November 2017 - Fracking Update
This time, we're covering the 12 months
since our last article 'Fracking Inquiry Decision 2016. and the preparations for the re-opened Roseacre
Planning Inquiry run by Planning Inspector Mr Melvyn Middleton.
Our last report looked at the 604 page report of the (January 2016) Preston New Road and Roseacre Planning Inquiry, and addressed matters of law, democracy and morality, before
going on to look at the key issues and details of the Inspector's report, and concluding with a note of the legal challenges that were just being launched at that time.
Now - prompted by the holding of a (31 October 2017) Pre Inquiry Meeting for what will become the re-opened Roseacre Inquiry next April - this article is split
between a report of the last year, and a report of the Roseacre Pre-inquiry meeting.
Part 1: The Last Year
We begin with a look at the House of Commons Briefing Papers on Shale Gas, before moving on to a Row about radon that blew up.
We then give our own take on Protests and Policing, the Legal challenge by the PNR group against the Government's decision to allow permission, and at the
and moratoriums that other places have put in place over the year.
We then look at the Events and activities over the last 12 months before considering a High profile 'lock-on' involving local councillors, and we give our personal take on
What's happening in the courts.
Next we look at the Environment Agency's 'Permitting Regulations before going on to report some Breaches of permission
noted and recorded by the
We were sorry to miss the Talk by Jessica Ernst who came to St Annes again this year, but we provide a
Link to a Youtube video of a similar talk in Yorkshire which is well
Then we report on the Arrival of the drilling rig that came in the dead of night and the follow ups that flow from what was an intentional breach of the planning conditions
that seems to have taken place with the knowledge of the Police. Then we report the Issues that the Roseacre Group has recently raised with our MP. And finally to conclude this
update, we report a letter sent to Government from an Alliance of well respected environmental groups.
Part 2: The Roseacre Pre Inquiry Meeting
We begin with a look at Who's Who at the Inquiry, then at what the Inspector said are The main issues so far as he is concerned. Next we hear
How Cuadrilla intend to Consult
on their New Proposals when they publish them at the end of this month, and the arguments at the Pre Inquiry meeting about How that consultation should take place.
Next we look at The Inquiry timetable overall, before looking in more detail at the Daily and administrative arrangements, finishing with facilities for
press and other
media, and yes, there is also to be a webcast this time as well.
Finally we try to come to some Conclusions, and give our personal impression of how we felt as we left the pre-Inquiry meeting.
THE LAST YEAR
FRACKING BRIEFING PAPER (S?)
Almost before the Hogmanay hangovers had subsided, on 4 January, the House of Commons Library published its 'Briefing Paper Number 6073 - Shale Gas and Fracking, a
mostly factual, non-technical explanation of the situation prevailing at that time.
Curiously, this same publication title and number seems to have been re-issued or superseded by a
second issue - dated 13 April 20177. This appears to be the current issue.
We've not had time to do a comparison between these issues yet, to see what, if anything has changed. And the earlier version doesn't seem to be still available. But, if
anyone wants a copy of this first (4th Jan) version to compare them, let us know and we will email a copy on request.
Shortly afterwards, our friends at the authoritative and well respected 'Drill or Drop' website broke news about Radon monitoring at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, commenting
that local residents had been 'horrified to learn that there has been no independent testing for the radioactive gas, radon."
It seemed The British Geological Survey had been surveying water, air quality, and other matters in soil around the site, but there has been no monitoring of radon in
the air or in local homes, before operations began
We understand that the risk of lung cancer increases with time and intensity of exposure to Radon and, whilst Fylde was not thought to have especially high radon concentrations, locals
thought that a status-quo baseline situation should be established before Cuadrilla started work. We subsequently heard this was going to take place.
PROTESTS AND POLICING
As work to create Cuadrilla's site got under way, the protests of local people became swelled by folk from more distant climes, often with a wider agenda to stop fracking.
This change had a number of effects, including more direct and active methods of protest.
Some of this activity resulted in disruption of sitework, (especially with regard to
deliveries) - where protestors sought to use their presence on the pavement to block access for deliveries.
We know local protestors were working with the police to agree what forms of protest and demonstration were acceptable, but those from points more distant were not
always party to or aware of those agreements.
Cuadrilla responded with an injunction preventing protestors from going onto the field in which their site is located.
The blocking, and similar protest moves, resulted in frequent traffic disruption on the busy A583. Inevitably such disrupted journeys brought with it a loss of support for
the case that had been made by local people.
However the 'disobedient' activity did keep the matter in the news, both locally and nationally.
We believe this situation has divided public opinion (especially locally), with many whose journeys have been disrupted withdrawing former support, and calling for tougher action against
those protesting who were causing their delays.
But conversely, the media profile generated as the matter remained in the news has undoubtedly increased wider public opposition to the work, and overall, it feels to us that
public opposition to fracking continues to grow overall, albeit at a slower pace than before.
Tactics used by protestors included delivery lorries being 'slow walked' (by agreement) - when people walked in front of them on the highway (think the man
with the red flag in the early days of motoring) and slowed their progress onto the site. Some even climbed on
lorries, which then had to stop. Others used a technique called 'locking on' using tubes and other devices with restraints inside to prevent the 'human chain' they had created being separated,
as they restricted access to the site with their bodies.
Eventually, (and probably inevitably) these activities spread to the premises of Cuadrilla's suppliers. Some protests were disregarded, but others were more
successful. Armstrong Aggregates and Moore Readymix both said they were pulling out of working for Cuadrilla
Occasionally tempers flared on both sides, and there were claims of assault and vehicles being driven at protestors. The situation escalated.
Another impact of the increasing use of 'direct action' (and to us, it felt as though someone in government had got fed up with the successes the protestors were having and
stuck an oar in) was the appearance of a much larger police presence, and a hardening of attitude toward the protestors.
By April, the Gazette reported that the EXTRA cost of policing the Preston New Road fracking site was expected to cost £450,000 a month going forward. If accurate, that's a
cost of around £3 million to date for extra policing costs which it's thought local people will have to bear. And that's those same people whose elected representatives voted
to refuse planning permission for these sites.
Adding injury to insult, In scenes that were less horrific and less widespread, but nevertheless still reminiscent of the type of policing that so damaged public confidence and trust in the police during
the miners dispute, we saw what appeared to be 'overtime officers' from all around the country being bussed in, ready to rumble, and meeting out a more assertive stance. We saw
film of officers rough handling people, and at least one instance of a local Councillor being pushed and landing on the floor.
We knew of a chap who was honking his car horn in support as he drove along the line of protestors outside the site as he passed on his way to work in Preston.
He told of a
WPC who ran across the road and stopped his car as he approached.
His version of events was that she asked for a promise that he would not do it again, and if he would not give that undertaking, she would arrest him.
We're pretty much sure he cold not have been prosecuted for sounding his horn (the law applies to not doing so in built-up areas and at night time), but perhaps no
compliance with a request might have been considered to be 'Obstructing the Police'
We've no doubt some people will say 'Good: these people deserve all they get' to this sort of treatment, but we don't number ourselves amongst them
Despite the Government's plan to have it changed, the police still swear their oath to the Monarch, not to the Government.
The are Her Majesty's Constabulary, and through that oath, are duty bound the community they serve.
If our perception of a 'push' emanating from government to the police, and the local councillor (and others) feeling the weight of that 'push' in a physical sense was correct,
then it serves no-one's long term interest.
We know people at Preston New Road who are quite properly described as responsible pillars of the community who have been shocked at what they saw
their police force do.
One in particular, a very civic minded, mature and responsible resident of our acquaintance told us that after they had relayed what they had seen take place to a friend,
told that they had been 'radicalised'.
When people of this stature are moved by the evidence of their own eyes, it is hugely damaging to the trust and confidence the police should enjoy.
We recognise the police have a really difficult job here. They must walk a fine line between the protestor's right to demonstrate their continuing opposition, whilst
ensuring that Cuadrilla's lawful operations can take place. Consent for that use has been given by the Government - albeit contentiously and undemocratically in the eyes of many
The willingness of 'external' police forces to send additional officers to Lancashire was not universal though. The Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales Police said
officers from that force would no longer 'facilitate Cuadrilla's business in Little Plumpton' after he made representations about their capacity to police in North Wales.
Making what we thought was an interesting point - after Wales had instituted a moratorium on fracking there - (see the next but one topic below) he also
"Why should officers from North Wales be sent to police and facilitate an activity where the activity is more or less unlawful in their own country?"
This situation regarding the extent of policing is not yet resolved, but as far as we can see, some of the heat of the summer seems to have cooled - at least a little - with the onset of autumn, and we are
grateful for that.
PNR LEGAL CHALLENGE
In what was probably the most significant development of the year, mid February saw a legal challenge in the form of a Judicial Review against the Secretary of State's decision
to overrule LCC's refusal of planning permission for fracking at Preston New Road.
Once again they were represented by Leigh Day law firm, with Dr Ashley Bowes from Cornerstone Chambers, and David Wolfe QC at the Manchester Court of Civil Justice.
individual campaigner, Gayzer Frackman were each seeking to have the Secretary of State's decision declared unjust and quashed.
Judgement was expected in a few weeks of nervous waiting, but sadly for the folks in Fylde, when it came, it was not in their favour and the reviewing Judge (The
Honourable Mr Justice Dove), did not support the argument that five points of law had been breached.
However the Judge did agree that there was validity in their arguments and by June they had been granted the right for their case and arguments to be heard at the Court of
Appeal in London on the 30th and 31st of August.
David Wolfe QC said "the secretary of state, through his inspector, misunderstood key local and national planning policies".
The appeal was based on four grounds:
- the minister and the inspector made "errors of law" by "misinterpreting" a policy protecting against harm to the landscape
- "wrongly applying" the National Planning Policy Framework
- denying a fair hearing during the planning inquiry, and
- "using a wildly different test for assessing the impact on the quality of life of those living nearby"
The appeal asked three judges, Lord Justice Simon, Lord Justice Lindblom and Lord Justice Henderson, to “set aside” the ruling of Mr Justice Dove in the high court and
to “quash the secretary of state’s decision”.
At the time of writing (6 Nov 17), the result of the appeal is still awaited.
FRACKING BANS SPREAD WIDER
Despite strong opposition from other Members of the Scottish Parliament, the SNP had announced a moratorium on all test drilling for unconventional oil and gas sources in
Now, Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse has said the existing moratorium will continue indefinitely. He told MSPs that the practice "cannot and will not take place in
Scotland" and attributed it to overwhelming public opposition and little economic justification for the industry.
Like their Celtish relatives, the Welsh Government opposes fracking, and in August 2015, they too put a moratorium in place.
Although they do not have full power to ban the process, 'The Wales Act' - which is expected to devolve further powers to Cardiff from London this year - will give
the Welsh Government control over fracking once it comes fully into force.
In a statement at the start of October 2017 the Welsh Government said it had "repeatedly made clear" its opposition to fracking in Wales and we understand that, in
preparation for the powers being devolved, the UK government has not awarded any new licences in Wales or Scotland.
On 27 October 2017, measures that are expected to become a nationwide ban on fracking were put forward by Fine Gael and received cross-party support . These are the
first steps in what is expected to become an outright ban on fracking and they look set to come into force.
We don't follow Irish legislation as much as in the UK but we're told that the minority Government cancelled proposals to stall the legislation until next June after Fianna
Fail warned it would not support any delay.
If it does, Ireland will follow France, Germany and Bulgaria who have all banned fracking.
At the end of September 2017, a new strategic planning policy statement (SPPS) was issued. In outline this seems to be the equivalent of the National Planning Policy
Framework. (because it reduces 20 separate planning policy statements to one and consolidates over 800 pages of existing policy in to a single document).
But within the SPPS there is, for the first time, an overriding written "no to fracking" policy. This seems to be NI's chosen method of banning fracking
We're not clear why they chose this approach. It might be because they do not have authority to implement legislation to ban the practice, or perhaps they think this is a
more effective (and flexible) approach.
Either way the outcome appears to be a ban on fracking.
Closer to Home
In September 2017, Labour's Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP said Labour would ban fracking if it were in power.
He visited Preston New Road an said: “The purpose of today’s visit was to, first of all, come along and listen to hear about the operation itself and the implications of
it and also the operation with regard to the policing, but also it was to take back a message to parliament and my colleagues there that we need to give you all the support we
Subsequent to the visit, Mr McDonnell said: "Labour will ban fracking when we go into government".
ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS
Outside the site based protests, the year has seen several local events.
On 28 June we attended a Public Meeting on Fracking that overflowed Lowther Pavilion's capacity.
Dr Frank Rugman spoke about the health aspects of fracking, including the latest information on what are clearly growing international concerns about diesel particulates in relation to air
quality and human health.
He noted Professor John Middleton, President of the UK Faculty of Public Health who had called on the Government to reverse its decision because:
"The regulatory system for fracking is incomplete and weak."
"The precise level of risk to human health from fracking cannot be calculated"
Technical expert Mike Hill then spoke at length the detailed processes that were expected to follow the imminent arrival of Cuadrilla's drilling rig on site at Preston New
Culminating in a call for those present to take action to find out facts for themselves, such as contacting supermarket managers and asking them about how they could
guarantee a supply of frack free food, and speaking with their MPs and contacting the Environment Agency's Steve Molyneux in Preston and asking him to explain how the EA
will monitor the recycling of flowback fluid from the drilling when there is no defined process, or how the
'Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010' are being used permit fracking
- and so on
We saw lots of faces we knew in the audience, but there were also many people who were not part of the protest movement and seemed to be concerned residents of the area - as
was illustrated by their questions during the lively 'Q and A' session.
It was a well tempered and competent affair with credit due to the organisers.
There was also a series of events over the summer period including
- Art Building for the 'Rolling Resistance', which made props, banners and so on.
- A Family Fun Day and Hub Launch at Maple Farm, Preston New Road, with BBQ, Tea and Cakes, Music, Local Bands, Face-painting, Kids Games and more.
- A series of 'Mass Actions' each Friday in July with public roadside demonstrations themed to topics such as 'Green Jobs, 'Renewables'
- A Rolling Resistance Bike Ride: from Manchester to Preston
- Farmers against Fracking demonstration culminating in a mass banquet at the roadside (we were sorry to miss that!)
HIGH PROFILE LOCK-ON
Whilst there have been many instances of activists locking themselves together to prevent or restrict access to the site, the one that has probably attracted most attention took
place on 3 July, when 13 people including three local councillors took direct 'lock-on' action
The Councillors represented all levels of local government, with a County Councillor, a Fylde Borough Councillor, and a Parish/Town Councillor.
At three o'clock in the morning, the group arrived at Cuadrilla's Preston New Road site where the drilling rig was imminently expected, and lay down across the
entrance, locking themselves to heavy objects and preventing any vehicles from entering the site.
All are charged with wilfully obstructing the highway and with 'hiding or depriving people working for Cuadrilla of tools and works clothing'
(This charge is being brought under the 'Trades Union and Labour Relations Act' whose genesis was to control secondary picketing.
In a press statement issued by 'Reclaim the Power' at the time of the lock-on....
Councillor Gina Dowding, said:
"It's abundantly clear that when it comes to fracking, local councils have been rendered weak and helpless. I feel I need to be here with the community to say that we
won't roll over and accept this. We are putting our bodies on the line because our voices haven't been heard."
Councillor Julie Brickles, said:
"I'm sometimes called the anti-fracking councillor. I strongly disagree with this: I'm the pro-community councillor and Westby is my community. Residents are rightly
scared and we have now run out of options."
Councillor, Miranda Cox said:
"When your community and family is threatened, you are often left with little choice but to take direct action. As a councillor and member of this community, I have been
left with no more alternatives. I feel our way of life locally is under attack by an industry that, backed by a distant central government, is seeking to turn Fylde and
Lancashire into the largest gas field in Europe. I cannot stand by and allow this mass industrialisation to happen."
Now, we've no doubt some of our readers will be opposed to this form of direct action in principle.
Others may be concerned about pillars of the community taking action that might have broken the law, (and certainly they have been charged with doing so).
We understand and respect those views. And we have to say it is not something we would undertake on our own account (but then, there are a lot of other activities in that
as well as far as we are concerned).
But before we all rush to judgement, we would ask our readers to consider the following......
No long ago, two ladies broke into BAe and took hammers to a warplane on public display in front of the building. They then sat down and waited to be arrested.
They were arrested,
charged, prosecuted and then acquitted - on the basis that (and we're paraphrasing here) their action was justified because they used the defence of trying to prevent a
greater harm taking place. The warplanes were being used to kill civilians in the far east at the time and the plane was destined for that role.
We remember many local people being shocked when they were acquitted and not jailed.
There has been a very similar case which concluded only last week.
According to the Gazette...
"Two men have been acquitted of criminal damage at a site owned by defence company BAE Systems.
The Reverend Daniel Woodhouse, 30, and Samuel Walton, 31, broke into the site in Warton on January 29.
They said they were trying to stop Tornado jets being used by Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen.
A district judge accepted their beliefs were sincerely held and found them not guilty."
As surprising as it may sound, this was exactly the outcome we had expected - based simply on the BAe case from few years ago.
Now, we're not trying to claim that these Councillors are in the same mould, or are even likely to claim the same arguments in their defence. But we know two of them personally,
and we do know their beliefs are deeply and genuinely held.
We'd also ask our readers to consider some other instances of people who broke the law in order to effect change :
- It is by no means certain that women would have the vote today had it not been for those who broke the law in order to change it.
- The civil disobedience practiced by Gandhi was the cornerstone of bringing independence to India.
- And most especially, the man who became probably the most loved and respected political leader of the century, Nelson Mandela, had led both peaceful protests and armed
resistance in a racially divided South Africa. He was prosecuted for his actions and his beliefs and kept in prison for almost 30 years.
Now, once again, we're not making direct comparison's here, but we do believe things are not as clear-cut as some might have us believe.
We understand the three councillors are in court on 13 November charged with wilful obstruction and alleged offences under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act.
We hope our justice system treats them properly.
AND SPEAKING OF THE COURTS.....
We have to say we've not been impressed over this this year to see legislation that was designed to address trade union issues being deployed to prosecute those who have no
connection with trade unions.
We're not saying what such people did was right, but we don't think labour relations law should be adapted for use in another context.
The term 'abuse of power' is in the
headlines a lot at the moment, and it seems to us that using trade union legislation in this situation comes close to that term.
We're increasingly concerned that, in the same way that some of the police began to react badly to protestors and in doing so, brought their service into disrespect or
perhaps even into disrepute, we worry that the court system is heading in the same direction.
It's not helped when some Judges go against both the spirit and the letter of the law and say that legal aid should not be available to individuals who are charged with,
and prosecuted for, offences, when those people do not have the means to afford to pay for an advocate to plead their case in court. That is the whole point of legal aid and
that position is promoted by the Government no less.
We're told the system is becoming clogged with the prosecution of protestors who use civil disobedience to make life more difficult for the courts. And, in response, the courts
seem to be generating to ever more novel and imaginative responses.
We regard respect for the law as being fundamental in a civilised society, but the issue of people being prosecuted for taking action regarding matters that are, fundamentally, rooted a belief, seems like treacherous
and dangerous ground to us.
The above was written before the Judgement of District Judge Brailsford sitting at Blackpool Magistrates Court on 3 November 2017, where he has just found 10 anti fracking
protestors from Greenpeace not guilty as charged with wilfully obstructing the highway outside Cuadrilla's site back in May - a charge which they had denied, and Cuadrilla
themselves had told the Gazette on 4th May that their work had not been held up by this protest.
At the time of their protest, the Head of Energy at Greenpeace UK said
"Greenpeace is standing with the people of Lancashire against the industrialisation of the countryside for shale gas that we don't need"
During the case, the protestors had admitted a desire to disrupt Cuadrilla's activity but said they did not affect traffic on the main road, pedestrians, or cyclists.
The Judge said he had to consider the location, the duration, the interference with the rights of others and the overall reasonableness in the matter. If the crown could not
show that the actions had been unreasonable then they would fail to secure a conviction.
He came to the view that:
"....there was in fact no disruption to traffic on the A 583 and vehicles were able with little apparent difficulty to exit the Cuadrilla site."
After saying that this judgement was not about fracking per se, it was simply about what the accused before him had been charged with, the Judge said:
"These defendants hold genuine beliefs and are entitled to express those beliefs. They are, indeed, passionate in support of those beliefs, and those from whom
I heard listed the other ways in which they seek to promote their cause."
He also said that it seemed to him they had exercised fundamental responsibility, adding
"I am of the view that the defendants have, on the evidence I heard, sufficiently raised and established ‘lawful excuse’."
“The prosecution has not shown, to my satisfaction, the defendants to have been overall unreasonable."
And he concluded
“Accordingly, the charge is not made out, and I find the defendants not guilty.”
We suppose there is a prospect of someone seeking to appeal against this judgement, so maybe the champagne might need to be put on ice for while, but we are heartened
by a judgement that seems to have considered the facts of the charge as presented, and not to have followed what the Government would probably have wanted.
We think it is likely this judgement will have implications for other cases.
EA's PERMITTING REGULATIONS
Readers will know from our series of 'Bathing Waters' articles that we're singularly unimpressed with the Environment Agency, and especially with its 'Permitting
These pre-allow pollution to take place and are essentially like the old 'Indulgences' offered to sinners by the early Catholic church that granted full or partial remission of the punishment of sin.
So in July, when we heard that the EA had issued a consultation - on changes to the permitting regulations they had already granted - and these had been sought by Cuadrilla, we were concerned.
We especially didn't like the EA's paragraph that said:
"We will only issue a permit if we believe that harm to the environment, people and wildlife will be minimised and that the operator has the ability to meet the
conditions of the permit. Providing a business can prove that the proposed activities meets all the legal requirements, including environmental, technological and health
requirements, then we are legally obliged to issue a permit, even if some people do not approve of the decision."
The key word here is minimised.
Like the Statutory Noise Nuisance regulations - as long as you are doing all you can to *minimise* the nuisance or in this case perhaps the pollution, it's OK to pollute.
Plain and simple.
If the regulation exists to protect people from harm, it simply cannot be right for indulgences to be issued on the basis that something is not as much harm as it could be.
We accept and support a willingness to refrain from prosecution in circumstances where, for example, someone is genuinely rushing to repair or replace equipment that has
failed, but it simply cannot be right that the Government Agency that is supposed to provide us with 'Gold Standard' regulation should be allowed - even in principle - to
pre-authorise pollution to take place.
A note from Friends of the Earth alerted us that Cuadrilla were applying for variations to the Environmental Permit they had been granted from the Environment Agency, and if the
variations were granted it could mean that Cuadrilla being able to intensify their fracking activities at the site, which in turn could have knock-on implications for impacts
such as noise, waste and flaring.
FoE concluded that the application was obscure, and not clear whether Cuadrilla:
- want to do more than one fracking stage per day at a single well; OR
- want to frack more than one of the four wells on site on a single day.
Readers wanting more information can follow this link to download FoE's note.
UPDATE 6 November 2017
We heard - shortly after publication today - that the Environment Agency has just (unsurprisingly) said they are
minded to approve Cuadrilla's application for the change of the permit.
Those who want to waste their time responding to object to the decision the EA is now minded to take, have 21 days to do so.
We say 'waste your time' because this is the same outfit that 'permitted' whole years of bathing water test results to be retrospectively discounted from
the official results - in order that North West bathing waters under their watch - and that's the bathing waters THAT HAD ALREADY FAILED THE BATHING WATER TESTS -
could have recalculated, sanitised results published, but unsanitised coliform and other bacteria indicating untreated sewage still in the seawater and on our beaches.
This is the same outfit that has worked with councils to allow them to exclude individual bathing water test results within the years they *are* counting -
provided councils put up signs for a one, two or three day prohibition on bathing when there is heavy rain during the bathing season, and, as a result have avoided having to
declare the results that would push the results in to failure even after discounting whole years of testing.
If anyone doubts what we are saying here, just look at our Great Bathing Water Con report, then ask
yourself, if all was fine and dandy as the EA say, why has the whole of South Shore's traffic being disrupted for an eternity to install new sewers, and why were new sewage
storage tanks STILL having to be put in on Fishers Field on Highfield Road and at Anchorsholme?
This is the same outfit that is allowing vast quantities of raw untreated sewage mixed with surface rainwater to be discharged into Liggard Brook - which flows through an
urban part of Lytham, because they have failed to ensure adequate sewage treatment works were provided, or that a sufficient capacity of mixed rainwater and sewage storage
tanks was provided.
This means that when the tank under Park View Playing Field in Lytham is full, they simply open the valve and let the mixed rainwater and sewage flow into Liggard Brook,
because that's preferable to it backing up into people's homes.
This is the same outfit that has miserably failed to prevent their rivers from flooding peoples homes as we have increasingly seen on our TV screens in recent years.
This organisation is simply not fit for the regulatory purpose they should be delivering, and it's our view that the sooner this useless, incompetent, supposedly
regulatory monolith is disbanded, the happier we will be.
And if we sound cross, it's because we are.
And just before we leave the matter of regulation, we noted that on 18 July 2017, our MP Mark Menzies asked a question about site inspections, He asked DEFRA:
"How many unannounced on site inspections the Environment Agency has conducted at Cuadrilla Resources"
The reply was:
"The Environment Agency has conducted one unannounced site inspection at Preston New Road since November 2016. This took place on 2 March 2017"
ENVIRONMENTAL PERMIT BREACHES
Despite the use of their Permitting Regulations, according to the website 'Spinwatch' the tally of Cuadrilla's
environmental breaches has risen to five this year at Preston New Road.
The latest of these was published on 6 October 2017 and
to the Spinwatch report,
'....on this occasion, Cuadrilla reported to the EA during a 14 June site inspection that ‘silt-contaminated’ water had escaped from the well pad via an
‘electrical conduit’ and that the company had already investigated the issue and taken remedial action.
The EA compliance report notes that:
A ducting manhole was identified at a low point along the western boundary of the site. The manhole overflowed and spilled onto ground which spread across
land. A quantity of the silt contaminated surface waste saturated the ground and flowed overland into a field drain which then discharged to a tributary of Carr Bridge Brook.'
This is the third time this year that silt-contaminated water from Cuadrilla’s operations has ended up in a tributary of Carr Bridge Brook. Although the EA
was not able to identify any pollution resulting from this latest ‘unauthorised’ water release, it classified the incident as one that was likely to have a ‘minor environmental
A reader kindly sent us some drone photographs of more recent flooding of the Cuadrilla site. We do not know whether this also resulted in a breach of the permit, but
readers will see for themselves the extent of the problem.
We do not believe this flooding was caused by a leak, it appears to have been caused simply by heavy rain falling onto the impermeable surface of the site.
We were told by another reader that it took more than twenty water tankers to clear the floodwater off the site, but whether that is correct we do not know.
JESSICA ERNST - AGAIN
Scientist turned campaigner Jessica Ernst was in Fylde again to speak about fracking on 11 October 2017.
She was an environmental scientist working for the Canadian energy company Encana ....at least she was until they contaminated her water in the tiny town of Rosebud, Alberta.
Since that time, this brave lady took on both Encana and the Canadian Government through the Canadian courts.
Readers will recall our 2013 article - Jessica Ernst v Canada in which we were absolutely astounded to learn how, and
the extent to which, the Canadian Government had sought to silence her. The measures they took were wholly shocking for a supposedly civilised and democratic government.
We worried that if Canada could do that, our own government might not be too far behind, and we have seen instances here where, for example, the settled law of the land was
changed under David Cameron to allow drilling under privately owned land (including land with buildings and houses) without the owner's permission or the need for a
We regard this as a disgrace. We also very much regret the actions of some of the 'imported' police officers at the Preston New Road site, and we worry about the direction
being taken in our courts.
So we were looking forward to hearing Ms Ernest again. But sadly, events conspired to prevent our being able to attend.
However, we are grateful to our reader who sent us a link to Ms Ernst's talk in Yorkshire a few days before the St Annes one, and we thank the folk in Yorkshire who made the video
available on YouTube.
We really would recommend readers who still believe they can trust what governments tell them on this matter to
follow this link to the video of Ms Ernst's talk in Malton just before she came to St Annes
We have little doubt those who do see it will be shocked at how an intelligent and responsible individual could be so badly abused by her country.
We also still have the original audio recording from Ms Ernst's 2013 talk in St Annes. It's too big to email, but if anyone would like a copy we can provide one on a CD in
THE DRILLING RIG ARRIVES
At around 5am on 27 July, approximately 30 trucks delivered the equipment to erect the drilling rig at the Preston New Road site.
Cuadrilla sidestepped protesters by this move. It defended its decision to deliver in this way saying it had done so in consultation with the police, with the aim of
minimising disruption on the road leading to the site, arguing that the road had often been closed or reduced to a single lane during protests.
The Police - once again caught in the middle of a row with conflicting rights (and apparently wrongs) on both sides - were stung by claims they had facilitated or
were complicit in a breach of Planning Regulations.
They said that although liaison with the company was an ongoing matter, they were not responsible for the breach of planning permission Cuadrilla had made, and it was
Cuadrilla's decision. Adding that: once that decision had been taken, they had a duty to respond to the situation to ensure the safety of the community, workers and protestors. To
be honest, we're not so sure about that as a justification.
Campaigners accused Cuadrilla of bringing the rig "under the cover of darkness" to avoid protests, and said the move would only strengthen opposition.
However, LCC were quick to note that Cuadrilla had breached the terms of its planning consent by delivering equipment on heavy vehicles outside the permitted hours of
7.30am- 6. 30pm.
Whilst protestors wanted stronger action taken, we understand LCC's response so far has been to write and require Cuadrilla to put measures in place to prevent a recurrence.
However, the County did say they were considering whether, and what further action they might take in this matter.
Once again the local community senses what feels to them like 'officialdom' closing ranks against them - the Police colluding with Cuadrilla to minimise the chance of
legitimate protests being made, and the County Council failing to take robust action to enforce the conditions that were imposed at the Public Inquiry for the benefit of local people.
But worse was to come.
Only last week it became known that on 13th October 2017, Cuadrilla's apparent response to having (intentionally) breached the conditions with which they undertook to comply
- was to apply to Lancashire County Council to vary the conditions that had been imposed.
Justifying their application for what they call a 'Non Material Amendment' , Cuadrilla have said:
"Deliveries to the Cuadrilla shale gas exploration site off Preston New Road have been regularly targeted by anti-fracking activists. This has resulted in
Preston New Road being wholly or partially blocked on multiple occasions. These blockages have resulted in considerable delay, frustration and expense for local commuters,
businesses and even emergency services using Preston New Road. They have also resulted in considerable Police resource and public expense. In light of this, this non-material
amendment application seeks an amendment to the wording of Planning Condition 19 whereby in ‘exceptional circumstances’, and following discussion with Lancashire Police, up to
a maximum of 9 single convoy deliveries or removals may be made outside of the specified hours provided they are carried out only in relation to work phases c), d), e) or f).
The work phases are set out at Planning Condition 3."
Something is missing here, and it is the primary argument that if Cuadrilla were not doing what they are doing at Preston New Road - an operation that goes against the
decisions made by all levels of local government for the area - there would be no protestors, and no traffic disruption. This situation is a matter which Cuadrilla's
justification omits to recognise.
What their application does go on to recognise however, is that there had been discussions with a Mr Mullaney of LCC to receive his advice before submitting this application.
Though many will think that is improper, it is not actually legally wrong. Sadly, it's part of the normal planning process these days, even though the same courtesy is
not extended to those opposing plans and changes.
If LCC's officers accept this as a 'Non Material'
description, we're not clear whether officers will be allowed to use delegated powers to determine it, or whether County Councillors can require it to be reported to the Planning
Committee for their consideration and determination.
We have already spotted from the 'attachments' tab for this application on LCC's website that County Councillor Liz Oades has already submitted an objection to the request.
In a Supporting statement supplied with the application, Cuadrilla state:
"Cuadrilla took the decision, following detailed consultation with Lancashire Police, to deliver the drilling rig required to drill the exploration wells at
approximately 4.45am on Thursday morning 27th July 2017. This was outside of the working hours specified under Planning Condition 19 of the planning permission as currently
drafted. We and the Police were well aware that the drilling rig had been a particular target of anti-fracking activists and that rig delivery during normal working hours would
create a very high risk of disruption, delay and possibly even injury to the general public, including potentially to activists intent on delaying the delivery. As such, we
consider that the breach of Planning Condition 19 reduced the possibility of harm to the local environment, including harm to local amenity."
Their statement also details 24 instances where road traffic has been disrupted in July, August and September, and it tables the following arrests during July and August:
Section 22a Danger to Road Users (2); Section 25 Road Traffic Act (7); Public Nuisance (4); Section 5 Public Order (2); Section 22a Interfering with a Motor
Vehicle (1); Drunk Disorderly (1); Assaulting the Police (1); Obstructing the Police (19); Section 241 Trade Union Act (24); Obstructing the Highway (71).
But it's not all one-sided either. According to the website 'DeSmog'
the traffic management plan agreed by the council and Cuadrilla - which outlines the “preferred route” for all traffic - says it must turn left into and out of the site.
We assume this is to reduce the risk of accidents as large, slow moving vehicles would otherwise need to cross a carriageway to do so.
The DeSmog website says:
"Daily traffic logs kept by Cuadrilla and sent to Lancashire County Council’s planning officers — obtained by DeSmog UK through a freedom of information request
— show vehicles entered or exited the site by turning right 115 times between May 22 and August 20."
After what was their intentional and pre-arranged breach of agreed traffic conditions, Cuadrilla's recent application (to change the conditions) says it:
".... seeks an amendment to the wording of Planning Condition 19 to allow for the delivery or removal of materials outside of normal working hours. Such
deliveries or removals would be limited to a maximum of nine movements in total and would take place in specific instances where Cuadrilla, having taken advice from Lancashire
Police, reasonably believe it to be in the best interests of public amenity and local safety to do so."
However they also appear to be seeking what seems to us to be useable as a 'coach and horses' clause, which says:
"In circumstances where Cuadrilla believes that the delivery or removal of materials during the specified hours could pose a threat to HGV safety and/or
public safety travelling along the A583, local safety or public amenity, a dynamic threat risk assessment will be conducted by Cuadrilla's security team following discussion
with the Police. The primary objective of the dynamic threat risk assessment is to reduce or prevent these threats.
If the dynamic threat risk assessment identifies that the risk of any of these threats is high, this will be deemed to be an ‘exceptional circumstance’ for the purpose of
Planning Condition 19.
‘Exceptional circumstances’ would only apply for the scheduled delivery or removal of materials which are considered by Cuadrilla to be at high risk of direct action from
protestors. This risk could be due to the nature of the delivery or removal (for example the drilling rig), the scheduled timing of the delivery or removal coinciding with
known increased protestor activity, or a combination of the two.
The delivery or removal of materials undertaken as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ will be reported to LCC immediately, or at the start of the next working day."
We have a problem both in principle and in practice with this application.
In principle, it enables the use of the rather weak and woolly term 'public amenity' to become Cuadrilla's justification to act outside the present conditions.
To us, the wording of this request translates to - 'if we say there is a problem, there is problem', and as far as we understand it, whilst in some areas of its working, Cuadrilla is
effectively allowed to self regulate its own operation, planning conditions are not one of them.
In practice we know that the Parish Council, Fylde Council, and Lancashire County Council all said this site was the wrong place to do fracking. We couldn't agree more.
Secondly, it was only after an experienced Planning inspector had sat for over a month and listened to expert testimony from very experienced and highly technical transport
experts - and likewise noise experts - that Preston New Road was recommended for use.
And that use was only granted on condition that the very specific conditions on transport and noise agreed between
Cuadrilla and the other parties to the appeal became part of the planning permission.
These conditions were defined by the Inspector partly with regard to road safety, an partly for what is - in many ways - the opposite reason. To protect the human right to
quiet enjoyment of the lives of local residents.
(We say that because in road use terms, the safest time for deliveries using the very large articulated lorries that are necessary at times would probably would be the
early hours of the morning, but, of course, that is the worst time for residents whose sleep is disturbed).
We sat through literally *hours* of argument at the Public inquiry as noise experts from both sides argued their cases as to whether the noise level should be set at
37 or 39 or 42 dBA, and how the human mind, even when asleep is attuned to listen for sounds that should not be there, like a dog barking or an unexpected vehicle, and such
sounds can engender significant health issues for those whose sleep is disturbed.
So we're not at all sure that the County Council (to whom Cuadrilla has applied) - without its having had the benefit of that same level of technical expertise being
argued and applied to this change that Cuadrilla has requested - should even allow itself to be put in a position to consider the request if it is going to do so without having
heard and understood the arguments that the barristers representing all shades of opinion advanced at the inquiry, and which became the conditions Cuadrilla now seek to
And given that the re-opened Roseacre Wood appeal will see all the original barristers, traffic issues and technical specialists giving evidence again next April, we
wonder if this application to vary the conditions at the Preston New Road site is something that should be considered as part of that planning inquiry.
Those who already have a sense that officialdom is 'selling them down the river' in this matter are likely to have that perspective reinforced still further if this
change of conditions is granted by LCC.
But sadly, it follows a not uncommon approach with planning applications of all sorts. We frequently see cases argued and refused at planning committees only to be appealed
by applicants who engage expensive barristers and technical experts to fight their corner as hard as they can.
And when they get the best they can achieve in terms of an approval and conditions, and work has begun, property developers frequently come back to say the scheme they
agreed is no longer viable and they need to reduce the onerous conditions that are preventing them from making as much profit as they should.
And if the council does not reduce the conditions that have been imposed, the developer has, for the last few years, an automatic right of appeal to Government - who can
then override the Council's refusal to change them.
That system is a public disgrace. And it is at least partly why Fylde does not have the number of affordable homes it says it needs. Conditions agreed at the time
consent is granted are being manipulated by agencies that have sprung up since these provisions were introduced who tout for business from property developers by offering to
take on their cases to prove they are financial unviable.
In this instance with Cuadrilla, it isn't about property developers and it isn't so much about making a profit (though it might include a desire to reduce costs),
but the principle of applying to vary conditions you have already agreed to, (but now don't like is very much), is just the same.
PRELUDE TO ROSEACRE
In advance of the pre-hearing Inquiry that we are about to report, we understand that one of the leading lights of the Roseacre group went to see our MP to address three issues.
The first was that Sajid Javid, (Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government) is still "minded to approve" the Roseacre application despite the
Planning Inspector agreeing with LCC's Development Control Committee decision to refuse planning permission (following the same recommendation from their Highway & Planning
We understand Mr Menzies agreed to write to the SoS once more, and also to make a representation to the new Planning Inspector, Mr Middleton.
We further understand Mr Menzies was brought up to date and made aware that current traffic surveys were being undertaken by Cuadrilla including the A583, A585, A586,
Kirkham, Great Eccleston, Elswick and Inskip.
The second area of discussion centred around competing claims about the need for unconventional shale gas extraction with, on the one hand, the Government claiming a
national need, and the most recent evidence contained in two government reports
- the Gas Security of Supply
report of October 2017, and 'The Clean Growth Strategy'
report of 12 October 2017 suggesting there is not.
The third topic area ranged over matters such as the misrepresentation of the type protestors being propagated by the industry, police and press, and the government's own
BEIS Public Attitudes Tracking Survey which shows opposition
for shale gas continues to grow. The discussion also considered the potential proliferation of well sites/pads if the industry goes into to full scale production.
In this regard, the Government's own agency (UKOOG) has published a report ('Developing
Shale Gas and Maintaining the Beauty of the British Countryside" (sic) whose key highlights say that between 7 and 11 production pads (of around 2 hectares each -
around two and a half football pitches) would be required in a single 10kmx10km licence area and that 1-3 pads would be under production (construction and drilling)
at any one time.
We understand Mr Menzies has written to the Energy Minister, calling for legislation to restrict the number of pads in a given area.
AND FINALLY (for this update)
We see yet more well-respected environmental groups expressing concern about the Government's pursuit of hydraulic fracturing for gas - most recently in a letter to the
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Readers can follow this link to download a copy of the letter that this alliance sent to Mr Clark.
ROSEACRE PRE INQUIRY MEETING
We now turn to a most significant event; the re-opening of the Roseacre Public Inquiry. Readers will recall that the Minister is 'minded to approve'
Cuadrilla's application if they can satisfy him that the transport arrangements - which caused the previous Inspector to reject the appeal - can now be demonstrated to
To do this, the SoS has appointed a new Inspector to re-open the Inquiry, and that is expected to take place over three weeks from 10th to 27th April next year.
We say 'expected' because, very unusually, this inquiry is being called at a time when Cuadrilla have not yet even published what they are proposing to do to demonstrate
their new transport arrangements.
So at this time, those opposed to the SoS's view cannot yet determine what matters they will want to raise, and what evidence their own experts will want to gather in
order to ensure that the new Inspector hears proper evidence from all sides. That means no-one can be sure when they might be ready to do that, or how long they will take.
In an attempt to get things moving, the Planning Inspector called a Pre-Inquiry meting last week and, as in 2016, we went to Blackpool FC once again to see what went on.
So it was, that on 31st October - on All Hallows Eve - when some believe the walls between our world and the next became thin and porous, allowing spirits to pass through, come back to
life - it seemed to us an entirely appropriate time for the spirits of the Inquiry Past to pass through time and reassemble once more to do battle for the soul of Fylde's green
and pleasant countryside.
Whilst waiting to enter the building ourselves, we did indeed see Mr Evans (LCC's barrister from the first inquiry) arriving on the car park. It was to herald things to come as almost
all of the familiar faces from the original Inquiry took their places, in more or less the same room layout as last time.
This meeting was 'only' to agree the housekeeping and similar arrangements for the main Inquiry next year, who speaks first, how many witnesses, that sort of thing. But we thought it
yielded some nuggets as we went along.....
The Inspector this time is Melvyn Middleton, BA(Econ) DipTP Dip Mgmt MRTPI who has recently been examining the soundness of local plans in Eden District Council and Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council.
The appeal has been called in by the Secretary of State who will take the final decision. Mr Middleton's job is to hear the evidence, come to a recommendation, and to
convey that recommendation to the Secretary of State who will take the final decision
Mr Middleton's Programme Officer who deals with all the administration is, once again, the very experienced Yvonne Parker who managed the first inquiry.
Counsel representatives were to be, as before, Nathalie Lieven for Cuadrilla, Alan Evans for LCC, together with Robin Green for the Roseacre Awareness Group, Cllr Gordon
Smith for Treales Roseacre & Wharles Parish Council, Cllr Peter Collins from Newton with Clifton Parish Council.
The Inspector said he had thought the NW Chamber of Commerce had said they wanted to participate, but when he asked if they were there and still wanted to take part, there
was no-one to answer him.
Friends of the Earth and Preston New Road Action Group were there to say they did not expect to participate this time.
With what we thought we detected as a slight tone of reservation in his voice, the Inspector then asked if there were any individuals who wanted to speak.
To be honest the room was quite full and we hadn't expected quite so many local people to turn up. A lot of hands did go up in response to his question and he asked them to
provide their names to the Programme Officer at the end of the meeting. He also asked that people planning to speak should provide copies of what they were going to say in
advance of the Inquiry.
THE MAIN ISSUES
Mr Middleton said
"The Inquiry's purpose is to examine the additional highway information to be submitted by the appellant, on which basis I will prepare a further report for the
Secretary of State.
I must stress I've got no remit to go beyond doing just that. It is not to examine matters upon which the Secretary of State has already reached a
conclusion, and I will not be reporting on any submissions made in that respect.
On the basis of the information I have before me, I consider the main issue to be the implications of any increased traffic generated by the proposed
development on highway safety.
I may well revise that when I've seen and read the evidence, but for starters that's what I think we need to debate.
As I've pointed out, I've got very little information. In fact that's all I've got apart from the actual application with a site plan and the way out and the
appeal forms. I don't have anything beyond the letters that were sent out about the Secretary of State's Decision.
And so when you are preparing evidence, do bear that in mind, it's not that I want to hear what happened at the last Inquiry, and I don't want to know about all
the issues that are nothing whatever to do with highways at all. But I haven't seen whatever the previous highway proposals were and I'm not sure I.....
and sadly, at this point, his voice dropped and the end of his sentence could not be heard.
However it later transpired that he had seen none of the traffic and transport arguments that were made in the first inquiry and it seemed to us that he was intending to
approach this as a 'fresh start' Inquiry where he expected to begin with a blank sheet of paper and determine whether the new plan from Cuadrilla was appropriate or not.
It's his decision of course, but to be honest, we didn't think this was a very good approach. There was a wealth of expertise in the previous inquiry that he (and we) are
probably going to have to sit through again as a result.
CONSULTING ON THE PROPOSALS
He then said he understood that Cuadrilla had carried out highway surveys in the area and wished to significantly amend the traffic management measures contained in the
original application, and he asked Cuadrilla if that was the case.
Ms Lieven said they had carried out additional survey work and they were hoping to update things and consult on amended proposals.
We then got into the first bit of 'argy bargy'. The Inspector wanted to know when the consultation would be. Ms Lieven said they hoped to be able to consult on the revised scheme by
the end of November, and they were intending to consult for 21 days.
But, she said, there was a logistical issue on consultation. They were going to carry out the consultation, but
they would like the responses to go directly to the Planning Inspectorate - so it was seen to be fair and independent.
Mr Middleton wasn't too keen on that because of the additional work it would involve, but Ms Lieven said the responses would have to go to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS)
anyway, and this only saw them get there a bit earlier. Mr Evans for LCC said he thought that was an appropriate and a good suggestion, but if 'PINS' couldn't do it them maybe
The Inspector then asked if everyone thought 21 days was long enough for the consultation and said he thought it should be five weeks or thereabouts.
With the start being at the end of November, it was noted that 21 days would be around Christmas and that might cause complications.
We would be wrong here to say that
Cuadrilla had decided on this timescale so as to reduce the prospect of responses (because we have no evidence to support such an assertion), and indeed, Ms Lieven did point
out that 21 days was the standard recommended period for consultations.
There had been a shifting of bodies in the public gallery and some people were evidently unhappy with such a short period. The inspector said
"But it's about public confidence isn't it?
adding that with Christmas people would find it difficult to focus on the matter and so on (and of course the prospect of getting hold of technical experts over the
prelude to, and the Christmas -New Year period would be particularly difficult anyway).
The argy-bargy batted back and forth for a while but eventually settled that Cuadrilla would expect to consult by the end of November and the consultation period should be 6
weeks from publication.
HOW SHOULD THE CONSULTATION BE CONDUCTED?
We moved on to how the consultation should be conducted. Again, for reasons that might have included efficiency, cost reduction and so on, Ms Lieven said they proposed to
consult homes with a postcode that was within 100m of the road (or roads) affected.
We think she said the road (or roads), but she might have said the site. We struggled to hear at this point because a chorus of disapproval rose up from the public gallery.
Trying to regain control of the situation, Ms Lieven strengthened her voice and said they would also provide a hard-copy to Counsel and Rule 6 Parties, and they would also
publish it on a website (with hard copies available on request for those without internet access), and they would provide printed public copies for inspection to LCC,
Blackpool BC, FBC, and Preston councils for public display. We think there was also some discussion about Parish Councils, and a possibility of including Wyre if the route went
into that borough..
She did note that "in the old days" they would usually also have put copies in public libraries, but that wasn't so easy now they were mostly closed.
She said Cuadrilla wanted to be fair and proportionate but she recognised they would never satisfy everybody. - But quite a lot of those present didn't seem to think what
was proposed was acceptable.
The Inspector said he imagined Cuadrilla would do whatever the LCC would have done with any planning application.
Mr Evans for LCC was in amenable mode and said broadly LCC were in agreement with what had been suggested and would have done something similar.
Then a member of the public asked about who would receive a personal consultation letter from Cuadrilla. Would they use their database from the first inquiry for example.
This was the (probably unintentional) spark for a lot more argy-bargy because Ms Lieven said
"We weren't intending to consult with everybody who made representations on the original inquiry....... we will consult all those directly affected by the proposals, I'm not
sure how many would have responded to the original proposals, but many of them would not have related to traffic issues. All the people close to the site will a) probably fall
within our consultation parameter in any event, and b) it's hardly credible that they won't know about the proposals....."
Some folk wanted the whole database written to. Some said it should be the Local area. The Inspector asked if the speaker would consider 'Blackpool' as the local
area, and said he thought if it was going to be on a website at the end of November, everyone would know where and when to look for it.
Someone then raised the issue of which roads, saying because there was a finite choice, whichever route was chosen it would not stop some additional traffic from using other
routes. The implication being Cuadrilla should consult properties along all the routes that might be used.
Then things got worse, because (very honestly, and we praise her for doing so) Ms Lieven said
"I should make it clear that what we intend to do is consult people on the route up to the strategic road network.
The concern's got to be that HGVs on a relatively small
road, coming out of the site up to 'A' roads, and that we intend to consult on. Once the vehicles are on the strategic road network, they will be utterly lost in the flow of
traffic, and that will be....."
At this point a full scale revolt began from the public gallery - well, not exactly, but a lot of folk were protesting loudly, which didn't get any better when Ms Lieven
"....absolutely did not intend to consult people on strategic roads"
Part of the problem here was that 'veterans' of the first inquiry understood what she meant by the strategic road network, and they were having none of it.
Someone wanted consideration to be given to displaced traffic which would find other routes and those other routes would be affected.
Cllr Peter Collins spoke very strongly. Readers might remember that traffic was a matter he raised on behalf of Clifton residents at the first Inquiry. He said
"Just to make it clear sir, the A585 from Thistleton down to Junction 3 on the M55 is part of the strategic road network. What is being suggested is that people
who live on that section want to be consulted, and they should be consulted."
From his comments it sounded to us as though the Inspector seemed to think that parish councils could do that on Cuadrilla's behalf.
A lady, in a polite, clear, but gentle
Scottish accent which stole your attention, said that was a burden that should be placed on Cuadrilla's shoulders, not those of the parish Council.
Another person spoke (we couldn't hear what he said but with a note of exasperation in his voice, the inspector said
"You're not suggesting anyone who lives west of Preston is consulted, or are you?"
Again we couldn't hear the reply, but it sounded something like a qualified 'yes'
Cllr Collins returned to the fray with a suggestion that consultation should stop at the M55 not at the "Strategic Road Network' in this case.
He also said there seemed
to have been some confusion with the A583 at Clifton as to whether it was, or was not ,on the strategic highway network vis a vis the strategic road network. (We've no idea
about the differences here, but Cllr Collins - like us - is one to research his information in some detail, and we were inclined to believe him when he said it was not either.
But Ms Lieven restated her case that they would only consult people up to (but not including) 'A' class roads.
The inspector summed this topic up by saying:
"No doubt the appellant has heard what you've said, but at the end of the day it's a matter for them. And if people think that the consultation has not been
adequate enough, then there's another place to go. It's not for me, at the end of the day, to make a judgement on what they think proportionate or not"
The matter of how and who to consult ran for more than 20 minutes before it concluded.
THE INQUIRY TIMETABLE
The Inspector said the Inquiry was provisionally programmed to start at 10am on the 10th of April 2018, and to run until Friday 27 April. He wanted to know if anyone thought it would not be possible to
achieve that date in terms of producing evidence and so on.
Mr Green for the Roseacre Awareness Group was quick to respond. He said
"Well sir, with respect, until we see the proposals, we can't say"
Polite, calm, clear and irrefutable, it was a statement of the blindingly obvious.
The Inspector tried to continue...
"True, but assuming you see the proposals at the end of November. that gives you December, January, February and March. Four months....."
Silence, and an impasse reigned for a moment, before Mr Green said
"Sir, until we know what the proposals are, we can't say what evidence we're going to want to call. We can't say, for example, say what surveys we ourselves
might want to carry out, ones we may have to carry out"
"And would you want to be carrying out surveys?"
"Sir, clearly, we don't know what route or routes the appellant is going to choose..."
"...until we know the routes, until we know what traffic is going to be going on those routes, what the construction duration is going to be, what mitigation
measures are going to be taken - and so on, we can't say what (indistinct: 'need there will be'?) for a survey."
We absolutely loved the clarity and irrefutable logic with which Mr Green gave his position.
The Inspector was now struggling.
His whole purpose of today's meeting was to was to set the timetable, and here he was forced to face the irrefutable fact that, because (as we said at the outset),
this was an exceptional pre-inquiry meeting that did not know what the proposals it was established to consider would be, it was actually impossible to plan with any certainty.
But he persisted, and tried his best to win Mr Green over to committing to accept the draft timetable. But Mr Green, articulated the true state of affairs to the Inspector
with his customary clarity....
"With respect, it is highly unusual to have an appeal, where the appeal proposals are, unknown, at the pre-inquiry meeting"
The public joined in too, with some of them saying they might want to do surveys of their own. One said "Cuadrilla have already taken, I don't know how long. to produce
their traffic survey."
(We saw this situation at the first inquiry if we remember correctly. We think it was a lady from Clifton who had traffic-watched and recorded from her window for far
greater periods than the sampling that Cuadrilla's professionals had done).
We now had a self-evidently unhappy, (and perhaps even incredulous) Inspector who said...
"I'm not sure why you would be wanting to do traffic surveys. You're meant to be commenting on Cuadrilla's traffic survey and whether they're appropriately or
The lady tried to explained that last time Cuadrilla's survey had put traffic into blocks, and they needed to do their own survey to analyse it further. The (now exasperated)
"Why would you want to do your own traffic survey?"
"Because we need to make sure that what we're given is accurate and true"
"Then why have you not been doing it over the last summer?"
This was taken to be a bit too confrontational and one sided for quite a few in the public gallery who lent their support to the lady's view, and the meeting got a bit out
of hand for a short time.
Over the noise, and to regain order, she raised her voice. She said, in an equally incredulous and exasperated tone - which in truth betrayed what
appeared to be her disdain for someone who would ask such a stupid question- she said:
"WE DON'T KNOW THE ROUTE
Until we're given the route we can't do anything.
As soon as we know the route we can do something!
But unless we're given the route we CAN'T do something.
And with Christmas coming into the period, it's going to be very, very difficult, and very tight for anyone, to do an *effective* analysis of the
information we are given, and then respond in time for the hearing"
Mr Green made further representations and explanations which we couldn't quite hear over the hum of the air conditioning.
Clearly, there were significant points of difference between the parties on this matter, which continued for a while longer.
Eventually, after Mr Green and others had reserved their positions on agreeing a timetable until Cuadrilla had published the information, the Inspector said he would go with
the timetable as published in draft for the time being.
We thought the Inspectors approach and tone - as the meeting progressed - led us increasingly to worry that he thought his role was simply to hear Cuadrilla's evidence and
allow people to comment on it before he came to his decision on what to recommend to the Secretary of State.
We didn't sense an enthusiasm to hear alternative evidence that might conflict with the evidence that Cuadrilla presented. And to be honest that worried us.
It's not how any
of the other planning Inquiries we have attended or reported have been conducted, and we don't think it augurs well for local people who agree with the previous Inspector that
Roseacre should be refused on the basis if traffic problems.
But it may of course be simply that the impossibility of arranging an inquiry when you don't know what the inquiry is about was all too much for everyone involved.
PROVISIONAL DAILY TIMETABLE AND INQUIRY ARRANGEMENTS
The Inspector said the Inquiry would not normally sit on Mondays and would finish at lunchtime on Fridays. He expected to start at 9:30 and have 30 to 60 minutes for lunch
and advised those attending to bring sandwiches as there may not be time to go out and return in time. He expected to end each day around 5 or 6pm.
In terms of evening sessions, he did not offer these, but said he was not averse to them if some people had difficulty with work commitments.
(Presumably having recognition of Mr Green's comments about overall timetabling when you don't know what it is you're going to be discussing), he asked for evidence
and estimates of time per witness and periods of non-availability of witnesses to be provided to him by 5th April.
There were also comments about how the 'Core Documents' - such as the National Planning Policy Framework and Local Plans etc - should be referenced and page-numbered in order
to reduce the number of documents in the inquiry library, and the clarity of page number referencing.
Cuadrilla asked to bat first, and others raised no objection.
He wanted the Proofs of Evidence (Statements of what the expert witnesses and others would say at the Inquiry) to be received 4 weeks before the start date of the Inquiry,
but noted this would have to be after the consultation comments had been received, in order that the evidence could take account of the consultee comments made in their
Ms Lieven said she thought the Inspector should start with a blank sheet of paper and she did not intend to give him the evidence about transport from the last inquiry.
(To be honest, that sounded a bit 'fishy' to us and maybe a bit 'whitewashy'. The previous enquiry had a lot of good information and seeing how and why they had changed
their original plans might be instructive).
A member of the public thought the same and said so.
Ms Lieven said she expected to finalise the details and produce their proof of evidence four weeks before the Inquiry started. (We noted that would give a date for proofs of
evidence at around 13 March 2018 with the Inquiry opening on 10 April).
The chap in the public gallery came back and said:
"I just think it's important that the public can see how Cuadrilla have *changed* from their previous proposals, so that we can see a comparison
as to how they have improved or otherwise, their previous proposals, as a matter of comparison."
The Inspector wanted to know if he was speaking about the inquiry or about the consultation - to which of course, he got the predictable answer
Ms Lieven said
"Well, Sir, how we produce our evidence is ultimately for us. Self evidently, we are going to be seeking to persuade you - and ultimately the Secretary
of State - that what we are now proposing is better than what we were proposing at the last Inquiry. Whether a comparison is implicit or explicit, obviously, there will be some
comparison in there."
The public chap came back and asked if the Inspector thought it would not be helpful for him to understand how and why Cuadrilla's previous proposals were not
considered to be good enough?
The Inspector said without seeing what was proposed, he didn't know, but he assumed that the previous Inspector and the Secretary of State thought that they were not good
enough, but the SoS clearly didn't think they were so unacceptable that they could not be changed to make them become acceptable.
However, reflecting on what was said on this topic as were writing this article, another thought struck us.
This Inquiry is, to all intents and purposes, being treated as a 'new' enquiry when in reality and according to what we have seen so far, it is the 'old' enquiry being
re-opened specifically to re-examine the transport issues. If that is the case, we can't altogether see how the former transport proposal cannot be considered as part of
Maybe the fat lady isn't yet singing on this topic.
The Inspector then turned to the submission of evidence and said he thought the Bespoke Timetable would require the submission of Proofs of Evidence by 22nd February for the
Inquiry date in April.
But if everyone agreed, he thought they should set the date as being the previous Friday 23rd February.
Ms Lieven was clearly not happy with this. She said she was not necessarily disagreeing but she had expected the more normal four weeks, and if the Inquiry started on the
9th April they had worked their timetable for submission of Proofs to be on 13th March, that's 4 weeks before the inquiry.
There was some to-ing and fro-ing of dates at this point and it seemed to us that Cuadrilla was wanting the later date in order to limit the time that others would have to
prepare arguments against what Cuadrilla had said before the Inquiry started. But it just might have been that they wanted to give themselves the longest time possible to get
their supporting evidence published.
We thought if they were going to publish the routes in November, they must pretty well have their arguments and much of their evidence ready by that date, so leaving its
publication until mid March was a bit disingenuous.
As the matter batted back and forth, the Inspector did say
"Well it would give people more time to react wouldn't it?"
But Cuadrilla seemed to win the timetabling argument, and Mr Evans agreed to it, so we think it will be 13th March for Proofs and Statements of Common Ground, and 27th March
for Rebuttal Proofs if any are produced.
PRESS AND OTHER MEDIA FACILITIES
One chap at the back asked if there could be a press/media table similar to that which had been provided to allow live reporting from the Inquiry. He also said:
"Because of the scale of public interest in this matter, Cuadrilla very kindly provided a webcast of the proceedings, so that those unable to attend
could hear and see what was taking place. I would ask again if that is to be the case this time. Thank you"
The Inspector seemed a bit surprised at the prospect of his Inquiry being live broadcast, or at least his facial expression suggested surprise.
For Cuadrilla, Ms Lieven said
"Sir, with a slightly heavy heart, and those who were here last time will know why my heart is heavy, yes, we have said that we will webcast again. With a
slightly cheerier heart, we intend to use a different provider, and the web link will therefore be different. And a webcasting protocol will be drawn up and sent to you to make
sure you are happy with it."
Quizzed by the Inspector as to why her heart was heavy, Ms Lieven said
"It kept breaking. And then, we were always blamed when it broke. And it was a bit of a problem for my clients who were trying to manage the process. It may
be the technology wasn't as good as it should have been.
But what the Inspector last time was very clear about was when it did break - which was fairly frequently- she did not adjourn the Inquiry during those
periods, so people can't rely on the webcast alone...."
We lost the end of her sentence, but she did go on to say that it probably was of some assistance to third parties who could not attend the inquiry in person and they now
had a new webcast provider, so she hoped it would be better this time.
Another chap complained about the audio system and asked if there would be an induction loop system (There would). Another complained a bit about the cold and asked if there
would be better heating.
The Inspector spoke briefly to say there would be a site visit on one of the days, possibly Thursday 12th April. Ms Lieven said with it being a transport related issue they
might want to do at least part of it in a vehicle and the parties should get together beforehand to devise and agree so far as possible a route.
She also said she thought it would be best for Cuadrilla to hire a minibus to take everyone round.
If we'd have been a participant, we'd most definitely have asked for a
large coach (Not least because it would show the difficulty of negotiating the country lanes around Roseacre).
And with that the Pre-Inquiry hearing came to an end.
So what to make of it all?
As far as the route is concerned, we're not sure what Cuadrilla are going to come up with, but with the Government involved, we wondered if something might have been
stitched up to allow them to travel through the (secure) area that local people know as the 'HMS Inskip' site which is very close by.
We understand this was previously a Fleet Air Arm airfield, and it is now used as a military (naval?) radio transmitting station.
It's one of the few places round here that if you stop your car on the road outside, you are (or at least were) likely to get a quick visit from some chaps in a land rover
with military uniforms and guns.
The prospect of using this site was raised at the last Inquiry but not spoken much about. We got the impression that security was an issue, but perhaps more importantly, the
cost to Cuadrilla for using the site would be prohibitive. Maybe that has changed.
But we'll all have to wait another 3 or 4 weeks to find out, until Cuadrilla's new proposals are published by the end of November.
As to the Pre-inquiry itself, we have been to (and reported on) quite a few of these now. We thought this one began with the Inspector sounding very firm. We wondered if he
had expected banners and protestors and so on - which might well appear outside the venue for the Inquiry - as they did last time. But those inside the meeting, the
locals are always respectful and well tempered, just like the rest of the folk that live around here.
But as this pre-Inquiry progressed, it became much less formal, almost to the point of a discussion at times. It also didn't seem to flow as fluently as some we have been to. But
that's probably caused by the fact that the meeting to decide how long, and what the arrangements should be, for the Inquiry itself, did not have available to it any
details of what it was actually going to consider.
So we wonder about the timing of this. In reality we think this pre-Inquiry should have taken place after those details are known and published. (And perhaps even after
they had been consulted on). So we wonder why it seems to be being
rushing ahead at break-neck speed.
Maybe it's to do with Cuadrilla's drilling programme.....
In terms of the outcome of the Inquiry - until we know just what it's going to be about that's really impossible, but we did come away with nagging feeling that it is starting on the
back-foot, so far as local people are concerned.
As the Inspector said, the Secretary of State seems to believe the reasons for refusal last time can be overcome, and the Inspector himself was incredulous that anyone would
want to do their own traffic analysis to be able to effectively challenge Cuadrilla's experts, believing that the role of third parties was really to comment on the soundness
of Cuadrilla's own survey results.
To us, that paints a picture of a less-than-level playing field. But we hope we're wrong.
Depending on circumstances at the time, we hope to be live reporting again from the Inquiry itself.
Dated: 6 November 2017