - probably having completely lost the threat of what he was going to say, we returned to Cllr Armit.
He reiterated his disappointment that LCC were not listening to their debate. He said the County Council had that week also produced a transport report for the next 30 years, but there's not one mention of shale gas in the whole document so they've
not taken account of the next 30 years of shale gas which seemed to him to be a poor report because of that.
He questioned the officer saying "I still haven't got it absolutely clear in my head, that once these have been, had change of use, from countryside to industrialisation, is that a permanent change of use, and regardless of whether it might not be big
enough compared to other sites, is it now an industrial site?
And secondly, do they have to show need, or is that not a planning consideration."
The officer said "My view is that these are temporary planning permissions that have been applied for. As we know applications for temporary permissions to be extended can be made. In this case, we would consider any extensions of time as separate
applications, so in terms of this meeting, these are temporary, I think there's been some comments made on applications to extend applications that are also on this agenda. These are slightly different to what's being inferred in this situation,
because on those they were to extend the period for the same operation. what's being inferred tonight is that the extension would change the nature of the site to a fracking site. So whilst I couldn't say that we wouldn't be faced with an application
to extend the monitoring period, for example, if permission was eventually granted for commercial extraction, and an application was made to continue with the monitoring, that's a possibility. But I think in terms of changing the nature to actually
drill for, to extract, to explore and extract gas from these sites, that's a different nature.
Just commenting in passing on something Cllr Nulty said, these sites are drilling down to about 100m or so. The fracking sites, for exploration purposes go down to 3,500m, so considerably deeper.
In terms of need, the application is what's before us, we need to consider that. I think there's an issue between what is essentially required in order to meet the DECC requirements, and that which is an operational requirement to ensure the efficient
and safe operation of the site. My understanding of it is that the above ground monitoring arrays, the eight, is an essential requirement of DECC. The remainder of the monitoring has benefits in terms of its monitoring of the sites seismicity along
with other impacts of the operation, to actually allow the operator to control the nature and method of extraction. It does have, in my opinion, a benefit, albeit not a requirement of DECC."
We've reproduced his answer in full so we're not accused of trimming or editing. What readers will see here, is an interesting, if somewhat laboured statement from the officer. It's a mastercalss in obfuscation and illustrates so clearly why at least
some of Fylde's planning officers are badly regarded.
As we have said before, this is a very well experienced officer. He knew exactly what Cllr Armit was asking. As did we.
He asked about the planning status of the land now, and it's status if permission were to be granted. He also asked whether 'need' was a planning consideration.
The officer adroitly side-stepped answering both questions. Perhaps because the truthful answer would have been one he did not want to give, that approval of the application would change the use of areas of agricultural countryside area to another
planning land use classification .
Cllr Armit said he'd made no secret of the fact that he was in favour of shale gas. He said he grew up in Cumbria in the early 70s and had heard all these sorts of concerns about the nuclear industry, clusters, child disfigurement, we heard it all. He
said this was not unusual, there was always a fear of change.
However, he wanted to do some maths. He said the area was 4km radius, and that gave an area of 50.24 km squared. He then said, an area of monitoring is 20m x 20m, which is 400m sq and there's going to be about 100 of them, which is 40,000ms which is
40km squared, so of the 50.24km, 40km will be concreted or white shaled with lime. Eighty percent of the countryside would be covered with these areas. He asked if he had got his maths wrong?
There was a bit of a hiatus as first people agreed then some disagreed, but they did all conclude it was 'a lot.'
He then said (using the mental ju-jitsu that Cllr Trevor Fiddler often employs) "but Arup got up to say the final area would only be 2m x 2m."
He said he didn't want to give permission for 20m x 20m, but he was very happy to consider 2m x 2m, and he didn't know why they couldn't give permission for 20m x 20m for two weeks, then 2m x 2m going forward.
He wanted to propose five conditions
- That it was linked to a drill being given permission and doesn't go ahead unless that happens.
- It's timescale to construction being specified - because he couldn't find the word temporary anywhere in the application.
- It being 2 x 2m we give permission for
- and decommissioned at the end.
- and a permanent timescale that limited it to x amount of years.
There was then a bit of an argument about whether the application said temporary or not.
The officer said it was not just the report in front of them, it was all the documentation the applicant had supplied, that included a timescale, that they would remain in place for the lifetime of the project, and he thought there was paragraph that
said they were temporary in nature.
Cllr Armit sought, and was given, clarification that all his points were in the source documentation and would be addressed by LCC.
A happy bunny.
But Cllr Collins was not a happy bunny.
He said there is nothing temporary about this. He said "It says quite clearly in the report that the perimeter fence will remain whilst there's any remaining equipment on site. all Cuadrilla have to do is leave some equipment on site and they've got a
need for the fence. They can keep it there for as long as they want. But why would they want to do that? Because they want to do vertical fracking."
He said they'd heard last week in the meeting that horizontal fracking was four times more likely to
fail than vertical fracking. That was why they need so many sites. he said they had heard from an expert last week, who said how many sites were needed, not just one or two, they were talking tens and hundreds.
He said they'd also heard last week that 15,000 tons of methane would be flared every year. That was 41 tons a day of methane and it had to be multiplied by the number of sites. He said Fylde was the authority that monitored the air quality. He
concluded that if they passed this they were creating a very big problem for themselves.
Cllr Clayton had three points. He thought the 20m x 20m was a red herring. Quite rightly he said what they should be looking at was the *designation* of the 91 sites in planning terms. He said if it was 20 x 20 and then became something less, it was
still nevertheless designated, and relatively easy in the future for that site to have an application put in for a change of use.
The Chairman and the officer contradicted him and said it would need a completely new application and there could be strong grounds for the Council to object to something of a different nature.
Cllr Clayton was also of the view that, having refused the drilling application it was a mockery to consider approving the monitoring of them.
Finally Cllr Clayton said the access points on the planning application said the application involved no alteration to rights of way or access arrangements, and he wanted the officer to confirm that was the case.
The officer said he was unable to do so, but that was what the application said.
He said the documents has a summary of how the access to each of the sites would be gained for every one of the sites, but he thought some of them would involve slight amendments to what was there.
Cllr Pounder commented on the size required and on the use of hardstanding surfacing for just one week, and on the provision of welfare facilities. He said that for want of a better expression he thought someone was being economical with the truth.
The Chairman asked the officer to address that because he had moved the recommendation and he certainly wouldn't have moved the recommendation if he thought someone was being economical with the truth.
The officer again showed the photographs of the works as completed, when the construction pad had been removed. He could not speculate on what might happen in the future, only what was in the application documentation.
Cllr Speak said she had looked at the documentation which was not in the officers report and it showed exactly how each of the 91 tracks would be accessed. She said they should have had that information before the previous Wednesday debate.
She said that where the applicant had said there would be no alterations for any of the accesses, that was wrong.
The officer said it was a very complicated application. The 2 foot 6 inch box containing all the information ran to eight volumes, which was delivered to him in a small truck. To summarise all that information into a meaningful report meant that some
of that was going to be omitted. He said he had referred to the fact that documentation is available on the Council's website, and that information was put out there. No-one was trying to hide any information.
There was more debate, but it mostly rambled around the items that had already been discussed and didn't add anything new, except Cllr Brickles wanted to know whether by agreeing not to object, they were sanctioning hundreds of metres of farm track to
be created across the Fylde countryside; and if they were, would the tracks be removed after a couple of weeks, or left forever.
The Chairman said it was a good question and asked the office who said "We're not approving anything, it's the County Council that will approve it, but in terms of passing comments on this application, then we're passing comments on what's before us,
so that includes the method of getting access to those sites."
Cllr Brickles continued "So when we look at something like this, that is not on one track, it should be - across farmland - it should be highlighted to us. " She wanted to know how many metres there were, or was it going to be miles?
The officer said if the Committee was concerned about the tracks they might want to pass those concerns to LCC.
The Vice Chairman, Cllr Eastham came in at this point sounding a bit tetchy and said "I know I'm being cruel when I say it, but a lot of what I've heard in the last two hours, if those matters concerned me, I would have spoken to the officers and
found out from Cuadrilla in advance of just playing games at this meeting by asking all these.... (uproar from other members)... eventually, Cllr Nulty said she took offence at what he had said, because that was what they were there for....
Undaunted, Cllr Eastham interrupted, pushing what was probably one of the least advisable buttons to press saying "Take Cllr Hopwood. I would have thought out of courtesy, if you really wanted the answers there's a good, it's a good idea to put those
Cllr Nulty (who's usually quite 'Church Mouse' in style), had been angered, and she fulminated to Cllr Eastham "Don't patronise us" and uproar prevailed once more.
The Chairman said "Vice Chairman could you make your point please without being personal"
(Good bit of advice we thought).
Cllr Eastham continued "As far as this application is concerned..." More raised voices
The Chairman said "Just a minute please, first if all, Vice Chairman... then changed tack and said
"Cllr, I'm not asking you to come to the table" (because an angry Cllr Hopwood clearly felt he had been maligned and wanted to respond).
He said "I know
you're not, but I am doing..." The Chairman continued, "but it's wrong of you to do this and don't over......"
Cllr Hopwood: "He's made an accusation...."
Cllr Hopwood: "Which is wrong...."
Chairman: "I said to you earlier on about how polite you were before Please don't....."
Cllr Eastham: I only asked a question."
The Chairman gave an exasperated sigh, then said "Cllr Hopwood"
(calling him to speak)
But Cllr Eastham wasn't going to be stopped so easily and started up again
The Chairman said "Cllr Eastham, you've made your point. Don't be personal about it and please, Cllr Hopwood, it's the time of the DM Committee not yourself. Please. Be courteous again. Please sit down."
Handled rather better than before, we thought. Cllr Hopwood did so and said "I hope to come back later"
Cllr Eastham continued - in what for him was quite a stentorian voice - "We've been here for two hours. How we've been here for two hours and why we've been here for two hours, let's forget that. We've got an application here, and a report which is,
pretty comprehensive, (a chorus of disagreement surfaced from around Cllr Nulty).
Well, I read on pages 48 and 49, and certainly believe that what I'm reading here, relates simply to monitoring. Monitoring of an application we chose to say we don't want to take place.
But should it do, as I said last Wednesday, then it would be prudent of us to make comment with regard to what might happen if, in fact things move from.... Now, what we're being told here is that the majority of this work will be done in a very short
period of time, and I imagine the farmers themselves are going to be quite interested and concerned that the trouble they're put to is minimal.
So you see these [.......] you see mesh sheeting can be put down over fields to give access. I expect from reading what is in this report that we are going to see for a short period of time, two weeks, work taking place on these monitoring sites, and
after that, as again is said on page 52, for the majority of the time they're in place, that is once they've been installed, that there will be no above ground equipment on site save for a small fenced area. We haven't had farmers coming in at great
length and saying [......] look what they're doing!"
Chorus of disapproval from stage left.
Cllr Eastham "You've spoken for [20?] minutes I'm going to speak for a lot less than that. Farmers themselves are going to monitor what's going on here. If something's going to take place for a week or two, then those particular access tracks will vary
considerably. In some cases just as you get these [.....] electricity lines. You can virtually roll out sheet mesh that vehicles can go over. And I would guess in relationship to the farmers concerned, there will be lots of different approaches,
depending on what satisfies the farmer at the end of the day."
He said he honestly thought they should not be hypothetical. Maybe there was an excess of monitoring, maybe there was a question to be asked. He noted the report told them there would be very little above the site, once a week or two's work had taken
place. He said "This is monitoring in relationship to an application that has already taken place. So I'm sorry and I apologise for my frustration in listening for two hours on something which I saw as, from what I read, as being relatively
straightforward. Clearly I don't expect our officers to be able to say how every site is accessed, and I imagine there will be different ways for different sites subject to local farmers and local wayleave officers and other sorts of people.
But I would like to think that most of these fields, you would be able to get to these sites in a sensible way. And if one of these was in my area and I felt that I'd love to know what that sensible way is. I think I would make a point of finding that
out in relation to that site, to give myself some more information. But what is here before us is, to me, very simple, very straightforward, and this is why I seconded the Chairman's recommendation that we want the monitoring only if our other
decision hasn't taken, hasn't been listened to."
He concluded by saying they'd spent a lot of time on it and he could see no reason why they should not move to a vote on it, and he couldn't see, on the basis of what they had before them, how anyone could do anything other than approve it.
Cllr Collins said. Today they were consultees, they were not making the decision, and he couldn't imagine if LCC decided to approve the fracking application that they would not also approve the monitoring stations for it. Some of it was statutory and
would have to be done. He said Fylde was a consultee, and they had the luxury of erring on the side of caution, and unless you were 100% sure the sites would not leak into something else - which they'd seen last week with a temporary time extension
for something else and it went on and on and on. He said they should err on the side of caution and recommend refusal.
Cllr Armit said he had two conflicting thoughts in his head. He said on the one on the screen, they were looking at way over 200 or 300 metres of 'something' to get from the track to the site. And he took everyone's point about two weeks and tractors,
but he wondered how people would go in getting equipment to the site after the initial installation, and his contradictory thought was that he could see it is only 2m x 2m, and there were post vans going round every day to pillar-boxes and there were
BT vans going round to green cabinets, and this will be a little man with a little van and a laptop which he'd plug in, possibly once a month. So once it was in place he could see there being almost no traffic.
So he asked the officer to clarify the contradiction for him.
The officer said in respect of that particular site, there was no proposal to build a track on that one. He said it showed a track from Greenhalgh Road to 'there' and then.... and he stopped, as other Cllrs chimed in and said "And then were?
he replied "and then across the field to....."
Which sort of made the point that it would need some sort of surface - especially in bad weather - really.
The Officer continued "Chairman according to the base plan there is no track in that location. How the access to the, to that particular site is gained, in terms of farm stock etcetera, I don't know what the surface is there.
The Chairman said they were still talking about a two week window, but Cllr Brickles disagreed saying "I beg to differ there Mr Chairman, it's not two weeks that track will be there, it will be there, once it's down, for as long as they are monitoring
that array. So it might only be one man once per month, but the track will be down for at least six years.
There was clearly confusion and (unusually) the Chairman called the Arup representative to the speakers table to answer questions.
He said "The tracks we've been talking about to get to the monitoring stations, how permanent are they and are you describing them...."
The Arup representative said "There'll be no creation of tracks. There'll be no need to er, [source? install?] any materials. If there's a need to cross fields with the occasional gathering of monitoring information, it will be done by a four wheeled
vehicle, or in some occasions people will walk across the field to gather the information. So there's no need to create a track. [such?] use existing tracks were they are there and if they need to cross fields, the vehicles will cross fields, but
there will be on creation of new accesses."
Cllr Pounder said "Someone had said we'd spent 2 hours talking about this. The item before this we'd raised objection. That was the decision of the planning committee. We've then moved on to this one which is only relevant of the other one gets passed,
so why we are spending the time that we're spending. Why aren't we just raising objections to this one, let it go to Lancashire County Council. If they make a decision to agree to the one prior to it, then they would automatically make the decision
against our objection to this one.
What we're doing here is going round in circles. Everybody's got their own points, but at the end of the day all we need to say is we're raising some objections as a consultee. We raise some objections and let them make the final
We could do little but agree with what he said.
The Chairman said "I think the most sensible thing to do now is to come to the vote. The first question I've got to ask is - Cllr Speak is yours a straightforward 'raise objection'?"
Cllr Speak said "Raise objection"
At this point she almost fell into what was either more poor chairing or a cunningly laid trap. It's to do with how Fylde now determines what constitutes an amendment and what constitutes an alternative motion.
Quite frankly they have an awful way of doing this which confuses everyone for most of the time, (except perhaps those who might have rehearsed these sort of situations at Chairman's briefing meetings before the actual meeting).
What Cllr Speak had originally said was
"I would like to move an objection please, that we really strongly object"
So she had not codified it either as an amendment or an alternative proposition (which we argue she should have done).
We really dislike this sort of sloppy proposing. Every
decision should begin with a seconded proposition and if one is proposed, one or more amendments to it.
That way people are clear about what's going on. Cllr Speak didn't help herself by not being clear.
But her wording was not simply to object, It did not say, as the Chairman had said that we simply 'raise objection', she had qualified it to be a *strong* objection and no doubt, as the new Planning Code required, she anticipated giving the reasons to
back up her argument after a short adjournment and discussion with officers.
Cllr Aitken had perhaps, forgotten her original wording and he confirmed that Cllr Nulty as seconder also sought to 'raise objection'.
This is all relevant, because if Cllr Mrs Speak had proposed an amendment that was the direct negative of his first proposition (which was to raise *no objection*), it would not have been an amendment, and the Chairman's proposition would have been
the first to be voted on.
But if what Cllr Speak proposed was construed as an amendment and it altered the words, then that would be voted on first.
The Chairman must have thought hers was not an amendment, and said "Myself and the Vice Chair, we actually put the first proposition forward, so we'll have the first proposition, and if that's
defeated we'll go to yours"
Now, this assertion might have been a genuine misunderstanding of Cllr Speak's intent, or it might have been a Machiavellian move to make sure his was voted on first. It was not at all clear to us which it was.
There was then a call that Cllr Speak's was an amendment, which the Chairman at first contested, because as he said, he thought a 'straightforward raise objection' was not an amendment. Cllr Nulty asked if the chairman wanted her to add some reasons to
it there and then.
He sought the guidance of the Committee Clerk. Who said "There was a proposition made by Cllr Aitken and seconded by Cllr Eastham to raise no objections as per the order paper with the addition of [??]. Subsequent to that Cllr Speak seconded by
suggested that we raise strong objections, but did not detail or articulate the reasons behind those objections if they had them. If there is additional information to those objections than that would become an amendment, as I pointed out at the last
meeting, when speaking on a motion, a member may propose an amendment to it, and an amendment is able to change the motion that is being discussed by taking words out of it or adding words to it, or both, as long as the same effect could not be
achieved by defeating the motion.
So for example, if it was a 'straight raise objections' or 'raise strong objections' you could just vote against, but because of the detail attached - which potentially could be attached - to your raise strong objections, and you want to further that
with some detail about your raising of the objection, we may need time out to consider what those objections are and to allow the proposer and seconder to articulate those reasons."
Apart from our disagreeing with the way it's done now, here was a first class explanation of how Fylde now treats propositions and amendments.
It was now going to be treated as an amendment and would be first in the voting queue.
The Chairman said he would take that on board and they would have a ten minute adjournment, and once again he urged members not to discuss the matter with anyone during the adjournment.
When the meeting resumed, the officer read out the amendment
"Lancashire County Council be advised that this authority objects to the proposed monitoring arrays and associated works as they would result in the unnecessary industrialisation of these countryside locations and would detract from the rural
character of the locality. It is considered that the need to provide the proposed monitoring stations is not an essential part of the proposal, but would outweigh the harm to the rural character of the area.
In the event that planning permission is approved for the exploratory drilling site referenced 14/440 contrary to the wishes of this council, that LCC be advised that this Council would wish to see a condition impose on any planning permission granted
that would only allow the implementation of the planning permission in the event of the planning permission being granted for application referenced 14/440, and limiting the planning permission to the monitoring equipment deemed necessary by the
Department of Energy and Climate Change"
The Chairman asked if everyone was clear about what they were voting on, then, when all indicated assent, said "In that case, I've listened very carefully to what the members have said and all the speakers, and under the
circumstances, I will
withdraw my initial recommendation." Cllr Eastham said he would go along with that.
The Chairman then called on the Monitoring Officer's representative to speak. She said she just wanted to clarify that the proposal put forward by Cllr Speak and Cllr Nulty was now a fresh proposal rather than an amendment now that Cllrs Aitken and
Eastham had removed their original proposition.
And with that, they moved to the vote
For the proposition were
Cllrs: Collins, Nash, Nulty, Pounder, Speak, Willder, Brickles, Clayton, Aitken, Eastham
Against the proposition
Cllr: Armit, Jacques
And with that, the vote on the installation of monitoring equipment centred on Roseacre Wood became to make objection to LCC.
But, of course, that left the contradictory situation of having proposed NO OBJECTION at Preston New Road and
raising an objection at Roseacre Wood on two virtually identical proposals.
Predictably, a further acrimonious debate engulfed what had just become a mostly harmonious committee.
Despite the Chairman's desire to move to the next item, Cllr Brickles was having none of it.
She said "Mr Chairman this is very, very important. Please allow me to speak."
The Chairman responded by saying "Please be as succinct as possible bearing in mind that the time is a quarter to nine, and we do want to do this particular item and there is something very important after that to deal with as well, so... as quick as
possible Cllr Brickles, we do not want any politicalisation"
An exasperated Cllr Brickles said "Mr Chair, can I move that you now use your gift to take us back to Item no 3, and in order to be consistent, we do the residents of Westby and ourselves, the
courtesy of taking the same vote on item No 3"
The Chairman said "I've listened to legal advice. Cllr Redcliffe is not presently present at this time, and as far as I'm concerned, the matter is closed and it will stand.
Again he tried to make progress but committee members were not for letting go and he said "OK well, you're going to have a long debate on this one if you want to start again, it's taken us two hours to get this far."
Cllr Speak said
"Chairman, I received an email from Ian Curtis this afternoon to say that we wouldn't be breaking one rule at all to re-address Item 3 because, we, as a committee, had not got ALL the facts that we have been able to bring out with the
application we've dealt with tonight. It has been overwhelming and so obvious that on Wednesday we did not have all the relevant information that we have had tonight to discuss the Roseacre Wood site."
The Chairman said "Legal Officer: under the circumstances with Cllr Redcliffe not being present, and the advice I've been given, do you want to state any changes"
The legal officer said "Chairman, though you, I discussed this with the Head of Governance, Ian Curtis and erm, it's, erm, this is a very, erm, tricky area [..??...] but the guidance [..??..] local authority meetings does say that there can only be
very exceptionally, erm, a decision that is re-visited through the course of a committee. Now that can only happen very exceptionally in circumstances where all the same members are present who considered the item originally during an earlier part of
the meeting. I'm happy, I have some advice here that I can read out, but also that erm, it is for the Chairman to exercise his discretion whether or not to allow that committee, event.
She reported that Mr Curtis said in an email, it would be exceptional but seemingly not unlawful for the Chairman to allow a
decision made earlier in the meeting to be re-opened, but if this accorded with the wishes of the committee members present
when the decision was first made, and no others had joined the meeting.
Now unfortunately that's not the case here, and then he goes on to say the corollary of this is that presumably it would not be lawful to re-open the decision if the members present had changed".
Now, we must say, were not one of the people listening to all this who thought it had all been sorted out beforehand and Cllr Redcliffe had stayed away once they found that was a way to stop re-opening the previous decision. We think far too much of Cllr
Redcliffe to believe he would be involved in shenanigans like that.
But what we did hear, was an extremely hesitant legal officer who was clearly not sure of the advice she was giving - which in any event was neither the law, nor statutory guidance, but little more than someone else's opinion.
We also heard Cllr Speak explain that there was new information and, as we have seen, the applicant's consultant said as much earlier in the meeting who said he would "Describe the array network as I do not believe you were given a full and accurate
description at the last meeting on the17th. There are two types of array, the buried array and the surface array..." He then went on to describe what each of them was and how they worked....
So we are entirely of the view that because new evidence had been introduced by the applicant since Item 3 was considered, and that the advice given by the legal officer was nothing more than guidance
(not even statutory guidance), and most of all
because we believe the Wednesday vote on item 3 was ultra vires, we believe the Chairman should have re-visited the decision.
But he didn't.
He said "Did you hear what was said?"
Cllr Speak (we think) said "Yes".
The Chairman: "Is Cllr Redcliffe here?"
Cllr Speak / Cllr Nulty (?) "Chairman..."
The Chairman; "If Cllr Redcliffe comes through the door, then that's a totally different issue, and what you're going to do is extend this to past nine o clock, and we're not even going to get the last one sorted out"
Cllr Nulty "Chairman can I just propose....."
The Chairman "Well in all honesty, there seems to be a degree of over-shouting going on whoever's speaking first. Cllr Brickles."
Cllr Brickles "Yes, Chairman"
The Chairman; "Just in case I overruled anything you said there, I have listened to what you have said, and I did seek professional advice. OK?"
Cllr Brickles: "I think if we send those recommendations to the County, we will look like blithering idiots. Clowns. We really will. The Committee on the same day according to the minutes has made two different
decisions on the same report. We will look
like blithering idiots and that's my opinion. I am not going to change that, but *you* are the Chairman, and I've read the constitution today, and it does sat the Chairman's decision is final." The Chair can still make that decision."
Cllr Armit said "We made the decision on Wednesday, at five to five, in two minutes flat, without [..??..] get back together on Monday. We had no idea that this might arise when we made that decision. We made the decision blindly. You knew that Richard
wasn't here today..."
The Chairman interrupted to say that he did not know Cllr Redcliffe would not be present today
Cllr Armit continued, but he speaks so quickly and enunciates so imperfectly, that it was almost impossible to make sense of what he said. However, he concluded
"So we made that decision badly without having all the information."
He said the Chairman could override that bad decision to make a good decision, to which the Chairman said "Can I?"
Cllr Eastham said he thought they would look very foolish to keep changing their minds.
That brought uproarious laughter from members and the public gallery.
But we don't think it was intended as a light hearted comment because he continued.... unless the officer says that he feels that there was something he didn't tell us at the previous meeting, which has now come to light. Unless he's able to say that,
then I would support the Chairman's decision that we took a decision based on the facts available to us and we stand by that. If we start standing on our heads on these sorts of things it [..??..] into chaos."
The officer concluded there was nothing materially different.
Cllr Pounder said he didn't want to rock the boat, but the difference between then and last Wednesday was that today, a lot more information had come out, and subsequently, the decision on the last item was taken based on the information in front of
them. He said "Had we had the same information as what we had on Wednesday, we'd probably have made the same decision we made on Wednesday. Today, we've made a different decision because of different information. Now that's what the Planning Committee
is all about, is making it on the information that we've got. The legal officer has said we're not doing wrong. As somebody said we look numptys, if we turn two different decisions of to different recommendations to County. And with all due respect,
there's nobody round this table is numptys. There's nobody round here that's numptys. So. y'know, lets get back to common sense again. We know what the situation is, we know we made the wrong decision on Wednesday because we didn't have the information.
Now we've got the information we've made a different decision and I think we should go back on the other one, and rectify that. And I'm sure if Cllr Redcliffe were here, he would say exactly the same thing."
Faced with apparent revolt from two from his own party (Cllr Armit and Pounder), the Chairman took resort in the law, and once more called the Legal Officer to comment.
She said "Chairman, the legal position is that if there are differences in make up of the membership of the committee, then you can't re-visit the decision...... As far as different information is concerned, the further information that has come out
today was information that was available on Wednesday"
Now, that's not what she said before. She previously said it was guidance, not the law. And even if it were the law, she did not say whether it was mandatory or whether discretion and judgement was involved (The law distinguishes between "shall" and
"should" in its wording).
Either way, it gave the Chairman the comfort he wanted.
Cllr Collins asked when the response had to be with LCC and whether they could have another meeting when Cllr Redcliffe was available.
Cue an argument about deferring the next item
and also revisiting of the previous item - and so on.
The legal officer then corrected her previous statement and said "The advice [so now it's become advice again, not legislation.] was contained in erm, in erm, erm, a reliable erm, source of legal guidance, erm, it is guidance
[again confirming what
she said before about it being legislation was incorrect], and I do believe [...??...] for committee to make up its mind [..??..]
The Chairman said "Members, you've heard what the legal officer's said. I am not going to change, I'm sorry, you can call me every name under the sun, but under the circumstances, I'm leaving it alone. In which case Cllr Clayton, I'm leaving it alone,
and we're moving on to Item No 6."
And he called to officer to introduce Item 6
Just before we move on, we must just look at what's happened here.
Cllr Aitken invited people to call him all the names under the sun.
We wouldn't want to do that.
But we do believe his judgement in this matter has been terrible, as was his hearing (or at least his comprehension) of what the legal officer and others had said.
His refusal to re-visit the Preston New Road Monitoring
decision is a bad decision, and lacking in judgement.
It will make both him, and the committee he chairs, look foolish and incompetent.
It will make the Council look foolish and incompetent, and it will make the Council Leader (who has kept Cllr Aitken in the Chair, when other members of the DM Committee have called for his replacement), demonstrate that his judgement is as flawed as
that which Cllr Aitken has demonstrated.
It will also give the Council the mother of all headaches to find a way around his bad judgement without losing face (as we shall later see).
Back to the meeting, Cllr Clayton quoted the Constitution which provided for a
decision of a Council or Committee to be reconsidered if enough members signed a Notice of Motion and he thought they should do that.
The Chairman sought legal advice again. She said "Chairman, that doesn't apply on planning"
Cllr Clayton asked why it said it applied to 'committees' if it didn't apply to the Development Management Committee.
The Chairman said "Despite the fact that you don't agree with what I'm trying to do, I am trying to do what's right, I'm not trying to be undemocratic. Last word on the matter, Legal Officer"
Her advice was inaudible to the Public Gallery, but it seemed to be that they couldn't undo decisions once made.
But, as Cllr Collins then pointed out, they were not making a decision, they were making a recommendation.
The Chairman said
"You've heard what's been said, the decision is final. I mean, report me to the Standards Committee, for heavens sake if that's how you feel.
Item Number 6"
ITEM 6: APPLICATION TO EXTEND RESTORATION TIME ON PREESE HALL
Readers will remember that it was the fracking of the Preese Hall site that caused the tremors, after which it was shut down.
The Officer gave a brief outline of the application which, again would be determined by LCC and Fylde was being asked for its views. The application sought to extend restoration of the site to 30th April 2015.
There were six more public speakers on this item.
The first chap said the real question was why the applicant wanted to extend the restoration time again when this was the third time they had sought extensions of time. He said without that information it would call into question the trust that could
be placed in the applicant, and potentially question the trust placed in the regulators.
He said they were left to draw their own conclusions and people might consider that the applicant was unable to complete restoration of the site, but didn't want to admit it, or perhaps the applicant was unwilling to complete restoration because there
were issues concerned with restoration - perhaps as a result of seismic activity. Another possibility was that the applicant was trying to extend operations on existing and future sites through an incremental approach which allows continued activity
for indefinite periods. Or perhaps it was that once a planning application is approved, it was highly unlikely that the granting authority would take punitive action. He concluded "Or maybe they're just poor project managers, with inadequate processes
He said only time would tell if they were allowed to carry on, but they should not be allowed to carry on this way. He said it was a fundamental matter of trust.
The next chap echoed that sentiment and said from what they had seen, temporary really meant permanent because it goes on, and on, and on.
He said it now needed to stop, and FBC should recommend to LCC that an extension of time should not be allowed. He said LCC should be requested to issue an enforcement notice and a breach of condition notice on the applicant. He said there should be a
robust challenge and a refusal of all current applications for this applicant because their programme timescales are compromised on other sites. and Fylde should not support this application.
Next a chap said his last job was as a Health and Safety manager for a multi-national corporation with a multi-billion pound turnover and employed about 2,000 to 3,000 people in the North West.
He said "And if my company, had come to me, and asked me what did I think as the Health and Safety manager about this scenario, I would have told them that I was worried. I would have told them that I was very worried, and I would have asked them
questions. I would have asked them what on earth is going on. But more concise than that, I would have wanted to know why we couldn't restore and sign off, one temporary site. Why were we in trouble? who had we discussed it with? And what progress had
been made since our last extension?
The whole Cuadrilla organisation is only 35 people. 35 people. So perhaps the problem is that they simply don't have the numbers, and they simply don't have the expertise to bring this through to a conclusion. Or, perhaps, they just don't care.
I'd like to read to you a couple of quotes from Public Health England, and from their report on shale gas. And the first quote is 'Good on-site management, and appropriate regulation is essential' And the second quote is 'Potential risks to public
health from shale gas extraction are low *if* - and I repeat if - operations are properly run and regulated'
But the operations aren't being properly run are they? If they can't even restore one well within the agreed timescale, how can we actually say that the operation is being properly run?
And if the operations aren't being properly run then the risks aren't low, we've got to have doubts about the safety.
And to make it worse, the plan and the timescales are the plan and the timescales that Cuadrilla gave us in the first place. And furthermore to that, if they cannot even restore one temporary well, how on earth are they going to cope when they've got
Preese Hall, Banks, Roseacre Wood, and you've got Preston New Road.
Lancashire County Council are currently recommending this proposal. I suggest that Fylde Borough Council attend the Development Committee Meeting, that they point out the worries, the concerns and the problems with this. That they point out that this
lack of best practice is totally unacceptable. That this isn't sustainable development, that they recommend refusal"
Next was a local lady who had spoken against the drilling application and addressed geology. But she surprised us somewhat here by arguing for the extension of time.
She said her first thoughts were that Cuadrilla had had this for three years why had they not done it? And why did Arup submit the application, because they had nothing to do with Preese Hall at all. She said then she realised that Cuadrilla had had
three years and apart from working at Annas Road, they hadn't been doing anything else.
She thought Cuadrilla wanted to have engineering access and that there would be a good engineering reason, The well had suffered damage in 2011 after tremors caused by fracking, and last summer just off the coast there had been natural tremors of
magnitude 3 and above which could be felt in Fylde, and she wondered if the offshore tremors could have caused further damage to the Preese Hall well.
She said when a well was abandoned it was plugged and capped below ground, buried and the site is restored. She said she could see the appeal of returning the area to farmland once again, but when a well is buried, it was not 'dead and buried'. In
this case, gas fracking fluid and produced water are trapped in the damaged well. She said "Professor Davies gave evidence to the House of Lords that wells leak because steel corrodes and cement breaks down.
Once abandoned and buried according to onshore guidelines, we know where the wells are meant to be, but we cannot physically put their hands on them, and the Professor said this means they are difficult to monitor. He went on to say that UK gas has
some responsibility here and it was prudent to make sure that wells can be monitored in the very long term, long after the company had finished operations.
Currently, this is not required by our legislation.
Cuadrilla may be monitoring 2011 damage, and may be checking or repairing damage from other causes. Whilst they have access to the well they can do this, and so it would be better for all of us in the log run.
If you force them to complete the abandonment process now, then you will lose access, and you will lose the opportunity to fix issues. As a consequence, there might be problems that are not ever dealt with. I was going to say they're not here tonight,
but they are.
Whatever they are doing at Preese Hall, they have spent three years carefully not abandoning it. So I would ask the Council to allow Cuadrilla the time to complete their work before they abandon the well, and if this means extending the application to
April 2015, then please allow it"
We thought this was an interesting and thoughtful public session, the last two speakers in particular, whilst disagreeing with each other highlighted the essential dichotomy at the heart of the matter.
It seems that no-one - whether Cuadrilla or anyone else can be trusted to be able to do what they say they will do.
That's not a criticism of Cuadrilla, it's that forces outside their control can, at some future date cause either fractures or degradation that will release what is in the pipework into the surrounding area, and the decayed pipework will itself provide
a conduit up through the earth to wherever the well is capped. And if that capping is damaged by natural tremors, what then?
This is not engineering - where the factors are all under the company's control, and there remains an intrinsic threat to the land during and after their operations.
We also find it worrying that the monitoring of abandoned wells - that Mr Hill referred to being needed for decades - is not a requirement set by what we were told would be "Gold Standard" regulation before permission was given, and that there is no bond scheme in place to
prevent a problem well being sold onto a company that then goes into liquidation without the means to undertake monitoring at all.
Next was Cllr Hopwood who said there were concerns because a school and the Army camp were nearby, and he wanted to know what long-term monitoring was planned.
A man from Cuadrilla told the Committee they had begun work in March 2014 to plug the well with cement plugs since the expiry of the previous planning permission which ran to the 30th July and further restoration works on the site had been suspended
pending the outcome of this application.
We didn't exactly catch why this was the case
He continued, saying that the wellbore was now sealed and several cement plugs had been successfully pressure tested which completely isolates the lower gas from the wellbore itself, and also the lower sections of the wellbore from the upper sections
of the well.
He said the final stages of abandoning the well took longer than they had anticipated, primarily due to the milling technique, which is grinding up the casing and removing the casing prior to setting the cement plugs. The milling technique involves
cutting through the casing, and can be very slow, but they wanted to make sure they did it right, that's what allows the cement plugs to go in place.
The final stages of abandonment was still to be completed and would be commenced as soon as this planning permission was obtained. This involved the final removal of the upper section of wellcasing, the wellhead, and setting the final cement and steel
cover plate close to the surface. That was expected to take a maximum of three months but they applied for a nine month extension to allow for bad weather over the winter, but would use their best endeavours to complete the restoration works as quickly
as possible and if possible before the end of the nine month extension period.
There would be monitoring for 12 months post-plugging and abandonment of the well which would be restored to its former agricultural condition.
Fylde's Planning Officer then gave his detailed report. He concluded by asking himself what would happen if they did not agree the extension, then answered his own question to himself by saying they would have to complete the works and restore the site - for which they
would need to be allowed a reasonable period of time, and he saw little difference between that and granting the application.
It was being considered by LCC tomorrow and that was why FBC was meeting that night, and his recommendation was to raise no objection.
Members took the view that they understood the points being made by the public, but as the officer had said, time would be needed anyway. It was said that rumours were rife about what was happening there and the reasons why it had not been completed,
but the prevailing view was to support it on condition they were kept informed of progress.
Cllr Nulty proposed raising no objection but drawing LCC's to the need for a longer period of monitoring to take place. Cllr Pounder seconded her.
On a recorded vote the result was
For the proposition as above
Cllrs: Aitken, Eastham, Armit, Collins, B Nash, Nulty, Pounder, Willder, Clayton, Jacques
Against the proposition
We couldn't hear Cllr Brickles vote.
But it was clearly carried, and as the chairman said "That concludes the business of shale gas this evening"
A member of the public wanted to ask the chairman whether, regarding the Item3 vote on Wednesday (which had been 6/6) if one person now said they had changed their mind, could that not lead to its being changed.
The Chairman said he understood the point, but the answer was no, and he suggested she write to the legal officer, and he closed the meeting.
And with that, the most important, and arguably the most shambolic meeting that Fylde has ever had, concluded.
Except it isn't concluded.
Continuing the shambles still further, there were post meeting moves to try and change the decision on Item 3.
We've seen nothing in writing, but stories are circulating from reliable sources that FBC is now busting a gut to try and get out of where Cllr Ben Aitken and Cllr Kevin Eastham have left them - looking, as Cllr Pounder said, like a load of
The following may or may not be correct, so readers are asked to treat it with caution. However it did come from a number of sources that we believe to be reliable.
First we heard that the Chief Executive had said that because Fylde's Constitution said decisions on consultation responses were actually delegated to officers, they could simply disregard the decision of the Committee on Item 3 and impose their own
consultation response from an officer.
That would have made a complete mockery of a seven hour meeting to debate the matters and come to conclusions.
What we're told did happen was that a letter from the Director of Development Services was sent out to members of the Development Management Committee who attended the meeting.
It began along the lines above about decisions delegated to officers to respond to consultations, but then veered sideways and rather than saying the officer could override the decision of the Committee, it said that if one or more of the people present
at the meeting on Wednesday made a complaint about the decision the officer would be within his rights to provide further advice to the County Council about the decision along with the decision itself.
Dear, dear, what a mess we get do ourselves into. What an absolute shambles this sorry saga had become.
We remain of the view that by far the best way out of this is to ask Cllr Pounder to save the day for them by explaining he should not have voted when he did, and to have his vote discounted. The Chairman could then ask for the matter of Item 3 to be
reconsidered by the same members who were there on that day, and everyone (perhaps apart from the applicant) would be happy.
We think it could even be done by the members who were present on the Monday without risk, or indeed by any incarnation of the Development Management Committee. After all, as their legal officer did eventually say, it was only guidance (and from a
source she apparently dare not even name), but said instead: "The advice was contained in erm, in erm, erm, a reliable erm, source of legal guidance, erm, it is guidance, and I do believe [...??...] for committee to make up its mind [..??..]"
So at a guess, what we have here is a commercial handbook of interpretation that is directing one of the most important planning decision Fylde has ever taken.
These law books are interesting, and often look at what was said when the Act was a Bill and what was said in the debates. But what they are not is the Statute.
So as far as her advice was concerned, (and despite what she said at one point)
It is not legislation,
It is not Statutory Guidance
It is not even the legal officer's own opinion that she is paid to provide, bless.
It is probably something taken from a book that lawyers subscribe to in order to keep them up to date with changes in the law, and to give them an insight into how other people are interpreting what the legislation said.
We also think another option open to the Chairman would be to take Cllr Pounder's situation and refer the whole matter for consideration (and determination) at the Full Council meeting in October. It is not unknown for controversial applications to be
debated and resolved by Full Council rather than Development Management Committee.
So despite his having done 'wrong', we believe that Cllr Pounder is probably the best placed person on the whole council, and that he has the power to do 'right' and sort out the mess for his colleagues.
Ironic, isn't it, that he was the one who said they would look like numptys if they decided not to re-visit their decision on Item 3.
Dated: 30 September 2014