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Roseacre Inquiry Week 1

Roseacre Inquiry Week 1 Barbara Richardson RAGBarbara Richardson of Roseacre Action Group addresses a meeting of those opposing the Roseacre Wood application outside Blackpool Football club this morning, Tuesday 10th April 2017.

On this wet morning, the ghosts of the former inquiry reassembled once again to do battle.

As we predicted, security was noticeable. This year however it was even tighter, and we had to surrender a (sealed) bottle of mineral water, (as did others), and we thought it was something of an overkill approach to use a 'no liquids at all' policy.

We told readers there would be a webcast of the proceedings and there is.

Follow this link for the web cast PROTOCOL

Follow this link for the Cuadrilla Webcast itself which is (or will be) operating shortly.



 LINKS TO THE CONTENT ON THIS PAGE 

DAY 1:   10 APRIL 2018

Day 2:   11 APRIL 2018

DAY 3:   12 APRIL 2018

DAY 4:   13 APRIL 2018



 DAY 1     (10 APRIL 2018)

 THE INQUIRY OPENS

Just a few minutes late, we started at 3 minutes past 10. The audio was very clear and Planning Inspector Melvyn Middleton set off in a brusque and businesslike manner.

He said it was a re-opened inquiry and that (unusually)  another chap from the Planning Inspectorate would be present for the start of the meeting.

We wondered if that was to make sure everything was done properly, but no further explanation was given.

The rest of the opening remarks were mostly about 'housekeeping'  (ie who was speaking for whom, fire alarm procedure,  timings and so on)

Readers will recall we were unclear about the Rule 6 Parties.

From what we could see, All the parish councils and RAG were working together as one body under a single (new) barrister. however, people from Greenhalgh with Thistleton, Medlar with Wesham and Kirkham Town/Parish Councils said they would be speaking individually to raise matters that were specific to their parishes.

In terms of the new barrister for RAG, we understand Mr Robin Green who appeared last time is tied into another case elsewhere that is overrunning, and a colleague from the same chambers - Ben Du Feu - is representing RAG at this Inquiry.

The Inspector did say he had no documentation on the previous appeal except for the original application form and the decision to refuse.

We were shocked at this. We can see he wants to come with fresh eyes, but we think he ought to have familiarised himself with the evidence submitted and most especially the views and decisions of the previous Inspector who dismissed the appeal.

 CUADRILLA'S OPENING STATEMENT

Nathalie Leiven, barrister for Cuadrilla said the only issue for the inquiry was highway safety and whether the impact was 'severe'. She outlined he case that there were now three routes rather than one.

Changes to what we already knew were: there would be no HGV operations at weekend 'except in emergencies'  which raised a laugh from the public gallery (from people who have already seen what they regard as abuse of agreements and conditions by Cuadrilla), and a rebuke from the Inspector who said it was not a variety show and people should contain their feelings.

Cuadrilla were also planning to restrict operations to daylight hours, and the new traffic surveys were more robust, as they now included the summer months.

Wholly contradicting what we have heard before about the road near the Hand and Dagger being a bad adverse camber, she said there was no problem with the camber there and no accident record at this location.

But we thought her  most significant comment was that Cuadrilla no longer intended to use the Red route through Wharles village (we think this means they are going to use the MOD land to avoid Wharles village )

She concluded there was no evidence that the impact of their proposals would be 'severe'.

 LCC's Opening Statement

Alan Evans for Lancashire County Council rehearsed the case LCC would be making - most of which will already be familiar to our readers, but which can be picked up from Roseacre Rout and from Roseacre Prelude.

We found no surprises in what he said.

 RAG's Opening Statement

Ben Du Feu opened for Roseacre Action Group by describing the site location and so on.

He said RAG began as an information collector and provider for local people, but eventually came to the view that what was being proposed was not appropriate for their area and began to oppose the plans.

He said the Green and Red routes had already been rejected by Cuadrilla, and the changes to the Blue route were ineffective in mitigation.

Tellingly, he said that although there were now three routes, the choice of which route was used was at Cuadrilla's discretion, and although more routes were now available, it remained Cuadrilla's choice to use only a single route, or only use others at specific times.

Mr De Feu said RAG was supported by the Parish Councils, before he opened the topic of recreational amenity.

Controversially, we thought, the Inspector intervened to say he was not convinced that it was within his remit to consider matters such as recreational amenity.

He said he would need more justification than had been provided in the opening statement to change his view.

Mr De Feu said he thought it would be necessary to grapple with the amenity issues. The Inspector seemed to disagree.

We thought this exchange heralded a potential conflict for the future of the inquiry.

If the Inspector intends to limit what evidence may be heard - for example by not considering whether increased traffic discourages amenity use of the highway by vulnerable road users who perceive there to be a greater risk, then we suspect there will be uproar from local people.

It's not clear that IS what the Inspector meant, so we will have to wait and see when RAG start to produce their evidence  or maybe when they cross examine Cuadrilla's expert witnesses.

 David Bird - Cuadrilla's Traffic Expert

Mr Bird is a Chartered Engineer with more than 30 years experience transport matters.

Ms Leiven led him through his evidence. He said his approach was to come with a fresh pair of eyes, having not been involved in the first planning inquiry.

He said he had looked at the Blue route and at any other possible routes, but then eliminated all except the three of them now proposed, and that decision was based on what he called 'scientific evidence'

They had done comprehensive data collecting surveys, and had noted high use of the roads at weekends, so that's why Cuadrilla were now proposing no use of the roads at weekends.

He began his evidence proper by explaining the various types of HGV's and types of vehicles that would use the site.

He noted that Cuadrilla had been road  tankering their site's surface drainage water away from the Preston New Road, but had applied to vary the conditions of their license to allow them to discharge it into a local stream instead. He said if that was agreed, they would hope to do the same at Roseacre, and this would avoid the need to tanker the surface water away, thus reducing the traffic on the roads

At one or two points in his introduction he got a bit lost amongst the volume of evidence he had prepared, and spent a quite a bit of time hunting for the specific point he wanted to make, but once he got into the detail of the routes he seemed happier.

He said there were two broad approaches to traffic assessment, both were standard, universally recognised methodologies that were widely accepted. He said LCC had accepted they were the right methodology to use.

The first was an Environmental Assessment  that looked at the impact of proposals on the users of the highway.

He said this included looking at how sensitive the road was - whether it had paths, how many pedestrians there were and so on.

He said although LCC agreed with the methodology used, and had agreed some of Cuadrilla's findings, as far as the environmental assessment was concerned, LCC  disagreed with a small number of the conclusions  Cuadrilla had drawn, most notably at a playground in Roseacre..

The second type of assessment was a Physical Assessment - which deals with alignment, visibility, and things like two HGV's meeting at the same time.

Again he said LCC had accepted the methodology used,  but disagreed with the conclusions.

However, he noted RAG had said they disagreed with the approach Cuadrilla had taken to the methodology, and had done their own numerical Risk Assessment. He disagreed with the approach RAG  had used.

GREEN ROUTE
He then moved on to look at the details of the Green route which showed some what he called 'minor' realignment of the Thistleton junction to make it better for HGV's

He also showed how other areas along the Green route could be altered to allow HGV's to use the road more easily, for example by widening the turning circle near the shop in Elswick where it turns from Thistleton into Roseacre Road, and how things like gravel at the road edge could widen the road for passing places or occasional use, whilst at the same time, not adversely affecting the drainage.

RED ROUTE
Turning to the Red Route, he showed more instances where bends would need needed to be altered to make it better for the HGV's.

At the centre of Inskip village - where a convex mirror had been the proposed solution - he admitted it was a tight corner, but he had observed HGV's going round that corner. He admitted there would be a problem if two passing HGV's came upon the bend at one time, and one did not stop to let the other through. He thought both might have to stop and reverse out.

Given the 'laughing-stock' idea of a convex mirror solution at this location that we and others had seen, he was (unsurprisingly) backpedalling quite a bit and saying it was a desirable measure, but appeared to say it was not essential.

OUR OVERALL VIEW
Overall, we thought his evidence so far was mixed.

Sometimes he made good points, but at others he was saying things like - well we haven't designed all the highway changes necessary in terms of widening junctions and so on, but we know we CAN do them because the adopted highway is wider than the road surface so there's room to make the changes.

Tomorrow morning he will take the stand again to speak about the Blue route, following which his evidence will be cross examining by LCC and RAG.


 DAY 2     (11 APRIL 2018)

  Inspector's Remarks

After a few comments about the heating being turned off yesterday and a hope that it would be warmer today, and a bit discussion about estimated timings during the remaining days, it looked as though we were off again.

But then Ms Leiven for Cuadrilla picked up on a potential disagreement from yesterday and spoke about 'non-highway impacts'.

She agreed they were a 'material consideration' - (not least because some aspects were included in Cuadrilla's evidence) but she noted such matters were not included in the Inspector's remit - which was limited exclusively to highway safety - and she said such matters should be raised in writing to the Secretary of State in the usual way.

Mr De Feu argued that in order to understand the impact on highway safety, it is necessary to look at the the community that is affected. Furthermore, two new communities are affected by the Red and Green routes. He said:

"I say you still need to look at the impact on communities"

Ms Leiven re-iterated that the Inspector could only consider matters of highway safety.

This exchange is important because if matters are raised in the inquiry, they are subject to testing and cross examination in order to help the Inspector decide what weight he should give to the arguments made.

But if it's done in writing to the Secretary of State, there is no testing and weighing of competing arguments.

So it's really important for RAG to be able to make the points they need to make.

The Inspector agreed it was a complicated matter, and it was difficult to decide in advance what would and would not be within his remit until he heard it, although he did say he couldn't see the relevance of safety in relation to the impact on local businesses for example.

Mr De Feu tried not to antagonise the Inspector, but he wasn't giving way, and said, in effect, that if he felt things were not being properly considered he may need to exercise his client's right to write  to the Secretary of State to make his views known.

Nothing further of any significance was pursued, but we thought his comments might have had the desired effect and perhaps a bit more latitude would be exercised.

Clearly it is a difficult matter, and in reality can probably only be judged as arguments are raised and pursued.

So again, we will probably have to wait and see how it goes.

 David Bird (evidence continued from yesterday)

Mr Bird took the witness stand again and picked up from yesterday by looking at the Blue route in detail, dealing with visibility, passing arrangements and so on.

There was quite a bit of debate about the area at the Hand and Dagger junction, and two matters in particular.

The first was a HGV going toward the Hand and Dagger and turning left. Mr Bird said there was no problem and there had been no recorded accidents.

The second was about a vehicle coming from the West and turning right at the Pub, to travel along the canal-side.

The previous Inspector said this was a dangerous junction and it is claimed to have an adverse camber and an uphill slope, meaning that an HGV on full lock is at risk of rolling over into the canal as it accelerates to go up the rise, and this would be even more worrying if it was a tanker where the weight distribution could change.

In answer to these sorts of matters, Mr Bird described the camber as being 'pretty level' adding

"To describe it as a massive camber is not appropriate"

Regarding the matter of tankers with a moving liquid load sloshing about, he said it wouldn't happen because the liquid is put in, and the air is removed, so it is tightly packed.

The Inspector asked if he was saying that all the tankers would be full to the brim. Mr Bird said yes they would. The inspector pressed a little harder and questioned whether none would be part full. Mr Bird hesitated and conceded

"Well, there may be the odd one"

Adding that it shouldn't be a problem anyway because the HGVs will all be going very slowly anyway.

The next point of significance in this version of  Cuadrilla's plan for the Blue Route is that the idea of passing places on Dagger Road has been dropped, and there is now a traffic light system planned.

We expect to hear more about this from LCC and RAG, but basically he said it would be a really good technological system with sensors that could tell the 'signature' of the type of vehicle that was approaching, and we think he also said there would be automatic number plate recognition to identify vehicles passing through the lights controlled section.

We wondered whether the technology might be able to distinguish between a herd of Friesians and and a herd of Charolais (or even a flock of sheep) moving from field to field within controlled section of road.

We also wondered what other uses might be made of the number plate recognition system.

And after a bit more evidence about 'vulnerable road users' and such, his evidence concluded.

To us, he often seemed to take the most optimistic of views for his client.

We understand why this might be, but it didn't give us as much confidence in the independence of his evidence as we would have liked to have had.

We will see how he fares in cross examination by Mr Evans.

 David Bird: Cross examination by LCC

Mr Evans  for LCC is a delight to hear when he's cross examining someone. We always think he's like a friendly uncle who speaks gently to a child who becomes lulled into giving more away than they intended.

His first point was about when the survey data was collected, and he said it appeared at the time the data was collected, the Red route was not being considered.

Moving onto the matter of vulnerable road users, he sought Mr Bird's confirmation that this data had been collected over three days excepting for Lodge Lane PNR which was collected on a single day.

After checking with his data, Mr Bird confirmed this was the case.

We didn't think it seemed a very long time to survey how many vulnerable road users were actually using the roads.

Very slowly and skilfully as ever, Mr Evans exposed several other holes and weaknesses in Mr Bird's evidence, some of them very technical indeed.

Once or twice Mr Bird seemed to us to be evasive in his responses, and unwilling to provide answers that would help the Inspector's understanding. Frequently he said he could not see where Mr Evans was going with his questions and, to us, he appeared reluctant to answer until he knew.

There was a sharp exchange when Mr Bird appeared to have been 'caught out' about some numbers of HGV movements, and he said over lunchtime, he would check the figures put to him by Mr Evans. The inspector asked if he could have the calculations Mr Evans was quoting written down.

They didn't seem to be very complicated, and Mr Evans took the Inspector and Mr Bird through them orally, but in any event, Mr Evans agreed to jot them down over lunch, to which the Inspector said (in a not very sotto voce) It would have been helpful to have had them written down before they started.

In another instance - (at the Roseacre Road / High Street  junction) - Mr Evans slowly built up his case about how junction splay sight-lines are measured and, having invited the witness to agree at each stage, he arrived at a point where the visibility splay proposed by Cuadrilla at this junction was twenty-odd metres, and the stopping distance for a vehicle at the relevant speed limit was forty odd metres. The point was se;f-evident.

Mr Evans wanted to know if what was being proposed didn't require very precise driver behaviour, and the matter of visibility between passing places came into focus.

There was talk of having to get tape measures out on site and what we thought was a very tetchy Inspector who thought that it should be a matter of fact whether or not one could see one passing place from the next, and he thought two professionals ought to be able to agree whether this was the case or not, or at least they should agree where the could agree and where they could not.

We think it was left that Mr Bird and Mr Stevens would get together to see what they could agree and what they could not.

Mr Evans also drew attention to another area where Cuadrilla were proposing to widen the road rather than provide passing places, and Mr Evans wanted to know how they could do that without taking the hedge out as well. Mr Bird's answer was....

"Well, that's a constructional detail"

There were other exchanges in a similar vein.

Then toward the end of this cross examination, Mr Evans reminded Mr Bird that Cuadrilla had failed to convince the previous Inspector and the Secretary of State that they had done enough to overcome the traffic and highway problems.

He said one of he faults last time was that Cuadrilla kept saying things like 'this can be dealt with at the design stage' and he suggested the same situation prevailed today.

There was a lovely exchange at one point where Mr Bird said the carriageway could be widened at a specific point, and Mr Evans asked whether the area he was suggesting the carriageway could to be widened in was the public footway wasn't it? Mr Bird began his answer with:

"Well, ......" and went on to insist that because it was adopted  highway there was scope to widen it - almost irrespective of there being a need for a public footway as well.

The impracticality of this idea was not lost on the public gallery and, we hope, on the Inspector as well.

There was another instance where Mr Evans drew attention to a side road joining the section of Dagger Road to be controlled by traffic lights, but the side road didn't have any lights. The best Mr Bird could do was say it was such a minor road it was used very infrequently.

To us, this didn't look to be a thorough job of making all the changes that were necessary, and all told, we thought Mr Evans did well in cross examination. The witness was shown to be partisan.

Although he delivered no 'killer' blows at this stage, Mr Evans plays a long game, and we expect he will have already got what he wanted for his closing statement.

 David Bird: Cross examination by RAG

Mr Evans had estimated a need for two hours of cross examination, but Ben De Feu for the Roseacre Awareness Group had estimated he would need four hours for his cross examination. That's a long time.

We've not heard this Barrister before, so we didn't know what to expect. He began in a clear voice and with a focused approach. Good start we thought.

His first point was about 'vulnerable road users.' He said the traffic survey cameras were located outside the population centres and that meant there was no record of - for example - vulnerable users in population centres.

Mr Bird said he had been in the villages and looked for himself. Mr De Feu wanted to know where that data could be found in his evidence.

Of course it isn't there.

Pressed further, Mr Bird had to agree that they had not surveyed vulnerable road users in, for example, Roseacre village despite there being farm shops and so on that they would have used.

Where this line of argument led, was to an admission that the formal surveys had not recorded vulnerable users in any of the population centres, and  Mr Bird was invited to agree that surveys that were not a reflection of the actual situation might produce a conclusion that was different to the actual.

This was warming up.

Turning to equestrian use of the highway Mr Bird had said it was quite low. but Mr De Feu invited him to agree that a low number could indeed mean that there were low numbers of equestrian users OR that the survey had failed to capture them.

Things went on in the same vein regarding the frequency of surveys of vulnerable road users (having only been undertaken on between one and three days).

By now, Mr De Feu was making impressive headway, body blows were landing, and at least as far as we are concerned, he was severely denting the way Cuadrilla's vulnerable users survey had been done.

As we went on, it got even better. We got down to articulated vs. fixed wheel HGVs, pivot points, turning circles, and twin wheel vs. single wheel axles and so on.

In a point that even we could see, if you have a vehicle with one wheel on each end of an axel and another with two wheels on each end of an axle, then the one with two tyres will spread the load of a similar weighted vehicle better than one wheel on soft ground.

Furthermore a two wheeled vehicle could allow the nearside wheel to overhang a grass verge whilst the inner wheel stayed on the road, thus preventing the offside wheel sinking into soft ground.

However, Mr Bird seemed well out of his comfort zone in these details and didn't really know about this. Mr De Feu said not to worry, Mr Hastey would be able to explain all about it when he gave his evidence later.

We smiled. This is the same Mr Hastey whose approach to assessing the impact of the traffic had already been rubbished by Mr Bird.

There were other examples of erroneous data. Not least an instance where the actual road width was inaccurate by about one metre, and where wing mirrors had been omitted from the calculated paths of some turnings but not on others (We thought the implication here was that they might have been omitted in order to allow the turning circle to appear better than it is)

And with that, after a VERY long day - especially for Mr Bird who had been on the stand all day, we broke the meeting at 6pm.


 DAY 3     (12 APRIL 2018)

  Inspector's Remarks

None of significance

 David Bird: Cross Examination by RAG (contd)

Today's session began by looking at Risk Assessments. Mr Bird had said he hadn't done one and Mr De Feu for RAG wanted to understand why - (especially in view of Mr Bird' earlier criticism of Mr Hastey's evidence).

Under cross examination Mr Bird said he agreed the approach taken by Mr Hastey had been satisfactory, but he strongly disagreed with the way that Mr Hasty had used a 'scoring system' to assess the risks.

Mr De Feu said Mr Hasty had brought considerable practical experience of transport operation and he wanted to look at the scoring is more detail.

He said the approach to scoring had been to look at the risk of the accident occurring, and then the severity if it did.

Each of these have been classified into one of three options (roughly low, medium and high), and this gave a matrix of nine possibilities for each item.

Mr De Feu said this was a standard and universally recognised Health and Safety industrial risk assessment process.

What seems to be going on here is a theoretical transport planning expert and an experienced practical transport operational expert come at this matter from different angles, and Mr Bird, who appears not to have considered - or had considered and decided to ignore - risk assessment at all, and risk assessment was a main plank of the RAG evidence provided by Mr Hastey.

As matters progressed, Mr Bird said he didn't disagree with the assessment of risk in principle, just the way Mr Hastey had scored the risk subjectively.

If that was the case we wondered why he hadn't done a risk assessment of his own.

Mr De Feu must have thought so as well because he took the expert evidence Mr Bird had relied on and picked up the reasons it gave in the guidance (such as a risk assessment matrix system not giving enough weight to matters such as low speed impacts) and expanded on them.

He also looked at the comments the previous Inspector had made about Mr Hastey's approach. She's said he had done a full risk assessment of both drivers and other road users, and that she said it had been done in accordance with the relevant recognised standards.

We thought Mr De Feu was scoring good points here.

SITE ACCESS
There was then a discussion about how vehicles would be controlled in and out of the site itself using 'banksmen' and Mr De Feu wanted to know if they would be available whenever HGV's were using the site.

Mr Bird said the work would take place over 6 years and he couldn't say because he was not in charge of the site, but it was in the transport plan and would be agreed with LCC as needed. Mr De Feu pressed a little harder for a more clear answer and their exchange was interrupted by the Inspector who asked:

"So the intention is not to have a belt and braces scheme to ensure that it happens?"

Ms Leiven for Cuadrilla said it would be part of the Transport Management Plan that would be agreed with LCC as had and was happened at Preston New Road.

There was much shaking of heads in the public gallery because they knew, as we know, about the instances where Cuadrilla have failed to comply, or sought weakening of the conditions they had previously accepted.

 Or - in the instance of bringing in the drilling rig - they wholly disregarded their undertaking in the Transport Management Plan, and brought the drilling rig on site under cover of darkness, (and are now seeking to maintain that flexibility on future sites). This change was made to suit Cuadrilla's operational need and their assertion about minimising risk and disruption, but it also sought to minimise the chances of those  who wish to protest making their objection known.

To us, the points being made by Mr Bird an Ms Leiven were simply more of  - look, it's possible to do so if we need to do it we can do it.

But it was Cuadrilla's failure to commit to precise arrangements that was part of the previous Inspector's dissatisfaction with their transport proposals.

BLUE ROUTE: MILITARY SITE EXIT
Mr De Feu then turned to the Blue route and there was a long session about the bit  where it exited the Military site and the short stretch to get into the proposed site.

Much of this was about the OS plan being wrong or not accurately shown so far as one of the bends on the plans used by Mr Bird was concerned. It got quite tetchy and wasn't satisfactorily resolved. Mr Leiven agreed to produce some more survey data for RAG to consider.

BLUE ROUTE: HAND AND DAGGER PUB
We then moved onto the bit by the Hand and Dagger pub, but as far as we could see, other than looking at  the previous Inspector's comments and Mr Bird saying the previous Inspector's conclusions on one matter were wrong, no strong points were made - probably because Mr De Feu was going to use Mr Hastey's later evidence to set out his arguments on this matter.

With a couple more points further along the road (bridge and bends), the matter of the Blue route ended and morning break arrived.

THE RED ROUTE
Mr De Feu said he wanted to begin at the point in Elswick where the Red and Green routes diverged.

Looking at the junction at lodge Lane, and a right turn into Preston Road, he made the point that a lorry turning right needed the extra road widening Cuadrilla were proposing, but even so, it's trailer would still cut the corner on Lodge Lane.

It then takes a left turn and needs to encroach onto the opposite side of the road and doesn't get back into its own lane for a substantial distance.

Ms Liven interrupted to say that she thought this level of detail was not a good use of the inquiry's time and she thought it would be better for Mr Bird and Mr Hastey to set out where there was  a problem at each of the junctions and then to look at those problems on the site visit.

The Inspector's response was inaudible but MS Leiven's subsequent comment suggested he had not entirely agreed with her, and Mr De Feu said he would continue unless he was stopped. He did however try to speed up.

THE INSKIP TURNS
We then moved to the Inskip turn and the proposed convex mirror. Mr De Feu was brief here saying he would address it in Mr Hastey's evidence later, but he did want to look at the route the wheels of an articulated vehicle would take. and the arrangements for one large vehicle stopping to allow another to negotiate using the wrong side of the road.

Mr De Feu also spoke of the problems at the turning into Higham Side Road and the bend shortly after it which he claimed produced a risk to vulnerable road users. Mr Bird seemed to accept this point bur said not many people used it.

THE GREEN ROUTE
Mr De Feu dropped a bombshell when he said Cuadrilla had accepted they would not go through Treales village and they had just disposed of the Red and Blue routes both of which used the military land, so if that ever became unavailable, then all the traffic would have to use the Green Route wouldn't it.

There was silence for a moment as this sank in, then Ms Leiven made a very strong point to say that excepting in certain cases and emergencies, if the military land became unavailable, they would be in breach of the traffic plan and they could not proceed - because the plan was conditional on there being three alternative routes that  the Cuadrilla vehicles could use.

Quite where that left it we were not sure.

Mr De Feu moved on to the Thistleton junction and there was discussion about whether some of the lorries would use this junction in convoy or not, and a lot of discussion about the use of this junction and Highway's England's serious concern about this junction being used in respect of a proposed housing development in this area.

He addressed the next left turn junction and bends etc. leading to the right hand turn into Roseacre Road (the one that residents of a certain age will know as being outside 'Sam's shop'). He said Mr Hastey and Mr Bird disagreed on the path the vehicles would take around this turn into Roseacre Road and the Inspector would have to come to his view after the site visit.

He concluded his cross examination with one final bend on Roseacre Road (we guess it was the sharp left hander) which required a substantial use of the opposite carriageway and the Inspector would have to come to a view about that.

And with that his cross examination of Mr Bird ended.

 David Bird: Re-examination by Cuadrilla

Ms Leiven had to take Mr Bird back to yesterday morning to address matters raised by Mr Evans for LCC.

She picked up a few points, but we didn't think they were 'killer issues'. She did ask to put in an additional paper from the previous Inquiry which she said explained some numbers better than the previous Inspector's report used by Mr Evans had done, and she asked Mr Bird to comment further on the numbers.

Mr Evans (unusually) interrupted to produce some clarification which Ms Leiven seemed to agree an the matter was dropped.

Turning to why Cuadrilla had rejected the Red route previously, she asked Mr Bird to clarify the position with an accident record on the stretch from Elswick to Inskip and whether it was relevant to the Cuadrilla proposal. He said it was not relevant at all.

He also said Cuadrilla were now going to avoid school run times, and the previous inquiry had not done a turning analysis which was before this Inquiry.

Turning to hedgerows and visibility on or across 'third party land'  she noted Mr Evans had said the law would take a long time to require landowners to cut hedges, but there was a system that allowed LCC to serve notice for the work to be done within 14 days, thus appearing to weaken Mr Evans' argument

She avoided re-examining Mr Bird on much of Mr De Feu's cross examination, apparently in the hope that it could be resolved on the site visits. (But we thought she might also have wanted to keep her powder dry for cross examination of RAG's expert witnesses).

She did pick up the point about the side-road Moss Lane East entering the Dagger Lane in the Traffic light controlled section. She said they could see how much of a through route to anywhere it was, and she'd had some photos done of it. Mr Bird agreed with her that it was unlikely to be used by HGVs except for what she called 'occasional agricultural vehicles'.

We think she might get a bit of a surprise on this matter later in the inquiry.

 David Bird: Inspector's questions.

The Inspector first asked if there had been cost benefit analysis undertaken. Mr Bird said no there had not

He then asked why they now went for three routes rather than just improve the Blue Route. Mr Bird's answer seemed to be that it was for Cuadrilla's operational reasons.

The Inspector also wanted to know where the material came from. Mr Bird said most of it (aggregate) came from the quarries in the Lake District.

He then asked about how employees, drivers and contractors would be controlled. Mr Bird explained mostly it was contractors. He said most of the tracking of vehicles would be through GPS and via number plate recognition cameras.

 Richard Nulty

Just as the Inspector was about to break for lunch, Greenhalgh with Thistleton Parish Councillor Richard Nulty asked to be allowed to ask Mr Bird some questions.

This was part of the basis under which the Parish Councils were represented and the Inspector agreed.

Cllr Nulty asked about whether Mr Bird knew about the capacity, accident record and road closures on the A585 itself. Mr Bird said he was aware of the accident record but said Cuadrilla's additional use would be so small it wouldn't have a significant effect.

He said if there were road closures it would probably be due to an accident or some similar reason. (We thought he probably didn't know about the current 6 or 8 week programme of overnight road closures for repairs and improvements to be undertaken).

Cllr Nulty asked about the cumulative impact on traffic where each development individually was not "severe" but cumulatively it might be. Mr Bird said they had looked at the cumulative effect and they had proposed some mitigation measures at the Thistleton junction.

Cllr Nulty also said whilst most aggregate deliveries from the  Lake District would leave the M6 at Lancaster and approach the Thistleton turn from the North (meaning a left turn), he asked about steelwork etc coming from the midlands an south. We think Mr Bird had not envisaged an approach from the North, but he didn't comment on this. He said he couldn't say where all the deliveries would come from.

Cllr Nulty then asked about the use of convoys and said for the Preston New Road site, the convoys had assembled on the hard shoulder of the M55 and had a police escort front and back, running quite quickly with 'blues and twos' on. he said the Parish council already had a lot of complaints about lorries travelling too quickly and he wondered what might be done to minimise this with the Cuadrilla traffic. Mr Bird gave the predictable answer that everything would be fine.

Finally, Cllr Nulty raised the issue of the 'other' turning into Thistleton (the one further south) and asked what might be done to prevent Cuadrilla's traffic from using it. Mr Bird said it was a good question and they would have  a look at it and see what could be done.

We were surprised they hadn't picked this up already.

We broke for lunch at around 1:30pm.

 Mark Lappin - Evidence for Cuadrilla from their PNR experience

Sadly we were delayed over lunchtime and didn't get back in time to Ms Leiven's introduction for Cuadrilla's witness

 Mark Lappin: cross examination by LCC

Mr Evans was exploring how protestors might influence what happened at Roseacre Wood and in particular how they might try to restrict the use of the military site at Inskip.

His point was that if protestors could prevent the use of the military site, they could 'knock out' the use of both the Blue and Red routes.

Mr Lappin was keen to explain that they had adapted their business model to be more flexible about delivery and so on.

Mr Evans went on to ask about suppliers and he agreed that Cuadrilla could induct and train their own employees but he wondered how could they ensure it was done in contractors and suppliers. Mr Lappin said  that could be seen in the high level of compliance by contract drivers.

Mr Evans then asked about the Traffic Management Plan for Preston New Road and it's requirement for no right turns our of the site onto the main road.

Mr Evans said his information said there had been a ver significant number of breaches of the Traffic Management Plan at PNR.

Mr  Lappin said there had been breaches but he disputed they were a 'significant' number.

Mr Evans said his information showed that between the start of the project on 17 January 2017 and 30 March 2018, there had been 5065 vehicle movements and 248 of these had breached the TMP by turning right.

Mr Lappin said that didn't agree with his figures, so Mr Evans asked what his figures were.

Mr Lappin first gave an explanation that in his view if they asked the police, and it was agreed that it would be safer to exit the site by turning right, then he didn't recognise that it was a breach of the Traffic Management Plan.

Mr Evans said  if the plan says there should be none, then it was a breach.

Mr Lappin disagreed strongly and said

"No. Not if the breach is authorised

 He added  that his figures show there was 1 breach in the first quarter; 3 in the second quarter; 1 (of 27 convoy  delivering the rig at night vehicles) in the third quarter; and 3 in the fourth quarter.

Mr Evans did not seem to agree with this view and said he would refer to the matter later.

And with a few more clarifications, his cross examination of Mr Lappin ended.

 Mark Lappin: cross examination by RAG

Mr De Feu first addressed what he thought were overlaps in the work programme that might not have been accounted for by increased traffic numbers in the traffic figures. Ms Leiven said she thought they were but would check and advise the inquiry.

Mr De Feu went on to ask about tankering the surface water off the site and traffic movements he, sought confirmation from Mr Lappin that they still didn't have an Environmental Agency permit to discharge the Preston New Road site into a local watercourse. Mr Lapin agreed, but Ms Leiven broke the news that:

"WE HAVE  A DRAFT ENVIRONMENT AGENCY PERMIT AS OF TODAY."

This appears to say that the Environment Agency is about to agree to Cuadrilla changing the terms if its license and discharging surface water into the nearby brook.

With a few more questions, Mr De Feu's cross examination ended.

 Richard Nulty

Cllr Nulty said that there were so many pinch points on the proposed routes, and experience from Preston New Road has shown that protestors are able to mount blockages at short notice, he wanted to know what Cuadrilla would do if a HGV had left the main road and was on the country lanes (on which he thought it might take the HGV about 25 minutes to reach the site) and found its passage blocked by protestors.

Mr Lappin said they would wait until the blockage was cleared or just turn around. He appeared to say these were small rural roads but there were always places where they could turn around.

Pressed further he said they would not use any other routes apart from the three authorised ones.

Cllr Nulty put to him the idea of a (we assume a private) vehicle having its tyres let down at a pinch point and thus blocking the Cuadrilla HGV and every large vehicle behind it.

We don't think we heard a satisfactory answer to this but Cllr Nulty did ask the Inspector to take account of the risk of roadblocks and the need to turn HGV's around when he made his site visit.

 Mark Lappin: re-exmination by Cuadrilla

Ms Leiven asked Mr Lappin about the induction and training given to drivers. To be honest he was not really able to answer this and Ms Leiven said she would take it up later.

She moved onto the alleged breaches of the Traffic Management Plan. Quoting from Paragraph 3.7.1 which - in summary said that where Cuadrilla and the police agreed it was necessary of better, then the left turning requirement could be disregarded as long as they advise the County Council this has been done.

 Mark Lappin: Inspector's questions

Apart from a clarification of the fact that the draft Environmental Permit  pertained to the Preston New Road Site, there were no questions from the Inspector

 Neil Stevens - Evidence for LCC

Late this afternoon, Mr Stevens began his evidence.

He spoke about him approaching the matter from  a practical, driver-centric approach rather than a theoretical perspective, and he thought that fact probably explained the difference between his and Mr Bird's conclusions.

He spoke about the difficulty of making alterations to form the widening or passing places that Mr Bird had spoken of.

In some instances, he said this would mean using even a mini-excavator within 100 mm of the edge of the adopted highway and hedges.

In short he was saying that where Mr Bird's evidence said it was theoretically possible to achieve, Mr Stevens said there was no certainty that theoretical possibilities would result in certainty  that they could be delivered in terms of on the ground construction and whether drainage could be installed.

His evidence continues tomorrow


 DAY 4     (13 APRIL 2018)

  Inspector's Remarks

There was some discussion about timings for to-day and the complications of Mr Stevens not being able to speak with colleagues (purdah period) over a weekend, but the barristers agreed to re-jig their cases to minimise the problems.

The Inspector was also concerned that on next week's site visit (between Mr Bird and Mr Stevens to try to resolve measurements and so on) RAG wasn't involved and there was some discussion about whether and how Mr Hastey might need to be involved. It seemed to us to be left rather fluid. The impression we got was that Ms Lieven was keen for it only to be Messers Stevens and Bird, and the Inspector (at least) seems to think RAG should be involved as well.

 Neil Stevens - Evidence for LCC(continued)

Mr Stevens re-started with the topic of hedges and sight lines. He gave some more details of the regulations saying LCC didn't didn't control the hedges and they relied on the public to point out overgrown hedges and that would also apply to passing places.

He said after being notified LCC would serve a 14 day notice on the landowner, but the landowner can go to a Magistrate's Court to appeal the notice. After the 14 days, LCC would check to see if had been done. But whilst LCC had powers to do the work in default, it takes time to organise and implement.

The real point he was making was that from the public deciding something needed to be done, it would take more than a few days to ensure the hedge was cut.

They then went into detailed photographs on a couple of examples, and as Mr Stevens said, it wasn't only being able to see another HGV at a junction, it was also whether you could see a cyclist or pedestrian, and most especially to be able to see where the passing places were.

He also spoke about how sight lines at junctions could be affected by parked cars - even if there were yellow lines (as at the shop on the corner of Roseacre Road in Elswick) and for these reasons, sometimes they had to use the kerb edge sightline rather than the centre of the road.

Mr Stevens moved on to the path analysis that the vehicles would take.  Mr Evans said this was more a topic for Mr Hastey but wanted Mr Stevens to make comment.

He said he was prepared to take the OS map and being accurate for widths unless it could be shown otherwise. He said in some instances the tail of a trailer would clip the front of another HGV wanting to turn into the road, and one would have to reverse to allow more room, or be hit.

He gave another example where a HGV turning at one of the junctions could not do so within the carriageway at all.

Furthermore, he noted that (inbound) HGV drivers unfamiliar with the area might come up to the Hand and Dagger pub Station Road and turn left at the pub then right into Dagger Lane whilst there was already another (outbound) HGV (properly) partway along the traffic light controlled section would mean that the one in the controlled section would have no alternative other than to reverse, our of the lights controlled section of Dagger Lane, which was a really bad idea. .

He also spoke about the 'Inskip village convex mirror' proposal and said in his opinion it was more of a hazard than a help.

Turning again to the Dagger Road stretch, Mr Stevens was asked about the traffic signals themselves, and cutting what was a very long explanation shorter, it was very likely that the wing mirrors on the HGVs would hit the traffic signals, and the road couldn't be widened along here (for maintenance and other reasons).

At this point Ms Leiven interrupted to say none of this was in Mr Steven's written evidence and she (and to be honest, we) were having difficulty following the measurements and distances he was quoting, and he really needed to put it all in writing with a plan.

The Inspector agreed, and Mr Evans also said they would do so.

Mr Stevens then picked up something we had worried about, i.e. the confusion that would be caused for ordinary traffic not knowing or not whether or not the lights were in use or not (because they would only 'activate' when a HGV was approaching).

He also spoke about problems with signal light timing and worried that unfamiliar drivers might think the lights were stuck on red and decide to ignore them.

He moved on to look at areas of road narrowing and introduced some new evidence about HGVs and 4 wheel drive cars which he suggested could also reasonable be considered a vulnerable road users in relation to HGVs.

He said there was evidence to show large numbers (we think he said thousands) of cyclists using the whole network, and parts of Cuadrillas routes were in something called the Northern Loop, a defined cycle route.

He spoke of the possibility of protestors on the route -  they may be slow walking or slow cycling along Cuadrilla's routes and may be at greater vulnerability during such times.

Turning to horse riding, he said they knew horses used the areas but they could not understand how and when, so estimating the impact was difficult. He noted that the removal of verge areas for road widening and passing places along the routes would reduce the safe - or escape - areas that equestrian users could use. There was also an increase in fear and intimidation of all vulnerable road users and the number and the size of the HGVs increases

He also spoke about flooded road and how people tried to avoid the flooding by moving toward the centre of the road.

Mr Stevens was finally asked to comment on the traffic plan and practical reality.

To us, this is the whole crux of this inquiry. For the most part, local people know it is quite ridiculous to suggest what Cuadrilla are suggesting. These are rural country lanes, and completely unsuited for what is in reality, industrial use. In practical terms this is a complete non-starter.

But Cuadrilla's case - at least so far - has been based on theoretical possibilities and 'best prospect' scenarios. These are not wrong, but they fail to account for practical, real-life circumstances.

Mr Stevens referred to the failures to comply with the Traffic Management Plan's requirement to turn left out of the PNR site and said the Plan set out the preferred way of exiting the site.

The TMP's purpose was to set out the preferred ways of doing several things (hours of work, routes used, site access arrangements and so on)

He recognised the need for emergency or circumstantial reasons to change this requirement in consultation with the police on occasions, but it still represented 248 departures from the preferred way of working.

The Inspector began to intervene saying it seemed a large number of alterations, but he was cut short by Mr Evans who said correspondence was still taking place between Cuadrilla and himself on this matter and he expected to speak further to in later in the inquiry because at present, there was not a settled position.

 Neil Stevens: Cross examination by Cuadrilla

Given we had reached 11:30 am, and this was a half day sitting, the arrangements for the day were revised and Ms Leiven said she would delay the issue of 'forward visibility' until after Mr Bird and Mr Stevens had been on site on Monday. She also agreed to halt her cross examination today somewhere between 1:30 and 2pm

She first asked Mr Stevens to agree that LCC had been consulted on and agreed on the methodology for the survey. he did so.

She also dealt with the matter of weather and the times of the survey (including summer this time) and Mr Stevens agreed. She said at this inquiry, Mr Stevens was not challenging the methodology as he did last time. Mr Stevens agreed.

Ms Leiven made the point that because they had the Draft Permit to discharge accumulated rainwater from the site at PNR and it was possible that they would also get one for Roseacre Wood, there would be a lot less HGV movements.

As an example with tankering away for wells 1 and 2 there would be 3,017 two way HGV vehicle movements, but with drainage to a brook or whatever, that would reduce to 2,238 movements, a reduction of 1,479 vehicle movements. and she made a great play of this reduction for both wells 1 and 2 and a similar situation for wells 3 and 4.

She went on to ask Mr Stevens to agree the possibility of Cuadrilla's one class 10 HGV an hour, meeting another class 10 HGV at an average of once a day was a very low possibility. He did agree, but drew attention to it not only being Class 10 HGVs that were of concern. He said he was also worried about the use of large agricultural vehicles on the route that had not been captured in the survey.

Ms Leiven's approach so far seemed to us to be firm, but much less 'Pitbull' than we remember her being at the last inquiry. Whether that means she feels more confident this time (and doesn't need to be so 'in your face') or not, we're not sure.

She then turned to accidents and said the NPPF test has to be that the impact on safety would be severe, and the matter for the Inspector was that the proposal would lead to accidents, and they must be personal injury accidents. Mr Stevens reluctantly agreed.

We thought her approach was a bit like the story that runs: Fido is a name for a dog. Dogs can be black and white. This dog is black and white, so this dog is called Fido, and we understood his reluctance.

There was quite a lot of shadow-boxing between Ms Lieven and Mr Stevens about what sort of accidents could be counted and so on. But Mr Stevens did agree there was no history of significant  problems.

Ms Leiven went on to argue that whilst history cannot determine the future, it was the best basis to estimate the future probability, and she invited the Inspector to accord very significant weight to the lack of any historic accident record, over the last five years, on the routes proposed.

What was happening here was that Ms Leiven was using selected examples that suited her case that were, in our opinion, not representative.

For example she made the point that two vehicles meeting on a stretch that was not wide enough for both of them to pass, she said the first thing a HGV driver would do would be to drive onto the verge, and that would solve the problem.

We waited (in vain) for someone to say they probably would not go on the verge (unless it was not the middle of summer) in case a sodden verge wouldn't  stand the weight of the lorry - or even worse where it was the middle of summer and a roadside ditch was hidden by undergrowth.

Ms Lieven kept asking him to 'Come into the real world' in order to give an answer to her hypothetical questions. The irony of this seemed lost on her.

Ms Leiven turned to hedgerows. She said at present all the hedges were well maintained and managed. She said it was in the farmer's interest to manage the hedgerows to maintain good visibility for their own highway safety. Mr Stevens said that wasn't always the case, some property owners sought privacy. The situation depended on the landowner.

The Inspector intervened and said buses effectively trimmed hedges and trees because they rubbed against the vegetation. Mr Stevens agreed but said that didn't apply to passing places that were infrequently used.

Ms Leiven turned to flooding, first seeking agreement that what Mr Stevens had spoken of did not prevent the construction of the passing points or road-widening. He did agree.

She went further to say HGVs would simply drive through the flooding. But Mr Stevens said they may not be able to see what was a passing place and what was not., and they might be driving off the road altogether if they couldn't see where the edge of the road actually was.

Watching barristers argue about theoretical drainage gradients and using gravel or other permeable material to magically drain the water away was, we have to say, amusing, for those of us that understand about land drainage.

The point is she was missing is that if, as she now proposed to use 'permeable asphalt' all that would happen is that it would simply result in the permeable asphalt being full of water and flooded itself, unless a subterranean drainage system was also installed to remove the water.

The most likely problem is that the land itself is waterlogged - either because the natural land drainage cannot drain at the speed of the rain falls or, more likely, the topography means the natural water table is higher than the land, and the water is unable to go anywhere until either it evaporates or it slowly drains through the very slow permeability of the land underneath it. The solution here is land drainage pipes to lower the water table over a wide area, but that can only work if farmers agree and there is a sewer or watercourse below the level of the water you want to drain from. And in most rural locations there are no sewers to use (which is why rural folk have septic tanks)

This (for us very frustrating) issue seemed to take forever, but was eventually, and thankfully, over, as was this first week of the Inquiry


Dated:  10 April 2018

 

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