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Roseacre Inquiry Week 3

Roseacre Inquiry Week 3The re-opened Roseacre Inquiry opened at 10am on Tuesday for the last few sessions before it finishes later this week.

There will be more expert evidence and public speakers on Tuesday, with the closing statements from the main parties on Wednesday - after which the focus begins to shift from the Inspector, who makes his recommendation to the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, and he will take the final decision.

We have the reports of what happened on each of the days, and our own conclusion is at the end of the article.

Follow this link for the web cast PROTOCOL

Follow this link for the Cuadrilla Webcast itself



 LINKS TO CONTENT ON THIS PAGE 

DAY 8:   24 APRIL 2018

WITNESSES

INTERESTED PERSONS Slot 5

DAY 9:   25 APRIL 2018

 



 DAY 8     (24 APRIL 2018)

 INSPECTORS ANNOUNCEMENTS

Ms Lieven introduced several updated or additional documents. The most significant of these concerned he evidence from Mr Rimmer about crossing the MOD Land and electricity. She said Cuadrilla has received permission to increase the height of the electric cables so the lorries can pass under them, and had it confirmed that the electrical interference would not affect the track that Cuadrilla was proposing to use.

She also said Cuadrilla were developing an app for mobile phones that would allow drivers to see where it was safe to pass each other, and they would be obliged to download this app to their mobile phones.

There were other minor submissions handed in by the other barristers 

The inspector said he had received a two page letter from Cllr Peter Collins about the Preston Westerly Distributor Road. He also mentioned the site visit from Friday and commented that a lot of the situations were not as he had seen them on earlier personal visits, and he appeared to suggest there had been some orchestration of matters on the day of the visit.

In particular, he referred to an unusually large number of cars parked on Roseacre Road outside the bowling green and village hall. He said if that was a routine situation there was a case for a traffic order and double yellow lines because there were five to six times as many vehicles on Friday as he had seen at other times he had been there. he said such actions were not helpful as it many he had to keep going back on unannounced occasions to form a true picture.

After the Inspector concluded, Mr De Feu said that RAG had done no orchestration. He speculated about the possible impact of it being a sunny day as opposed to a less pleasant day.

The inspector said he expected to have some questions arising from the site visit later on, an we will report those questions and replies here even though they were later in the day.


INSPECTOR'S LATER QUESTIONS

At the end of Mr Hastey's evidence and cross examination, the Inspector raised two matters that were  not connected with Mr Hastey's evidence, but they did relate to matters he noted on the site visit of last week.

We've included them at this point on our report because they fit logically with the Inspector's  comments.

DAGGER ROAD TRAFFIC SIGNALS

The Inspector asked about the entrances onto the section of road that was to be controlled by traffic lights, in particular one that went to  farm and another for a minor road, and yet more of a minor nature that go into fields.

He said Cuadrilla's perspective seemed to be - well this is OK because anything exiting these side roads would see the HGV coming and stop so there was no real problem.

Ms Lieven said one was Moss Lane and it was so close to one of the signals that you'd be able to see if anything was there, and you can see to the right for a long way.

But she said the one he had said goes to a farm, it actually goes to a farm and agricultural contracting operation. She said

"Sir, as far as that's concerned, if either you feel it's necessary in decision, or the Council [indistinct words], its very straightforward, within the technology for the signals, that any of the vehicles in that farm and tractors become part of the system.

Apparently all it involves is putting a tag in the windscreen, they're tagged, and so if they come up to the line, then they will trigger the thing in the same way that an HGV somewhere else would.

So that can be accommodated within the technology.

Does that make sense?"

We could see this wasn't going to work, and the only practical solution would be to have more sets of traffic lights as well. The Inspector saw it as well, because he said

"No"

Ms Lieven said she would have another go, and she tried to explain that the system recognised the vehicles as HGVs and she said they could be incorporated into the system. Predictably, the Inspector said

"How?"

The answer was obvious, it needed more sets of traffic lights. Ms Lieven said

"They're tagged. You say to the farmer, put these into your windscreens, and you will then register when you come up the to the line onto Dagger Road, and then you'll effectively, your agricultural vehicle comes up to the line, that's one HGV, another HGV crosses the line at the north, the system knows there're two HGVs, and the traffic lights come on.  It just becomes part of the System"

Inspector

"So you're saying you're going to put traffic lights on this farm access?"

Ms Lieven

"No. You control the vehicles by the traffic lights that exist"

Inspector

"Yeah"

Ms Lieven

"You control any other vehicles coming on".

Inspector

"But how does the vehicle coming out, and it similarly applies to the lane at the north, how do they know that  a) the signals are working, and b) which direction is permissible to go?"

Ms Lieven

"Well Sir, they have priority, and if, and I'm beginning t get way out of my depth here,  because I......."

If necessary, there could be, there could be another set of signals in there if that was necessary, you could just put another signal in.

If you think about it Sir, it's very similar to when you have one way working on a ...... where there's.... repairs, and sometimes you've got, you sign everybody to say there will be incoming vehicles, and sometimes if there's an incoming lane, you signalise that as well.

But I think probably we need to do you  note, cos I'm not sure I understand....."

Helpfully (perhaps!) Mr Hastey, who was still on the witness stand ,chipped in and said

"The complications that arise, is when the contractor is working on his own premises, he could actually be working in a number of fields on the [indistinct word] of Dagger Road and in all seriousness [indistinct words] the route back to his premises, if they're harvesting or siloing or whatever, you can get a vehicle moving backwards and forwards every less than six minutes because that's the time it takes to fill a silo trailer. I can understand what's being said, but the complication is that if you're working between the two sets of traffic lights, which will happen."

The debate carried on a bit longer in similar vein

We've reproduced this verbatim and at length, because as the day went on and on the following day, much was made of this situation.

Both Mr De Feu and Mr Evans would refer to it in their closing statements, Mr Evans especially to what we thought was devastating effect - not so much because there was not readily identifiable solution when so many field entrances and so on were on this section of Dagger lane - but more for the fact that the proposals and mitigation that Cuadrilla had submitted were supposed to address all the highway safety matters, and here we were on the penultimate day starting to redesign the whole traffic management plan.

This really did show up the fact that not enough work had been done to address the safety concerns.

In fact it was to prove intractable because Ms Lieven would go on to say the next day, that there was never any intention to address traffic moving between fields within the controlled section, and Cuadrilla did not intend to do so.  There was also an issue to come about the capability of laying down power lines, controls and induction loops to control the traffic on private land.

Whether this alone could scupper the plans we're not sure (we doubt it) but it has (obviously) made the Inspector realise that Cuadrilla's proposals are not infallible.

LAY-BY / PASSING PLACE MARKERS

The Inspector's second concern was whether passing places and lay-bys could be marked with bollards or whatever to assist their visibility.

Ms Lieven said she accepted some of the points Mr Stevens had made with regard to the lack of adequate sight lines, and that's why they were developing and proposing an 'app' that all Cuadrilla's drivers would have to download onto their phones (We think she probably meant sat-navs) that would give information about the locations of the lay-bys, passing places etc.


 Tom Hastey - Evidence for RAG

Mr De Feu first gave Mr Hastey's professional credentials and working experience. To us, it sounded very impressive as practical transport operating experience.

He then spent some time asking Mr Hastey to describe various types of HGVs and their characteristics during use. In particular he asked how the weight of vehicles affected vehicle braking.

THE BLUE ROUTE

There was a it of argy-bargy as Mr Hastey was dealing with twin wheel and single wheel vehicles running on verges, and he was trying to describe how a single wheel one was going to cause ruts and risk overturning if the land was wet and there was a ditch, but twin wheel vehicles could remain with their inner tyre supporting them on the road surface even if the outer tyre was over the verge. In trying to explain the technicalities of this he lost both the Inspector and Ms Lieven who raised objection.

Mr Hastey was talking about how the wheels were fixed on, and Ms Lieven took exception to not having had these technical details in advance and suggested they should not be admitted as evidence because she was not prepared for, and therefore could not, cross examine on them.

The Inspector seemed to agree with her at first, but Mr Hastey said he was only explaining that a vehicle with single wheel axel has a fixing mechanism that would hit the road surface and may well shear if the tyre went off-road and sank in muddy ground, and if there was a ditch as well, there was a danger of the vehicle rolling into it.

Mr Hastey was then asked to consider various places and junctions  and he expressed concern about them and had taken some photographs from the cab of an HGV which illustrated his concern.

The Hand and Dagger junction was given special attention. He said he had extreme concerns about the possibility of a rollover. He was so concerned that he had not used the HGV to take the photos because he did not consider it safe for a HGV to use that junction.


SLIGHT DIGRESSION

We had originally thought that Mr Hastey's evidence re: the Hand and Dagger and the matters Mr Bird had discussed here might once again lead us into a discussion about the possibility of tankers with liquid sloshing around in them helping to tip over a road tanker.

We're grateful to have had several emails from readers about this matter, mostly pointing out that bulk liquid tankers usually have internal compartments to reduce the effect of liquid movement.

But one of our readers sent us quite a bit of detail, and as a thank-you for their detailed explanation, we've reproduced it below for any enthusiasts. It seems to us to use some pretty complicated - or at least involved - calculations. We expect nothing less of our readers :-)))

From one of our readers.....

With regards to the statement by Mr Bird regarding removing waste water from the site in tankers full to capacity with no remaining space in the tank.

The maximum weight of a fully loaded tanker on UK roads is 44 tonnes

This generally consists of 14 tonnes of vehicle and 30 tonnes of load.

There are 35.315 cubic feet in a cubic metre.

There are 220.71875 gallons in cubic metre

This equates to 6621.5625 gallons per 30 tonne load.

Given that the specific gravity of water is 1 and a gallon weighs 10 pounds.

6.25 gallons occupy 1 cubic foot which happens to be the size of an old fashioned biscuit tin

If you used an old style imperial measurement of 2240 lbs in an imperial ton.

There are 224 gallons of water in 1 ton, or 6720 gallons in 30 imperial tons, a difference of 99 gallons between imperial and metric quantities.

Therefore, you can not fill a tanker to its maximum capacity if it's gross weight exceeds 44 tonnes.

Variations in the quantity of liquid carried can only be determined by its weight and specific gravity.

To stop liquid moving within the tank the tanks are sectioned and contain baffles.

Regarding the reference about single tyre axles as opposed to twin wheeled axles. In my days at [tyre company] as a technical sales rep, I spent some time on both.

The tyres on a single wheeled axle was referred too as a Super Single considerably wider than those of the more traditional twin wheeled axle.

They are also more economical with fuel savings and reduced maintenance costs.

We now return to the Inquiry proper


THE RED ROUTE

Mr Hastey went through all the places he considered to be important - notably the section through Inskip village and beyond.

One he mentioned was a vehicle turning right out of Lodge Lane then immediately left onto the B5269 and he said if the driver was not 'inch perfect' the vehicle would flip over.

THE GREEN ROUTE

There was a lot of argument about the Thistleton junction and it degenerated into an argument which, once again, the Inspector seemed not to want to have.

Mr Hastey was trying to explain that the tractor unit would turn through the 110 degree turn but in a right hand turn like this, the trailer unit would pivot on the axis of the second offside axle.  We think what he was trying to say was that during the manoeuvre the trailer would swing out into the carriageway to the left by a bit less than a metre. (i.e. it would suddenly and unexpectedly impede the path of traffic coming from Preston to Windy harbour). At least that's what we think he was trying to describe, but the Inspector was becoming impatient.

Inspector

"Yeah, I could save you some time, erm, it was all pointed out last Friday, and I made the point then, that there are observations from Highways England about this junction, and as far as I was aware, the Appellant was meeting everything Highways England wanted from them at this junction and I'm just looking through the conditions to see how it's worded.

The conditions said that they've got to provide a scheme to the satisfaction of Highways England, and I don't think there's anywhere you can take this."

Mr De Feu said

"Sir, what I will say is, there is a dispute as to the interpretation of the Highways England letter in terms of the right hand turn out, and what the implications of what Highways England say as the right hand turn out which I'll have to deal with in submissions.

I quite accept the point that Highways England don't take this point in terms of the right hand turn in, and the rear swing-out is not dealt with in their letter. The extent to which it might be covered by a condition is perhaps a matter for submissions."

Inspector

Can someone remind me if the condition covers that?"

Ms Lieven laughed and said

"Erm, maybe not, maybe its not..."

Inspector

"Aaaahh Right, she's not here."

Ms Lieven

"Sir, it is beyond any possible doubt that we are required to do the work to this junction which has been shown to, and accepted by, Highways England"

Inspector

"Yeah. The only issue is whether you're  restricted to a particular plan, or whether the condition basically says, you-know, you should construct the junction to the satisfaction of Highways England. If it's the satisfaction of Highways England, if RAG are concerned about, you-know, the [indistinct word perfections' perceptions?] of Highways England, you-know, then the place to go is Highways England, not here."

Mr De Feu

"Sir I take that point. Perhaps I'll just ask Mr Hastey then whether the Plan C01, as shown, whether the changes to the mouth of the junction, would those changes as shown, address your concerns about rear-end swing-out?"

Mr Hastey

"No."

Mr De Feu

"Why not?"

Mr Hastey

"It couldn't possibly solve those issues. Whichever way the tractor has to manoeuvre, it has to be jack-knifed, because the actual turn from a horizontal position is through about 110 degrees, which means that the trailer will automatically swing out, irrespective of what adjustments are made to that junction."

There were further exchanges and explanations before the Inspector said:

Can I just interrupt you. I mean the condition says no part of the development hereby approved shall commence until a scheme for the improvement works to the B5269 Thistleton Road junction with the A585 Trunk Road has been submitted to and approved in writing by the County Planning Authority in consultation with Highways England, and the approved scheme has been constructed.

A scheme shall include full details of how the scheme interfaces with existing highway alignment, all carriageway surfacing, carriageway marks and etc etc

If you've got full details of how the scheme interfaces with existing highway alignment, it's within the remit of the Highways Agency to ask for the highway to be widened, which is what you're saying. The lanes aren't wide enough. That's what you're saying isn't it?

Mr Hastey

"No Sir, what I'm saying is..."

Inspector

"You're saying that the right turning lane isn't wide enough to allow a vehicle to send, when he turns, the rear of his trailer into the next lane.

Mr Hastey

It would need to be at least 0.8 m wider.

Inspector

Yes, you need to widen the road, an you-know, they could do it if they want to.

Mr De Feu, recognising a hostile Inspector said

Sir, I think we'd better move on. I've heard what you have to say, and Mr Hastey has explained his concerns an no doubt they'll be taken on board


What had happened here was that Cuadrilla's drawings showed only  a slight widening of the bellmouth of Thistleton Road in order for the tractor unit of an articulated lorry to be able to swing through a wide-enough turning circle to get into the Thistleton road.

There was no mention on the drawing of widening the A585 road itself to enable the central standing lane to be widened by at least the 0.8m Mr Hastey said it would need in order to prevent the rear end of the trailer projecting into the (nearside) Preston to Windy Harbour traffic lane, and Mr Hastey was, quite properly, drawing attention to his concern.

What Mr Hastey may not have realised is that Cuadrilla had separately negotiated with Highways England a 'catch-all' condition that said they would do whatever LCC/Highways England said was necessary to alter that junction, and the Inspector was interpreting that as giving LCC the power to require the A585 road be widened at this point to solve the problem.

That's all fine and dandy, except, the plans that Cuadrilla submitted didn't show any road widening, and there was no stated commitment to do so.

But by using that overriding condition to do whatever was necessary, those responsible for agreeing it have removed  any obstacle there might have been regarding the use of this junction.

It has become a non-argument as far as granting the appeal is concerned.

But we can't help wondering whether this will result in Cuadrilla ACTUALLY paying for the road to be widened if the appeal is allowed, or whether they will find some clever way out of it by saying they will only do what was agreed at the Inquiry - which is what they had shown on the drawings they submitted.

Readers should remember here that Ms Leiven's verbatim quote was  

".....we are required to do the work to this junction which has been shown to, and accepted by, Highways England"

[that's our selection of her sentence and our emboldening)

The nagging doubt we have is: Well if they were going to do that anyway, why wasn't it on the plans in the first place?  And if this condition is something that's been cunningly snuck in to get over an obstacle that might prevent getting the appeal allowed, maybe because Cuadrilla's transport expert didn't spot it as a problem in the first place, then what sort of confidence can we have in the rest of their expert plans?

We would not be at all surprised to find that Grenfell Tower's cladding might have gone through a process something like this.....


 Tom Hastey: Cross examination by Cuadrilla

Ms Lieven set out to denigrate the risk assessment method Mr Hastey had used and she challenged its basis asking where was there a written policy setting out the method he had used. Mr Hastey described the training he had had, and over 40 years practical use, but agreed there was no written policy in which she could read it.

She also took him up on his use of the speed limits to assess the risk of sections of road rather than the speeds that the lorries were actually found to be doing in Cuadrilla's survey. Mr Hastey said for over 40 years he drove that road every day and he knew the speed of the vehicles using that road.

Ms Lieven then took a number of places of concern and asked Mr Hastey where he had taken account of the mitigation measures and to be honest she seemed to be scoring point after point on them.

It might have been more that his risk assessment simply had not RECORDED the fact that he had already taken Cuadrilla's mitigation measures into account, (and he said so several times) but Ms Lieven appeared to manage to use this matter to damage his credibility.

It seemed to us that she was going for the man and the process rather than the specific traffic safety issues. That said, it did seem to be serving her well and in that sense it was a clever strategy.

Turning to the Hand and Dagger junction she asked if he had looked at the accident data for that junction. Mr Hastey said he had not.

Finally she went to the routes themselves and used Cuadrilla's expert's drawings to attempt to 'disprove' what Mr Hastey had said.

When there was disagreement, Ms Lieven asked if he was saying the track drawings were wrong. He said he could not say whether they were right nor wrong, only that as an experienced HGV driver he  was very doubtful that such a manoeuvre that could be safely performed.

Once again we had theory and practicality in conflict.

She didn't seem to be cross examining Mr Hastey on his evidence so much as using Mr Bird's evidence, and trying to get Mr Hastey to agree with what it said.

Occasionally he managed to demonstrate the case against what she was saying, but it felt to us as though she made the case marginally more than he did - but that's her job of course.

 Tom Hastey: Re-examination by Mr De Feu

In response to Ms Leiven's criticism of the method Mr Hastey has used to assess risk, Mr De Feu first took Mr Hastey to the 'Institute of Highways and Transportation Road Safety Audit' document which had been submitted to the Inquiry and asked him to comment on its approach to risk assessment. It advocated a method very similar to the one Mr Hastey had used, but where he had used three classifications for severity of accident and the potential for it to occur, whereas the document advocated four.

He also asked Mr Hastey to consider whether HGV wing mirrors were included in Cuadrilla's  path analysis drawings. Using Mr Bird's drawings he first illustrated one drawing that showed and noted that wing mirrors were included, but other path analysis plans did not have the same note, and he argued it was not clear whether the vehicle width as shown on this drawing did, or did not include the wing mirrors.

 Tom Hastey: Inspector's questions

The Inspector asked about the matter Mr Hastey had raised about the fixings for the single wheel axles and Mr Hastey did so. We've covered this already, except this time Mr Hastey explained that if the wheel sank in a rut and the 'U Bolts' hit the road, there was every possibility they could shear off , and the axle would then detach from the vehicle body with severe consequences.

He also said the depth the wheel would have to go down for the U Bolt to be hit was about 27cm.

Interested Parties approx 3pm to 6pm

INSPECTOR'S COMMENTS

Just the usual housekeeping measures.

 501 Ian Phillips

Lives in High Street Elswick until recently all was OK but since illegal HGV operation from Fox Brothers, and he wanted to explain what had happened.

Daughter drives along what will be Blue Route and met a HGV in middle of road, she slowed steered to left but was forced into ditch by HGV. Angry and tearful. HGV did not stop. Gave another example on another instance where she came unsighted round a bend and met a HGV she said she closed her eyes, covered her face and thought she was going to die.

He gave another four examples, one of an HGV blocking her access to her house drive forcing her to back up to let the HGV through, and another with himself, where a HGV appeared at speed from the opposite direction. He had to swerve into Copp Lane. He said the HGV driver did stop and apologise, but if it had been a less experienced driver in the car it could have been much more serious.

Based on the experience of Fox Brothers vehicles he said if Cuadrilla are allowed use of these routes it would only be a matter if time before there was a fatality

 502 Martin Clayden

Lives in Elswick. Also spoke of illegal lorry park and disruption by HGVs which are fundamentally too large for the roads. Spoke of meeting a vehicle that had failed to negotiate the bends in the village and was coming at him on the wrong side of the road. He had to mount the pavement to avoid it.

He gave a second example about his wife travelling home one winter evening. She saw lights of a large vehicle coming toward her because it had failed to negotiate the corner.

This is what the residents of Elswick are currently experiencing, they are physically too large for the roads.

 50 3 Sarah Clayden

Resident of Elswick member of Elswick Wheelers Cycle group and spoke for them. Use the routes all the time and they do cycle during the day on seven days a week. If the plan goes ahead several have said they will probably have to stop because all the vehicles, police, Cuadrilla and others will present an unacceptably high risk for cyclists. Children pose a special risk and their use of the lanes will be curtailed.

 504 Albert Risely

From Elswick. Cycles and walks  on weekdays as well as weekends. Draught from HGVs sometimes causes him to lose his balance. Narrow pavements mean pushchairs etc have to use the road.

Also a canoeist at Hand an Dagger to access canal. Complicated process to get 17' canoe off vehicle and manhandle it sometimes projecting into the road as they are loaded or unloaded on to transport.

Ms Lieven asked what times they went. He said every day of the week and other clubs as well.

 505 Katheryn Risely

Lives on Lodge Lane Elswick. Called into question Cuadrilla's traffic figures . She had done a count herself over 12 hours and said Cuadrilla's was wrong.

Saw an articulated lorry passing her house middle of road to avoid flooding. Another where two passed and clipped the 450mm wide kerb as they did.

Spoke of an accident with her mother and a car and agricultural vehicle which resulted in hospitalisation a day or two after the accident and said it was a serious personal injury but not reported because mother so traumatised (unconscious in vehicle). Happened in 2016 but only went to hospital some days later..

 506 Annabelle Hassell

Lives in Elswick. Owner of Elswick Equestrian Centre for 12 years and ridden for 45 years. Qualified riding instructor with the British Horse Society. Said she was representing the owners and riders of 20 horses as livery as well as her own 20 horses and ponies that are used from he riding school customers.

Said little or no off-road riding in the area. Rides every day of the week throughout the year. Riders aged 4 to 75.Young and older horses.

 Routes are generally very peaceful but recent lorry problems from HGVs based in Lodge Lane. gave details of a HGV spooking an experienced rider an hose bolted. Driver had apologised and admitted going too fast to stop because of weight of load. Increases in HGV traffic will increase the risk.

Said they did have large agric vehicles now, but the farmers are her neighbours and their children go to school together resulting in mutual respect. But she said the same can't be said of contractors and there are two weeks of the year at harvest time where she, in the interests of safety, chooses not to ride out.

The Inspector asked where the riding stables were located and what her usual route was. She said they used all he routes.

He also asked if she used he bridleways. She said here were none. He said he thought there was one somewhere. She said one of about 500m. He asked if the footpaths were useable. She said they were not allowed to use footpaths an all their hacking had to be done on the roads.

 507 Trevor Loftus

Said he was qualified to drive a HGV and was worried about the Thistleton turn off the A585, and argued it should be considered as a cumulative impact with the with the proposed new housing developments at Elswick. He said although one was housing and the other was industrial, they were both 'development' and the cumulative impact of all was relevant to consider.

 508 Andy Biggs

From Elswick. Gave several instances of conflict with Fox Brothers Lorries in the middle of the road having failed to properly negotiate the bends outside what used to be the post office. He had been forced to mount the pavement to avoid a head on collision

 509 Julie Fairbank

Lives at the Junction of Lodge Lane on the Red route. Quoted someone who had said you can prove a lot with statistics that do not reflect common sense. Said she had personal experience of nine cars having gone through her hedge, thee head-on car accidents and a jack-knifed tractor and cattle trailer accident that released the cattle and caused 11,000 worth of damage on her garden and land.

She also gave her personal experience of using the roads for walking her dogs, and concluded with an Invitation for the Inspector or Ms Lieven and anyone else to walk her Labradors themselves and see how it felt.

 510 David Galvin

Designer by profession, and has extensive experience of road layouts. Said 7.3m as minimum safe width for two way access, but for very light traffic flows, where vehicles meet infrequently, this can be reduced to an absolute minimum of 6m, so long as no vertical obstructions within half a metre of the kerb.

He said the Cuadrilla's traffic assessment showed Elswick would receive 229 cars and 24 HG vehicles an hour. This equated to a vehicle in each direction every 30 seconds, one of which will be a HGV every five minutes.

He said that didn't meet the definition of 'light flow' Furthermore the Red rural routes varied between 5m and 6.3m wide, most with tight hedgerows. The Green and Blue sections varied between 4.7m and 5.2m an well blow the absolute 6m minimum.

He went on to describe the widening that he thought would be required on some parts of the proposals saying that in some places it would require a 12.7m wide road.

Said the extent of mitigation needed showed how unsuitable the routes were.

 511 Simon Mills

Lives on High Street in Elswick. Had done his own sample check of vehicles passing his door on the same days an at the time hours, but not at the same time of year, an his survey showed there were 50% to 60% less at present than Cuadrilla's survey had shown, and his included the Fox Brothers lorries using the High Street. He argued Cuadrilla's data were unreliable.

 512 Karen Taylor

Gave details of events she had witnessed and said it compromised safety. spoke of the bad bend by the old post office, and gave a personal example of an incident on 3 Feb this year with a Fox Bros lorry coming round this bend at speed on the wrong side of the road.

Also spoke of another near miss at the corner shop junction with a Fox Bros Lorry when she was leaving Roseacre Road and heading towards Bonds with two children in her car when the lorry suddenly became visible and she had to accelerate rapidly to move out of its path.

Also spoke of problems with children crossing the road from the 'alley', sometimes thoughtlessly, or on bikes or scooters to get to the playground at the Village Hall. Referred to crossing the road without looking - whilst excited by the prospect of getting to the playground, or, for example, missing a bike pedal in the middle of the road and not crossing the road as quickly as an approaching driver might have expected.

Also gave details of two serious personal injuries, one of which involved a motorcyclist being paralysed.

 513 Jim Beaumont

Lives on the Green route. Said the new plan does not succeed because it cannot succeed. Red and Green routes had already been discounted. Said the HGVs present a serious problem for local people. Said the proposals for passing places were laughable.

 514 Paul Hayhurst

Chairman of Elswick PC and member if FBC and LCC. Also chairs the Community Liaison Group for the PNR site which is in his county ward.

Said each route is unsuitable, but he would only speak of the Red and Green routes. Spoke of the adverse experience caused by Fox Brothers over the last 12 months, with daily incidents being reported to him, but the Fox Bros lorries are much smaller than he Cuadrilla ones.

He asked if the Gorse Farm vehicles could not operate satisfactorily on Elswick's roads, what hope was there for the much larger vehicles who would be attempting to negotiate their roads. He said the Fox Bros lorries had distorted the Cuadrilla traffic figures for Elswick.

He highlighted the five 90 degree bends on the Green and Red routes of which the one by the former post office by Grange Road is the worst because it is blind.

He had provided photographs of real life incidents and problems

He recognised that Cuadrilla had provided a number of lay-bys in an attempt to mitigate some of the danger spots there were no proposals or improvements planned for the serious accident black-spots of the Village Hall and the village crossroads, and from experience of his 40 years living in the village he gave some examples of accidents that had happened at these locations, and of near misses in which he had been personally involved.

Speaking about the Thistleton junction he said he was astonished that Highways England hadn't submitted an objection after they had repeatedly made representations to both Fylde and Wyre Councils regarding the cumulative effect of new housing developments in Elswick and Great Eccleston. and he provided an example of one of their comments.

After saying Elswick was judged to be the best 'In Bloom' village in Britain and last year was invited by the RHS to take part in the Champion of Champions category and said unbelievably, Elswick won he title beating all manner of much larger places. It is now officially the best 'In Bloom' place in the whole of the UK.

A local contractor and team of helpers planted out the High Street, but has decided not to continue, partly due to the problems with the HGVs from the Gorse Farm operation.

The In Bloom group was hoping to plant out in early June with over 60 volunteers, families, and groups including the youth club an children from Copp school have agreed to adopt, plant out and maintain a flower bed, but planting will be a logistical nightmare because it needs everyone together at the same time.

He said the Cuadrilla operation would not affect their activities this year, it certainly would in future as he believed the Cuadrilla operations would be as dangerous and detrimental as those at Gorse Farm, adding that the flower beds in Elswick High Street were less than half a metre from the road, with consequential risk of someone stepping back onto the road into the path of an HGV.

And he dismissed Mr Bird's suggestion to improve safety in this regard by parking one or more vehicles along the roadside as a protective barrier.

He also spoke of his experience with Cuadrilla's vehicles and drivers in his capacity as Chairman of the PNR Community Liaison Group, which met monthly to deal with issues relating to PNR, and Mr Lappin was one of Cuadrilla's representatives. He said the breaches of the transport plan took up a considerable part of the time at the CLG meetings.

He said Cuadrilla had excused several of the breaches on the basis that most of the HGVs that use the site are not theirs, and the drivers are ignorant of the requirements. He said he had felt it necessary to stress to Mr Lappin on several occasions that it s the Company's responsibility to ensure that contractors are aware of the conditions and the need to comply with them.

he said quite a bit of time was spent deciding what and was not a breach. Cuadrilla don't recognise many as breaches because they consider that if their security staff advise the Police that they intend to breach the plan, it does not constitute a breach. They generally justify this on the grounds of protestor activity, but on several occasions it has been pointed out there was little or no protestor activity at the time.

In other discussions at CLG relating to the security staff, Mr Lappin has defended them on the basis that most of their experience is based on working at bars and nightclubs, and it concerned him that these were the people who were making decisions to breach conditions, adding

"It is hardly surprising that many of the members of the CLG feel that Cuadrilla is a law unto itself, and does what it wants when it wants."

He said his experience of their lack of compliance at PNR did not bode well for Roseacre Wood.

He provided a long list of official bodies who all opposed the plans and said the council decisions had all been unanimous.  He rhetorically asked the Inspector if all of these bodies and groups could e wrong, and he asked to leave a final thought:

"There is no need to destroy our communities or to put our lives in danger with Cuadrilla's vehicles. The technology exists to drill diagonally for shale deposits. I've attached a newspaper report - see enclosure 7 - from the Sunday Times, following the announcement by Inneos that it plans to drill for shale gas deposits in the North York Moors National Park from several sites around the Park because it is prevented by the Government from actually drilling within the Park.

Roseacre wood therefore can be drilled adjacent to good roads, preferably from existing industrial sites. It may cost them more to do so, but as we have previously heard from Ms Lieven, Cuadrilla are prepared to pave the roads with gold to secure a permission to drill Roseacre Wood, so money is obviously no object."

The Inspector said he couldn't remember actually saying that, and Ms Lieven agreed, but we do recall the instance and have picked up what was said (with some of the argy-bargy omitted in the middle of Ms Leiven's quote)


Ms Lieven was cross examining Mr Stevens at the end of Day 4 and the matter of flooding and drainage and permeable asphalt was getting a bit, well, tetchy.

Mr Stevens was worried (amongst other things) about the cost of solutions Ms Lieven was proposing to 'fix' the flooding problems.

Ms Lieven said

"... There may be a cost to those solutions but Cuadrilla have made it entirely clear that they will accept the full cost of providing the road-widening and passing places, so in terms of reasonableness of cost, you can put that to one side. That's a matter for Cuadrilla.  ......  It is a risk for the Appellant, so if we commit to paying for the road widening, yes? And it turns out the road widening has to be paved in gold, then we will have to decide whether or not to implement the planning permission."


Ms Leiven's comments regarding what Cllr Hayhurst had said about Mr Lappin noted he was not at the Inquiry do defend himself, and she may wish to submit a note to the Inspector about it. (we don't recall her doing so however).

She spoke of Gorse Farm and asked about the temporary use by Volker Rail's contractor during the rail electrification works or whether the concern was about the subsequent use of the site without planning permission. Cll Hayhurst explained both situations.

She went on to say what they were doing at Gorse Farm was not permitted and thus there was no control over the hours it was used or the number of vehicle movements an so on

 515 Mike Hill

Mr Hill will be well known to our regular readers. His style of delivery is clear, forceful and usually cogent and incontrovertible so far as we have been able to ascertain in the past.

He focused on the period when flowback fluid from fracking would need to be dealt with.

Basically he argued that Cuadrilla had chosen to use evidence that he said gave a highly optimistic and potentially misleading view to the Inquiry, and had a material affect on traffic and highway safety.

Using a low flowback rate minimised the number of tankers they would need to remove the mildly radioactive and contaminated waste from the site.

He argued that the only practical example of flowback from the shale rock below Fylde had been at Preese Hall 1 where, once it began, had a 70% return rate.

He said no-one knew what the actual flowback rate would be until it happened, but he argued Cuadrilla's estimate was too low, and seemed to suggest they had based it on US shale experience which he said was a very different type of geology.

He also said that if there was to be another seismic traffic light incident, then in order to relieve the pressure in the wellbore, it was essential to let the flowback come back up the well at its own speed.

In this regard, the well itself controlled the number of vehicles that would be needed to take the flowback away and he argued that such an emergency would cause Cuadrilla to completely disregard the days, number of vehicles, and hours of working.

He gave a neat conclusion we thought, saying

"Finally, there can be no better definition of  'In the National Interest' than ensuring the safety of the people. It is after all the number one priority and responsibility of any Government.

In this case, acting in the national interest, this Inquiry and the Secretary of State are duty bound to protect the people first. Anything else might be viewed in the future as a dereliction of duty."

Ms Lieven refuted what Mr Hill had said by saying Mr Hill had made the same point at the last inquiry and she pointed the inspector to the comments from the previous Inspector.

The Inspector sought to clarify what Mr Hill had said, and because his extremely narrow interpretation of the terms of reference, he had no knowledge - and no evidence before him (because he has refused to hear it) - about how the fracking process and operation works. He therefore has no understanding, and literally no idea of the likely traffic that would be generated in differing operating circumstances.

To us, the questions he asked simply illustrated his ignorance of  what Mr Hill had explained (and what most of us who have followed this matter also know and understand).

Firstly he confused flowback fluid with the accumulated rainwater on the site (which he described as being contaminated until Ms Lieven corrected him).

Then he did not seem to grasp the technical matter of how and what flowback fluid was.  He said he didn't see why both could be stored on site anyway.

Mr Hill also explained the volumes involved could not be fitted onto the site in the event of the relief of seismic flowback pressure. He said it would need hundreds of thousands of litres of fluid stored on the site.

Mr Hill said the flowback volumes Cuadrilla has used were low and misleading. He had done calculations showing flowback could need up to another 3,213 tanker journeys, and it sounded to us as though that was on top of the journeys already expected.

Earlier in the questions, the Inspector had to (or at least did) ask Ms Lieven to explain what Mr Hill was speaking about, which she did.

 516 Geza Tarjanyi

There was a small hiatus when Mr Hill asked to be delayed and to go last because he was waiting for something to hand in with what he said so he had moved to the last slot and Mr Tarjanyi was brought forward whilst temporarily indisposed. There looks as though there would be a five minute break, but Mr Tarjanyi  appeared.

Before we make the report, we should explain that we've reproduced the prelude to what he said in full. It's a long (and in our view improper and certainly unnecessary) exchange, but our readers will need to make up their own minds about its relevance and appropriateness.....

The Inspector said

"Before you start, I've read through what you've got to say. I don't want to hear some of it. If I do hear some of it as I did with a colleague of yours last week, I will switch you off.   OK?.

It's not appropriate to start talking about the ability or otherwise of people like Lancashire County Council, and the Environment Agency to enforce conditions etcetra, whether it's a fracking appeal, a housing appeal, Tesco wanting to build a Supermarket, if the conditions attached are not enforced that's not a reason for dismissing appeals or planning appeals, so please don't go there."

Mr Tarjanyi  began to respond  but was cut short by the Inspector.

"Just a minute. It's also not a platform for if you like, you to promote the activities of your protest group. I'm not saying you shouldn't protest but that's got nothing to do with my recommendations and report to the Secretary of State, so please avoid those.

That far, please present the evidence OK?.

As I say, if you start straying I'll turn you off."

Mr Tarjanyi said

"Well just before we carry on then can I just simplify things by picking the things up I can't say? That would be the easiest way to do it. and then we're both happy, yes?"

Inspector

"Sure, yes."

"You've got, I've actually done a condensed version, I was told the night before, so I'd had to put it all together, so I.... Can I give you that"

Inspector

"OK"

Mr Tarjanyi

"I've also got one for  [He walked across to Ms Lieven]. I'm happy to cross things off that are not relevant."

Inspector

"Alright then, OK"

Mr Tarjanyi

"Yes. Is that Alright?"

Inspector

"Yes. Sure"

Mr Tarjanyi

"Do you want to go through the...."

"Do I want to go through it? If you want me to, erm....."

Mr Tarjanyi

"Like I said, I've taken some things out already."

Inspector

"You really should start on the second page..... Don't refer to the Police."

Mr Tarjanyi

"To the Police? But the only thing is..."

Inspector

"You can say what you like about highway safety, which is what we're about"

Mr Terjanyi

"But Ms Lieven actually mentioned the police on Day 1"

Inspector

"Well, that's as maybe"

Mr Terjanyi

"So, I mean, if she's mentioned it in the inquiry on Day 1, I'm actually referencing Ms Lieven.

If she's mentioned the police at Preston New Road, and I'm not bandstanding, this is just literally what I've videoed, and there's video evidence in the pack as well, so if it's not [indistinct word] it's just literally what I've witnessed at Preston New Road. Don't panic."

Inspector

"Alright then"

Mr Terjanyi

"OK. So can I begin"

Inspector

"Yes"

To be honest, we thought this was an appalling exchange, and we fundamentally disagree with much of what the Inspector had said.

In effect he sought to censor the evidence that Mr Terjanyi could present.

We really don't think that's his role, and we couldn't help thinking he might have done better  to remember that Mr Terjanyi has already brought at least one, and we think it's two or more, Judicial Reviews - one of which is live at present.

Mr Terjanyi gave his evidence (which was further censored ahead of him saying some things)

He gave his credentials and position. He noted his current Judicial Review, and thanked Ms Lieven for allowing him to use data from Preston New Road.

He said many people at PNR would disagree that the impact is not severe, and he provided evidence of the condition breaches he has seen and said they would be handed over at the end of his evidence.

He went on to give some examples of the breaches  and dangers locals experienced on a daily basis, arguing it was when rather than if there was a fatality.

One of the instances he cited was two transporters on Junction 3 on the M55 with parts of number plats an company names blanked off with gaffer tape. He said this was a breach of condition, but a criminal offence considering they would have to travel on the M55 to drive to the site. He said the police were called, but they simply escorted the vehicles to the site.

He made several other points before concluding.


 DAY 9     (25 APRIL 2018)

  Inspectors Remarks

The inspector noted two documents had been handed in. One from Mrs Smith and one from Mr Smith. the Inspector said it 'wasn't great' to be handing documents in on the last day of a nine day inquiry.

That said, less than five minutes later, he was happy to allow 3 documents from Cuadrilla (one of which was still being typed as Ms Lieven advised of it!).

And after the 'main parties' had put in additional documents, the Inspector actually asked and invited 'anyone' if they had anything they wanted to hand in at that time. Presumably that included members of he public and the Parish Councils, so why he was so upset at having had those from Mr & Mrs Smith was beyond us.

In response to the ones Mr & Mrs Smith had submitted before the start of the Inquiry today, he said (we thought rather petulantly and dismissively),

"As far as Mrs Smith is concerned, you've not actually given it in public so I'll put it with the representations that were received before the Inquiry, along, the whole four hundred of them."

We thought his petulant tone in this matter was awful. It left us with the impression he gave these comments very little weight and was happy to have thrown Mrs Smith's letter in with them.

Turning to Mr Smith's letter he said it appeared to be an expansion of what Mr Smith had said giving his evidence in the Public speaking session.

In a tone that we found to be hectoring toward Mr Smith, and one that appeared to rise to anger  he said:

"He seems to be elaborating the point that he made the other day, about the Secretary of State having conflicting interests. Be that as it may, that is not anywhere that I should, or could, go, and I will not be going there.

If you have an issue with that, then you need to take it up with legal people."

We fundamentally disagree with the Inspector on this matter.

If anyone is been given a  job to do that requires them to break the law, they should refuse it, or at least should draw the matter to the attention of their employer.

Whilst it is true that the legality of this potential conflict of interest for the Secretary of State is not entirely clear - because it is not a matter that has yet been tested in the courts - we believe the Inspector would be in error if he did not record and represent Mr Smith's concern on this matter to the Secretary of State.

We also wonder whether what we witnessed this morning as the Inspector ranted at Mr Smith, was in fact an example of a government's imperative to use the levers it can control - to support fracking, with the Planning Inspectorate being one of those levers.

If it was, it would be a as good an example of the conflict of interest in action as our readers might find.

ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTS

Ms Lieven  said she had put in a short response to an additional document Mr Stevens for LCC had submitted. She then said

"The second thing, Sir, is in relation to the issue that you raised yesterday on the Dagger Road signals and agricultural...., the agricultural contractor.

Now just before we were leaving last night, at about  six o'clock, Mrs Parker gave us the letter from Sandersons which was actually dated 16th April, and it may be that's what triggered the concern on the site visit, but be that as it may, we only saw that letter last night, which is a bit unfortunate, but we are where we are.

We've done or are doing a response with a proposed solution to this problem. It's being produced now, and I'm hoping this is on its way. I'm sorry it's late Sir, but we only got the actual document last night. We didn't even know of its existence before that."

The Inspector said

"That's not difficult given the amount of material...."

Ms Lieven

"I know, I know. We are where we are, we've dealt with it, it's just if there was any concern that.... so it's wending it's way around various computers in the other room.

Obviously it's not ideal for me to be handing documents in at this stage,..."

The inspector laughed.

Mr Smith sat  and listened in silence to the Inspector's  discourtesy.

Me Lieven continued:

"In the context, I don't want anybody to think that I'm being given more favourable treatment. "

We do not take issue with what she said or did here  but, self evidently,  she recognised, (and it was clear to us) from the difference in tone that the Inspector had used to Mr Smith and to her that she was being more favourably treated, even though (and we stress this point) she had not sought to be treated more favourably.

She handed in another document regarding Cuadrilla's take on what might or might not constitute breaches of the Traffic Management Plan.

She said they had or would have hard copies of the Conditions and the Transport Management Plan which had been prepared by the parties in between the public sessions. (Albeit that the latest version of the conditions were discussed last night in a final session that few people attended.)

She said the last thing was the Section 106. (This is an agreement for Cuadrilla to provide work of public benefit arising as a result of what they are doing). She said the landowners in question were  Mr & Mrs Pickervance, and they obviously needed to sign the agreement, but she had only discovered lat night that they were away, so she asked that the Inspector close the Inquiry at the end of the day subject to additional time being allowed to submit the Agreement.

She said not only did they sign it but they needed to opportunity to seek legal advice on it.

We have obtained a copy of the draft Unilateral Undertaking Agreement. In effect it ties both Cuadrilla and Mr & Mrs Pickervance to deliver up to 100,000 worth of highway repairs and up to 20,000 worth of repairs to hedgerows damaged during construction of the passing places.

We noted that the Agreement was between 'Cuadrilla Elswick Limited', 'Christine and Harry Pickervance' who were to be bound to 'Lancashire County Council'

Whilst this may not be unusual, we noted that Cuadrilla was a limited liability company, but Mr & Mrs Pickervance appeared to be personally liable (i.e. they had not used a formal and separate business entity as their vehicle).

As far as we understand such agreements,  and that being the case, we suspect that IF (and obviously it's a big 'if') - but if  Cuadrilla were to throw in the towel at some point and go into liquidation, we believe the cost or the remaining cost, of the work set out in the agreement would fall exclusively onto Mr & Mrs Pickervance. We also suspect that's why Ms Lieven will have said (quite properly) they need the opportunity to take their own legal advice on this matter.

Next, there was a  hiccup regarding what Ms Lieven was having typed up about the Dagger Road Traffic light arrangements. The Inspector wanted to know if Mr De Feu and Mr Evans knew what it was going to say and were happy with it.

Mr De Feu for RAG, said he had no idea what they were. He had drafted his closing speech and he was not going to be able to amend it or take his client's instruction on it.

The Inspector tried to hustle him into an agreement he clearly did not want to make, saying

"Well, assuming that they come in before Ms Lieven gives her closing, then I'll give you an opportunity to talk to them. To talk to whatever's come in. OK?"

Me De Feu (quite properly) was having none of this he (delicately) said he thought that would be problematic.

Mr Evans for LCC agreed and said he did not have time to take instructions from his client and he would respond as best he could. (which we assumed to be a final response after the inquiry had closed).

All the administrative items completed, they moved onto the closing statements.

 Closing Statement RAG

Mr De Feu gave a hugely detailed exposition on why the appeal should be rejected. We don't think he left a single stone unturned.

He began by saying there was no reason to depart from the previous Inspector's decision, and there was no definition of the word 'severe' in the NPPF or in legal precedent o such matters.

We've managed to obtain, and readers can follow this link,  to download a full copy of his closing speech.

So we'll just pick out a few key points here:

As we expected, he picked out the discrepancy between Safety which the Inspector said was the extent of his terms of reference, and the term safe and suitable as used in the NPPF, arguing, as the previous inspector had done, that both must be considered. We address this in more detail in our Own Conclusions.

As to whether the effect of the proposals was 'severe', he noted Ms Lieven had given individual safety concerns and said none amounted to a severe highways safety impact, but Mr Kells said they were all part of an overall risk assessment. He had argued the question of whether an individual element of the proposals was a severe risk was a false alternative. The converse of this - trying to say that one individual risk was itself sufficient to amount to a severe effect  - must be regarded as exaggeration.

Mr De Feu majored on Cuadrilla's Traffic Survey, saying RAG did not dispute the evidence of the cameras, but that the cameras were not at junctions, (they were only on some of the roads between junctions) and the data collected under represented the use by vulnerable road users across all routs and was also likely to under represent use by  agricultural vehicles. He made specific mention that there was no record of road users within the villages themselves, nor was there any record of vulnerable road users between Roseacre and Elswick.

He also picked up differenced in types of HGVs and Ms Leiven's tendency to use the group that best suited her case at the time. He also spoke of the characteristics of twin and single wheel axels in their ability to use soft ground or to overhang (or not!) the carriageway edge on narrow roads.

We thought he also completely destroyed Ms Leiven's criticism of RAG for not commenting on the traffic assessment proposals or asking for changes.

He also picked up the issue of using one route or three, saying that RAG did not think it would be lawful to use just one having submitted an applications for  a three route network, and the fact that the use of the Inskip MOD site is not guaranteed, and may be withdrawn without notice.

There were many other matters as well, including a detailed critique of each of the three routes, which are available in his Closing Statement

He concluded by saying

"RAG acknowledges that there is support in national policy for shale gas exploration in suitable locations. However, as the Secretary of State himself concluded, it is not national policy to encourage shale gas exploration in unsuitable locations. Safety and sustainability are key determining considerations.......  The national need for shale gas exploration cannot therefore be pleaded in support of the appeal. The need to ensure the safety of members of the public is paramount.

For these reasons RAG opposes the appeal invites the Secretary of State to dismiss the appeal."

We thought he had presented a full and impressive case.

 Closing Statement LCC

LCC's closing statement has not yet been added to the online Inquiry documents. When it is, we hope to provide readers with a link to it, but in the interim we have noted some of the issues from LCC

In addition to Mr De Feu's comments, Mr Evans stressed the importance of the SUITABILITY of the access to the site (which includes all the roads to it) as well as the SAFETY.

He (in our view correctly) laid great stress of this, which will undoubtedly require the Inspector to at least confront this matter in his report, if not accept the point Mr Evans was making.

He said each of the 3 routes was unsuitable for a combination of factors, including

  • The restricted width of large lengths of the road
  • The bends that the roads present to vehicles
  • The junction manoeuvres they involve, and
  • The presence of vulnerable road users

He said the extent of the mitigation proposed, including 16 passing places or road widenings on the Green Route, 11 passing places or road widenings on the Red Route, and 12 passing places or road widenings and part time traffic signals on the Blue Route, serves to highlight their unsuitability.

In terms of whether less than the three routes could be used, say if the SoS decided to reject one route for example, he said the Council submitted that if one of the three routes were found to be unsafe and unsuitable, the result should be the refusal of the appeal, and that would be even more the case if two routes were found to be unsafe and unsuitable, not least because the traffic management plan had been devised on the basis of their being three routes, and the conditions had been drafted accordingly.

Turning to vehicle numbers he said the worst case permitted proposals of 52 HGV movements per day, and this represented increases in HGV traffic of 104% on the Roseacre Road, 88% on the Salwick Road, 84% on Dagger Road, 62% on Station Road, 48% on Preston Road, and 42% on Higham Side Road.

In terms of the biggest OGV2 HGVs, usage of all road links in the assessment would more than double, with some increases of much greater magnitude.

He went on to give a lot of calculations about traffic flows at various times over the site's operational life, and also the reasons that Arup chose to disregard what are now called the Red a Green routes.

He also drew attention to the visibility issues over third party land, (and  indeed visibility in other instances). He gave instances, saying that whilst LCC had powers to pursue owners of hedges that obstruct sight lines, there was no guarantee that they would succeed if an appeal was made, and in any event, the process of serving notice and application to  Magistrate's court and so on could be lengthy.

Turning to the proposed Dagger Road Traffic Signals, he spoke of the issues everyone now knew about before moving to the new information MS Leiven has submitted that morning, about which he said:


"The next sentence was written in response to the suggestion that was made yesterday of providing tags for vehicles, which doesn't now seem to form part of the Inquiry Document 33 so I won't read that last sentence.

It's probably best if at this point I address Document 33, because the next paragraph of my closing submission goes on to make a somewhat different point."

 CUADRILLA'S NEW TRAFFIC LIGHT PLAN

"I've got three or four points to make in relation to this document Sir.

I haven't been able to obtain instructions on the technical points raised in the document, and if I understand the thrust of the technical point, which is addressed to the concerns that we have in relation to vehicles on Dagger Road receiving a green light, only to be met by an opposing vehicle coming off an access onto Dagger Road

It seems to me that that concern is attempted to be addressed on the middle point on the second page, which indicates that loops would be installed on accesses, which would activate a red light on Dagger Road, so that a green light would only be given in the light of movement of vehicles onto Dagger Road.

That's as I understand the technical point in layman's terms.

I don't have instructions on the efficacy of that solution, so I can't help the Inquiry further on that.

But I do have one or two more general points.

First of all Sir, just as a matter of general impression, it does strike us that this document serves actually to illustrate the seriousness of the concern that we have raised, given that technical issues are now being addressed by way of proposing particular solutions.

It's somewhat disappointing that perhaps the concern weren't taken slightly more seriously at a later point (we think he meant to say at an earlier point) That's the first general point.

The second general point is that the solutions which are proposed in this document are, at this stage, very far from certain. First of all, there is a proposal for further work to be done, effectively by way of surveys, that's on the second page of the document, under the heading 'Traffic Flows'.

There is reference to further consultation being undertaken, and this is shading into the problem that arose at the last Inquiry. It's the sort of detailed design point in a sense Sir. Solutions are being put forward in principle, but the details are being left over at this stage.

I'd also invite you to note that the installation of loops within a private access road are a matter that's going to rely on landowner consent. It may be that consent is forthcoming, we don't really know. But there is a third party issue involved there, as to whether a landowner would give that consent.

The other point I'd Make. Sir, and I think it's the final point that I'd make on this, is that the solutions that are being proposed appear to relate to Moss Lane East and the Sanderson's access. It's not apparent from the note that any other access on the Dagger Road traffic controlled section would be picked up.

And in particular I'm referring to field accesses of which there are some - I don't have a precise figure to put in front of you. Whilst the Sanderson's access and the Moss Lane access may be the most heavily used accesses within Dagger Road, they don't relate to all the accesses. And that appears to be reflected in the suggestion that comes at the end of the note, that it may be that the Blue Route will have to be excluded from use during the harvest period."

We do love Mr Evans' slow and understated style. He slowly walked up the  story of the problems that would arise, only at the last minute to push us all over the precipice by having Cuadrilla admit that at harvest time (and we suspect at other times like silaging and spraying and so on), the Blue could not be used, thus destroying their argument about this being an inseparable three route network. He continued.....

"I don't know the precise thinking behind that, but I can see that it might be designed to pick up agricultural vehicles coming out of field accesses which are not going to be susceptible to the solution of putting loops in roads or tracks. And if that is the case, then of course, it's not going to pick up the position at all other times when those accesses might be being used.

So there is a remaining issue there. It may be that the extent of the issue can be reduced but there remains and issue.

More generally it points to the fact that the Blue Route may have to be unavailable at that particular time, for reasons which have only become apparent at this stage."

We also thought, as we have said before in these reports, we can't see the traffic light system picking up cows or sheep that need to be moved from field to field, or to a farm for milking and so on. We don't think any of the main parties have thought about that aspect at all.

Chuckling to himself, Mr Evans concluded:

"And that perhaps is, again a clear demonstration of the unsuitability of the route, even with mitigation and the proposed traffic lights. It may be that the Blue Route will have to be not used at all."

In our opinion, this was a devastating blow to the success that Cuadrilla had been enjoying thus far.

Clearly it had been a concern to the Inspector (because he initially raised the matter) and Mr De Feu was concerned about it, Mr Evans exposed the practical unworkability of the proposed mitigation, and later, Ms Leiven had to accept there was no solution so far as the field accesses were concerned.

 She also had to conceded that during the period of the showman's agricultural fair, use of the Blue route may also have to be suspended because of the number of exhibitor's vehicles and visitors likely to be using Dagger Road

All told, this was a much needed fillip for the Roseacre Awareness Group, an a body, if not a knockout blow to Cuadrilla.


Mr Evans continued his closing statement dealing with other matters such as cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians, driver education and behaviour, the matter of the unilateral undertaking on highway repairs.

He then turned to the matter of protests, saying that Mr Lappin was burying his head in the sand if he thought they would not be as bad as at PNR because at Roseacre, there are no pavements near to the site and protestors would have to be on the roads.

Protestor action was also likely to impact on the traffic management plan.

He concluded that overall the Council says the relevant policy tests are not met by Cuadrilla's revised routing strategy an amended proposals, and respectfully invites a recommendation to be made to the SoS in those terms, and requests that he dismisses the appeal.

MR DE FEU ON THE NEW TRAFFIC LIGHTS

He said

"I can largely endorse what Mr Evans has just said in respect of it and I don't need to add a huge amount to that, but it strikes me that this issue of side accesses on Dagger Road should really have been obvious to the Appellants from Day 1.

This document is concerning because the landowners in question simply won't have seen it and been able to comment on it, or been able to see what's now being proposed - AFTER we've given our closing submissions when this was handed in.

And the onus is really on the Appellant to appreciate what the risks are involved in the mitigation that they put forward as a plan for those risks. It seems that the Appellant accepts that to overcome the issue, there would be a need for agreement between relevant landowners in question.

Sir I set out my submissions on the Traffic Light signals at 104 to 107 of my closing submission, and its quite clear that the task the Secretary of State set for the Appellant in this appeal was to demonstrate that the mitigation that they were proposing was workable in practice, to achieve the desired outcome.

That was the criticism of the mitigation put forward last time, and I simply fail to see how it can be sensibly concluded that this mitigation measure is workable in practice on the basis of the note put before us.

Mr Evans has touched on, an I don't need to say any more, but this note foreshadows further issues that might arise in respect of other activities that may need to prevent the use of the Blue route during harvest times and who knows when else?

It's a very troubling document."

 Closing Statement CUADRILLA

We missed recording the first few minutes of Ms Leiven's closing statement, but we will pick up anything of significance from the webcast once that is published and add it here.

Cuadrilla's closing statement has also not yet been added to the online Inquiry documents. When it is, we hope to provide readers with a link to it, but in the interim we have noted some of the issues from what Ms Leiven said.

Overall, we got the impression Ms Leiven had probably seen and perhaps even admired, the fortitude and the confidence of the chap working for Saddam Hussein just as the American led coalition was streaming into Baghdad, - the chap that became known as 'Comical Ali' in a parody of someone else who did very unpleasant things with chemicals.

Interviewed of one of the news channels, he had told them 'Everything was fine, they were actually winning the war, and tomorrow they would kill all the Americans"

We make this comparison not in a dismissive or insulting way, but as a mark of respect that a woman as intelligent as Ms Leiven can remain so confident and self assured of the case she is presenting in the face of overwhelming public knowledge that what she is saying is plainly wrong in practice.

In most of her closing statement she cleverly an selectively used examples that, individually presented her case in the best light whilst conveniently ignoring the examples that showed another face.

She said the absence of accidents over the last 5 years was a testament to how safe the roads already were, and linking the future in to this she suggested that after the improvements Cuadrilla would make they would be even safer.

She said the survey showed very few pedestrian uses of the road and verge, and to say there were no cameras in the villages was to miss the point, because all the villages have pavements of one sort or another that pedestrians would still be able to use, adding that people did have to cross the road, but they do so safely.

She asked the Inspector to remember that the absolute number of vehicles - as opposed to percentage increases in traffic - were far too low to have the sort of impacts people were worrying about.

Even in the worst case, with 55 HGV movements a day, she said there would be no more than six movements per hour in either direction. (That's HGVs of course, not all traffic)

She suggested the reason they relied on personal accident data was that there was independent objective reporting of what had happened by the Police. The problem of using other accidents where there was no police report was that it was impossible to know the circumstances of the accident, and therefore its relevance to an overall judgement on road safety. So if the driver was ill, or over the alcohol limit the accident may be completely irrelevant, and its not possible to know without the police report.

What she's saying in effect is that she is not prepared to take the word of ordinary people in their recollections of accidents they might have, and there is such a high level of subjectivity that they cannot be trusted anyway.

She said she was not trying to deny the existence of such accidents, but how someone perceives such an accident may vary enormously.

She also said it was also the case that it is only the injury accidents that go to the heart of this case, i.e. highway safety - and the accident record of these was a highly material consideration, and there had been none.

She did let slip something we had not spotted before. Although she had said that it was three route network and all three routes had to be available to meet the permission, there was in fact what we would call a get-out clause in the conditions they had recently agreed. Condition 8C said that no route had to be used as the sole route for more than five working days.

It follows that if two routes are blocked for some reason, Cuadrilla can continue to operate for five days on the remaining route.

This example was used later - perhaps in questions from the Inspector if the MOD land was for some reason unavailable for a period of time. Ms Leiven seemed to say that if the MoD land was unavailable, they would use the remaining routes for five days and then stop working.

That doesn't seem to square with what she said here, and we must admit to being unclear about the extent to which operations could continue if one or two routes were not available. We suspect others are unclear as well, an that might signify a conflict between the permission that may be granted and the Conditions that are part of it.

Speaking about the use of verges, she said

"If it becomes clear that vehicles are regularly going on a particular part of the verge, then the road widening can be extended, in accordance with the conditions and the ongoing surveys of the routes when used"

We thought this was a demonstration of her classic approach to the whole Inquiry. Cuadrilla had proposed to do what thy thought was the minimum necessary to comply, but if it turned out that it wasn't enough they would do a bit more.

This suck-it-and-see approach is exactly what got them into trouble with the last Inspector who said it failed to demonstrate what they were ACTUALLY proposing would work. We hope this Inspector sees through it as well.

Turning to views across third party land, she said this was a completely normal situation in rural England and at present hedge maintenance was sufficient to cause no problems. She said there was no reason why this should change, but in the unlikely event that a landowner, whether through neglect or intent cause a problem, the County Council had powers to fix it.

She said Mr Stevens had said it takes time to fix it, but it is a 14 day notice period an a further 14 days for the landowner to resolve matters himself. But i was remotely possible that a farmer would not cut the hedge, but if they don't, the County has the power to cut it themselves, and the possibility of a notice to trim being appealed by a farmer in a Magistrates court seemed very slight.

She also said as far as the flooding of the routes was concerned she said much of it seemed to be a problem with blocked gullies, adding that the existing drainage would be reviewed in advance of the works starting, and any blocked gullies or drains would be cleared. She said in many cases that might solve the problem.

And, of course, the wonderful but hopelessly inadequate use of permeable asphalt on some or all of the passing places on  rural roads raised it's head again.

Ms Leiven actually said:

"in principle it could be used. Given its very high specification it would provide an appropriate solution. That's going to have to be discussed on site, if the remaining places where the first two solutions don't work"

Without attempting to insult Ms Leiven, what she just said is, well, complete bovine excrement.

Here again we see her offering solutions offered that are neither detailed nor demonstrably workable in practice (you don't get many gullies outside the village centres, and planning to fix field drains - if any exist -  in farmers fields would need their consent to go on their land. Furthermore if the flooding is as a result of groundwater - i.e. the water table  - rising above the verge/road level then there is no practical solution. Furthermore if there is nowhere beneath the permeable asphalt, or 'no-fines concrete' for that matter for the water to drain away to, it cannot possibly do so until the whole of the slow draining substrate has drained, or , perhaps more likely until the water table lowers as better weather arrives.) s

What Ms Leiven was doing here, (again), was not so much finding a real solution, as finding a plausible way that an Inspector could choose to accept and adopt if were they minded to do so.

We think that's what underlay most of her closing statement.

Turning to Mr Hastey's evidence on risk assessment, she said the evidence he gave should be given little if any weight.

She then set about an unwarranted an unpleasant personal attack on his credibility and on the method he had used to assess the risk in the evidence he presented. She chose to disregard his 40 years of impressive experience as a transport operator and manager at very high levels, including running the Pandoro roll on roll off ferry operation from Fleetwood and several other really significant posts.

We thought this was beneath her, and it showed the weakness of her argument by choosing to go for the man and the method, rather than taking issue with the evidence he presented to the Inquiry.

It is a known, and for some, a legitimate cross examination tactic to go for the person when your case is weak. (Football enthusiasts will recognise this as going for the man rather than the ball), but we think she demeaned her case by doing so. We were seriously unimpressed.

MS LEIVEN AND DAGGER ROAD

She first dealt with the matter as had been the case for most of the Inquiry, then said:

"If here is a concern about agricultural vehicles using the fields, or the agricultural contractor site, Mr Sanderson, then their vehicles can be tagged within the signal system, and trigger the lights.

Now, Sir, this issue only really arose yesterday, perhaps on the site visit, from your question and Mr Sanderson's letter.

There is an obvious solution, in putting the lane - Mr Sanderson's lane - into the signalisation section.

But the precise parameters of that signalisation is a detailed matter, and it is important to understand, an I'm not sure Mr De Feu understands this. We are not aiming for zero chance of any HGV meeting another HGV. Of course there's always the possibility that there's an agricultural HGV in a field, and it pops out at precisely the same time that a HGV is going through the lights on a green light.

That's always got to have been a possibility, but these are agricultural vehicles, highly familiar with the area, and he will well know about the operation of the lights, because that's where they work.

So one has to take a slightly realistic approach to all this

When it comes to the 278 and the signals scheme, if the Council, probably also consulting the farmers think there is a good reason to include what I'm going to call the Sanderson lane into the signalisation, then that can be done.

And I make the point again, we are not aiming for a nought percent chance of an HGV meeting another HGV, but minimising the risk in a proportionate manner."

She said a little more on this matter, then turned to a new aspect, saying,

"In respect to harvest time, it's a point I've already made. We aren't accepting a problem in harvest time, what we're saying is, that if the farmers are concerned, and I'm sure it's right that that there would be more agricultural vehicles during harvest time, although how many will depend on the nature of what's being harvested along Dagger, we're simply trying to be sensitive to those concerned. It's important to understand Sir, that if Mr Sanderson's vehicles are going out of the signals, so they're doing agricultural work in Inskip or Elswick or wherever, then they'll be treated like any other vehicle when they come back.

We suspect she thought this was the end of it because she moved on to another topic and continued about each of the routes in much the same way as she had done up to now. Once we get a copy of her Closing Statement we will put a link to it here as well so any of our readers that want more can have it.

HOWEVER

There was one more bug sitting quietly in the system. She said:

Sir, I think it's a minor point, but absolutely at the last minute, I think it's Mr Collins raised a point about, I think it's the Wharles Annual Show, and the Fylde Annual Vintage Show, does this mean anything to you?

It takes place near Wharles, and there was a concern about..."

Inspector

"Oh I think Mrs Richards (we think he meant Mrs Richardson) pointed the site out when we went on the site visit, yeah.

"So Mr Collins raised a concern that the vehicles coming in and out of the show, not only on the date, because I think the date is a weekend, but the vehicles coming in and out to bring tractors in or whatever, might have distorted the data, but I'm instructed that actually, those movements were taken out of the baseline data, in order not to give a distortion.

The days were taken out, and the survey, as you'll see Sir, if you look at CD7.2  [it's actually Paragraph 2.17] covers the period after the show, as well as before, so there is no contamination of the data by reason of the show."

What went unsaid, and probably missed, was that these events, like 'harvest time' would probably also require Cuadrilla to cease the use of Dagger Road because of the extent of the heavy traffic likely to be using it to bring the exhibits - such as vintage farm machinery on large trailers - to  and from the showground both before and after the shows.

Whilst in itself this is probably little more than an inconvenience for Cuadrilla, it does show yet another omission from their planning.

From something we heard said during the day, we believe Mrs Smith's letter - the one that the Inspector said dismissively he had put in with the other 400, addressed this matter.

We think he would do well not to be so dismissive of the matters raised by local people.

The Inspector said apart from the signing of the 106 Agreement, the Inquiry was over, adding that he didn't want anything else sent in, and if it was it would be returned.

However he said he would be doing some further 'verification' site visits on his own, and also said that he thought he should be driven round the routes in a HGV. Both Cuadrilla and RAG offered to provide a driver for him.

After thanking the Programme Officer a variety of other people, he formally closed the Inquiry


 OUR OWN CONCLUSIONS

We now give our overall impression of the whole of the Inquiry.

More than one of the participants / public attending have said to us that it feels like a 'stitch up' for those opposing the scheme and we do understand that perception.

The narrowness of the Inspector's interpretation, his manner to some of the speakers, his short temper - or at least petulance - when having to deal with facts that appeared inconvenient, and his unwillingness to hear some speakers at all, readily conspire to engender this perception.

The issue here is whether, in presenting this aspect, he is displaying the pre-determination of a mind that was made up before the inquiry began, or whether he has difficulty in constraining his personal view an is perfectly capable of holding separate and conflicting personal and  professional judgements in the one head.

 ORGANISATION

Whatever views we may come to regarding he Inspector's approach to, and conduct of, the Inquiry, we're pretty sure most of those involved would say the Programme Officer has, once again, done a very good job of the 'behind the scenes' organising and administration. At one point we thought it would run over the planned timetable but it was pulled back more or less on track by the end of week 2.

We also make special mention of the technicians who organised the sound - which was far better than the last inquiry and has allowed us to make decent quality recordings of all the proceedings in this inquiry (apart from a short omission after one lunch break).

We understand Cuadrilla's webcast of the proceedings may not be permanently available after a month or so, but we expect to retain the audio recordings we made, and if anyone has need of them, they are welcome to a copy.

The security staff (who were much in evidence) were unfailingly polite in the bag searches and at other times, but we did take issue with their overall ban on liquids of any sort being allowed into the Inquiry.

This is a growing practice at events where the catering people want to be able to increase their refreshment sales and a practice we deplore.

We saw no need to remove bottles of water from people at the front door, but they did, for whatever reason. In our view, it caused unnecessary and unwarranted aggravation.

 THE COMBATANTS

The barristers were all good in their different ways.

Ms Lieven for Cuadrilla was much less 'pit-bull' than the last time, maybe because she felt more confident in her case his time. There's no doubt it was a better case in terms of improving on what was planned at the previous enquiry, at least until she got to the matter of the traffic lights on Dagger Road, but we still think it isn't enough.

Mr Evans for LCC was his usual steady and thoughtful self, though we didn't see quite as much of what we describe as his gentle hand-holding as he walks slowly alongside the witness he is cross examining before dropping them into the abyss at the end, but he built a steady and strong case for LCC . He did however perform what could be a killer blow in his devastating analysis of Cuadrilla's last minute plan to put loops in some of the accesses drives in Dagger Road.

Not only did he demonstrate their unworkability, he showed in stark relief how the same problem from the last Inquiry had resurfaced here, namely that Cuadrilla had come with a technical solution that would not work in practice.

Mr De Feu for RAG took a bit longer that the others to draw out and cross examine the evidence of the witnesses, but we do think he scored some very good points that will be difficult for the Inspector to ignore, not least the ones about where the traffic survey cameras had been located and the length of time that the traffic survey had been conducted over.

This had been a key weak point in Cuadrilla's argument last time and whatever may be provable in terms of standard distributional statistics to justify it this time, it remains the case that common sense look at it shows that using just three days worth of survey results on each route, and only one or two days on another, and not having ANY traffic analysis for the section of road between Roseacre and Elswick will have missed a lot of data. It itself, that could be enough to again swing the Inspector against the proposals this time, but we're not sure he wants to be 'swung.'

Outside the 'professionals', Cllr Richard Nulty for Greenhalgh and Thistleton Parish Council asked some very pertinent issues and questions that more than once sent barristers scuttling for their law books to check the matters he had raised.

I terms of witnesses, Mr Bird for Cuadrilla stood up well whilst trying to defend the indefensible, and was on the witness stand for longer than anyone we have ever seen before at any Inquiry. He was calm throughout and did not appear rattled. Mr Lappin was much shorter and did seem rattled on occasions.

Mr Stevens for LCC was his usual stonewall self, He knows his stuff, but we find his manner closer to a defensive batsman acting as an impenetrable barrier to what is thrown at him rather than using irrefutable logic to deny access to the wicket. He must be a nightmare for those wanting to cross examine him.

Barbara Richardson for RAG we know was nervous about taking the stand. It is a daunting prospect to know that an expert barrister will be probing and testing what you have said. Thankfully, Mrs Richardson was wholly confident in delivering her evidence and once in her stride was even more confident in under cross examination. She had the conviction of someone who knows they are right, and she clearly knows her community well.

Mr Kells - RAG's traffic expert was, as last time, solid and reliable. We thought he laid down a number of strong points that ought to help the inspector to understand the foolishness of allowing lorries on these roads.

Amongst the public speakers, whilst it's probably unfair to do so, we'd pick out Barry and Elizabeth Warner whose evidence was strong and their individual deliveries were convincing and cogent. Cllr Heather Speak was probably the best example of a rural resident who wanted nothing more than to be left in peace to support the agricultural community that is Roseacre, but who had been moved to solid, if quiet, support for protesting. Her evidence was a clear example of conservative Middle England rising up to oppose the rape of the countryside and politicians further up the line would do well to heed it.

Tina Rothery was important not so much for what she said, but for the Inspector's appalling treatment of her as he refused to hear what she wanted to say and switched off her microphone. Those watching this spectacle could not fail to come to the view that the Inspector was trying to avoid hearing things, when his role is to inquire into matters.

Cllr Richard Nulty we've mentioned already, but his evidence was equally strong as his questions. We thought he was first class. Neil Lewis - who we immediately remembered from last time as soon as he spoke - delivered another stellar oration. His manner is quiet and unassuming, his delivery lilting and joyous, and his use and command of English is a delight to hear. And within his compelling three minutes he transmitted several key arguments. Jules Burton made his points in a polite but more forceful manner, and they would leave the Inspector in no doubt as to the strength of local feeing. His three minutes also raised the matter of the use of the MOD land which grew to prominence toward the end of the Inquiry.

David Rimmer, speaking for Karen Ditchfield and Chris Cannon produced compelling evidence. We don't now his background but it was self evidently connected to the highway/transport industry and/or surveying. It was also cleverly thought through to tie the technical details and measurements of highway geometry as a preparation on which Mr Hastey could rely. He raised three key matters that we thought were very well constructed arguments, and that despite the Inspector behaving - in our view- very badly toward the evidence he gave. Like Ms Rothery before him, (but for wholly different reasons), the Inspector seemed not to want to hear evidence against the proposals that he found inconvenient.

Finally we must mention Gordon Smith who threw what could yet turn out to be a hand grenade into the mix, as he put forward a backstop argument that the Secretary of State's position as a regulator in this matter was compromised by his published intention to support the fracking industry. We will look at this again at the end of our conclusions.

Finally, we should mention our MP Mark Menzies, who did not manage to attend or send an emissary to the Inquiry on his behalf (as Ben Wallace MP did at a previous Inquiry), but he did write one of the most strongly-worded letters we have seen opposing the latest plan from Cuadrilla.

 ABSENTEES

As well as those attending, notably absent from the Inquiry were Fylde's Cllr Fiddler and/or Cllr Redcliffe, chairman and vice chairman of Fylde's Planning Committee. We've yet to see any of the Fylde Conservative group supporting their rural community with regard to Fracking, despite the Planning Committee having come to the unanimous view that they should oppose this revised transport arrangement.

 THE INSPECTOR

If we're honest we'd have to say we were not impressed with his manner and approach to the Inquiry.

What we're not clear about here is the extent to which he will be able to separate his professional judgement from his personal opinion.

We think anyone listening would have grounds to believe his personal mind is already made up to recommend allowing the appeal.

We say that based on the fact that at the Pre Inquiry meeting (and at this one) he claimed to have seen none of the original transport proposals Cuadrilla submitted (So how can he compare whether or how much the new proposals overcome the previous reasons for refusal?). He also claims not to have read the previous Inspector's report.

We regard this as a complete nonsense if it is true.

But mostly t the Pre-Inquiry meeting, it was his exchange about Cuadrilla's (at that time) *plans* for the traffic survey they would undertake this time, when one resident suggested local people might want to do a survey of their own and would need enough time to do so, which we reported as

"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 appropriate or not"

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) Inspector asked:

"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?"

The ridiculousness of his position is immediately clear when you recall that at that time (31 October 2017) Cuadrilla had not announced what their new routes were going to be, (and were not going to do so for another four weeks or so).

So it would have been impossible for residents to have organised a comprehensive survey that would have encompassed seasonality, school and other holiday times and suchlike, not least because at the date of the Pre-Inquiry meeting, they simply did not know which roads they would have needed to survey!

This was exacerbated further by the holding of the pre-inquiry meeting at a time when, - as Mr Green former barrister for RAG said when he was pressed for a timetable and witness list - he could not provide one, adding

"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 need there will be for a survey."

and

"With respect, it is highly unusual to have an appeal, where the appeal proposals are, unknown, at the pre-inquiry meeting"

We think the timing of this inquiry represent a weakness that could yet cause problems.

We said at the time of the Pre Inquiry meeting:

".... 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."

Sadly, we've seen little or nothing to show we were wrong.

Quite the opposite in fact.

We can now only hope that what we have seen as an unfortunate personal manner and approach to this inquiry is separated from Mr Middleton's professional judgement.

 FUNDAMENTALS

The overriding factor in this inquiry has been Cuadrilla's deployment of theoretical solutions against practical problems that every person with common sense knows will not work.

Until the last day, this had been illustrated nowhere better than the exchange about permeable asphalt.

Ms Lieven for Cuadrilla was responding to assertions that known flooding and drainage problems on the roadsides would make some of the proposed passing places and road widening schemes impossible.

She said there was a technical solution to this which was tarmac that did not seal the road surface and cause runoff, but was permeable and allowed the water to drain away.

The point she was missing is that the flooding water is there in the first place because it has nowhere else to go. Either the natural water table is exceeding the ground level at these places during the winter months, or there are no ditches and subsurface drains that are below the water table that are capable of removing the excess water or ponding from its location quickly enough to be useable.

So installing permeable tarmac will do nothing more than see its pore spaces fill with water and flooding, just as it happens now.

Permeable tarmac is an unworkable theoretical solution, not a practical fix for the problem, (That would likely involve an extensive programme of land drainage improvements - and / or possibly pumps, on third party farmland. And that's never going to happen).

In itself this example is a very minor matter, but it is a perfect illustration of how most - if not all - of Cuadrilla's solutions can be made to appear to work, but will not do so in practice.

However, things were got worse for Cuadrilla. On the last day the matter of the traffic light controlled section which we've already explained rose like a multi-headed hydra to bite Cuadrilla very uncomfortably

The following links will take readers back to the relevant sections of the Traffic Light issue as it blew up:

 IN-PRINCIPLE MATTERS

In addition to highway engineering matters that were discussed in minute detail, we picked up several issues affecting the broader decision.

 SAFE AND/OR SUITABLE

The first of these was whether the Inspector was required to consider only whether the revised arrangements were "safe", or whether they were both safe AND SUITABLE.

This comes about because he has consistently maintained, and said on several occasions throughout the Inquiry, that his terms of reference only relate to the safety of Cuadrilla's new mitigation proposals.

The problem here is that although styled a traffic inquiry, it remains a planning inquiry within and governed by the terms of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

And the highest policy matter ('the bible') in that regard is the Government's 'National Planning Policy Framework'.

Section 4 of that document, headed 'Promoting sustainable transport.' says (at para 32).

"All developments that generate significant amounts of movement should be supported by a Transport Statement or Transport Assessment. Plans and decisions should take account of whether:

  1. ....(not relevant)

  2. safe and suitable access to the site can be achieved for all people; and

  3. improvements can be undertaken within the transport network that cost effectively limit the significant impacts of the development. Development should only be prevented or refused on transport grounds where the residual cumulative impacts of development are severe."

So NPPF says access to sites has to be "Safe AND SUITABLE" AND the impact must be SEVERE for a refusal

But inspector says his brief is only to look at Cuadrilla's MITIGATION PROPOSALS IN TERMS OF HIGHWAY SAFETY - i.e. he is apparently not prepared to consider their *suitability* for use (as the NPPF requires)

So his claimed brief *appears* to be in conflict with the NPPF

We say 'appears' because he has avoided saying so directly, and had not been challenged on it until Mr Evans' Closing Statement did so (and to which we expect the Inspector's report to respond)..

That said, the Inspector has consistently refused to use the word in his description of what he is doing.

Why is this important?. Well as a simple example, we can look at the public comments of Ruth Turner from Roseacre who said she walked, cycled and ran on these rural roads regularly, an she could not avoid doing so.

Ms Lieven argued that she could use other roads and avoid the routes Cuadrilla was using. This brought the response, in a particular clear and firm tone - "So do we have to alter our lifestyle to accommodate your proposals?"

The issue of suitability was deftly set out by Mr Kells who said

"You cannot create a safe road which is unsuitable. It has to be safe for people to go about their normal business, and the absence of personal Injury accidents does not indicated they are safe roads"

The national policy and the Inspector's Terms of Reference may be in conflict on this matter, and that raises the prospect in our mind of a future Judicial Review by RAG and others if the Inspector's decision fails to take proper account of suitability as will as safety.

SEVERITY

Again a matter from the Government's NPPF, which says that in planning terms, the only reason for refusing a planning application is if the impact of the proposals is 'SEVERE'

The experts have argued over this and Cuadrilla and LCC are fundamentally at odds over it with regard to the traffic arrangements.

There is even uncertainty over the definition of the word 'severe' itself, with the Inspector having asked the Barristers if any of then knew how it should be interpreted.

But there is another interesting side issue running underneath this, and that is the extent to which traffic accidents or incidents may be taken into account.

Throughout the Inquiry, the Inspector has taken and expressed the view that he is only concerned with personal injury traffic accidents. He appears to be disregarding accidents that have not caused serious injury to a person. We got the impression (although he did not say this) that he was really only interested in accidents that resulted in a fatality.

But on several occasions he did talk about only considering accidents "where the impact was severe" and we suspect there is a risk of his confusing the word SEVERE in planning terms (where the impact of the proposal is considered to be 'severe') with its use in connection with the severity of accidents that have arisen, or might arise (literally only those accidents cause by a 'severe impact').

The point we're making here is that a succession of minor accidents that do not result in serious personal injury, could well be considered to be a 'severe' problem in planning terms.

This is a matter Mr Evans for LCC raised in his closing speech so it might be a matter which the Inspector picks up in his report, we'll have to see.

If not, then once gain, we think this could have implications if a Judicial Review is undertaken.

 ADMISSIBILITY

The same situation applies regarding the Inspector's unwillingness to hear or admit some evidence offered by individuals (probably most notably Ms Rothery although there were others), and the matter of his ruling some aspects out of consideration at the Inquiry (as opposed to out of his report to the Minister) might also become grounds if the matter of a Judicial Review comes to the fore.

 MINISTERIAL RESPONSIBILITY CONFLICT

But a potentially significant issue in connection with a future Judicial Review is the matter raised by Gordon Smith which we will look at in more detail here.

It arises because of a letter sent out in September 2014 by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. He was keen to get the tax revenues from fracking companies.

The letter went to three Secretaries of State and asked each of them to make it a personal priority to implement a list of actions on which Mr Osborne expected them to make 'rapid progress' We covered this letter in our article  'Render Unto Caesar'

They replied confidentially in July 2015, but the Telegraph newspaper was leaked a copy of their letter. Readers can follow this link to read the full letter from the three Secretaries of State.

In essence the issue is that - because the Secretaries of State letter shows a huge and considerable effort to push the matter of shale gas forward - in setting out that position, they might also have compromised the independence of the agencies for which they also have influence and responsibility.

Ministers are responsible, amongst other things, for the control of pollution. (And although that clearly and obviously applies to what most people understand as pollution via the Environment Agency, there are other forms of pollution to which this applies as well.)

Mr Smith had told the Inspector

"If the pollution control regulator was not operating effectively however, say, because the regulators were actually trying to enact a government imperative - essentially to make shale gas happen - rather than protecting communities and the environment, - then we would have a conflict with the National Planning Policy Framework."

The NPPF says that planning authorities should assume that the planning control regime is operating effectively, (and that almost certainly includes the national Planning Authorities who grant permissions and issue conditions).

But if there was evidence that the independence of regulators was being compromised, then the regimes could not operate effectively.

Mr Smith concluded

"I do not consider the departments party to this statement can operate effectively for pollution control because their leadership has set out a conflicting commitment to implement that which they are supposed to be regulating."

And in evidence of that situation he quoted a selection from the letter from the three Secretaries of State in reply to Mr Osborne.....

  • "You asked us to develop a joint plan to develop the shale gas sector in the UK, building on the work that has already been done in the last Parliament. This letter proposes an ambitious strategy to enable the first exploration wells...

  • "....Our objectives are stretching, but we propose setting the bar high to drive our ambition...."

  • "....Government has to be united using the levers it can control...."

  • "....We need to focus on.... the usability and integrity of the regulatory systems, including the planning system, which together set the parameters for shale development...."

  • "....We need some exploration wells, to clearly demonstrate that shale exploration can be done cleanly and safely here. So we must put our immediate efforts into securing some early wins in exploration...."

  • "....We will continue to work with the regulators to improve the experience for operators, building on existing positive developments such as the Environment Agency's 'one stop shop' permitting centre, its readiness to conduct pre-application discussions with operators and its well-received drop-in sessions for local residents...."

  • "....Our Departments will progress this work as a high priority, working with you and your officials, as well as colleagues at No 10, to realise the potential of this important sector."

In his 3 minute presentation last week, Mr Smith had said, (and the Inspector had agreed) that neither would want the death of someone on their consciences as a result of allowing this appeal.

What we think Mr Smith had also done, was to alert the Inspector to the need *for him* to be satisfied that the independence of his Inquiry was not being affected by the Government's imperative to 'focus on.... the usability and integrity of the regulatory systems, including the planning system...' in support of shale gas development, because the Planning Inspectorate is an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Housing, Communities an Local Government, and there might exist a conflict between the drive to get operational shale gas sites up an running, and the Planning Inspectorate's need to balance that imperative against stated development policies.

We referred to this this morning where Mr Smith had submitted an additional letter which an angry Inspector was required to accept but clearly didn't want to receive and said he was not willing to consider the matters it raised in his report.

It also  further emphasises the situation about whether the Inspector's Terms of Reference are and should be specifically and only 'safety' or the NPPF's 'safety and suitability'

It will take a better legal brain than ours to bottom this matter and see whether, and if so how much, it might be thought to compromise Ministers in this matter, but we could see someone having a go at it.

 WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

This will be a really important decision - not only for local people, but it will set a precedent for other areas of rural countryside in the UK.

If Cuadrilla's appeal is refused, we think it will probably mean that many rural areas which require access via country lanes will not be available to the fracking industry because of the transport issues.

Conversely, if the appeal is allowed, then the only places where there will be any doubt about their suitability for fracking at least in England, will be the National Parks.

So how long will the decision take?

Well, the Inspector gave few if any clues. He said he had no idea when the Secretary of State might announce his decision and would not even speculate on it.

We have known instances where the Inspector publishes his report when he gives it to the Secretary of State, but there was no mention of this as the Inquiry closed - and whilst it is not clear either way - we think it's probable he's not going to do that, and the first we will hear is when what might be the 'final' decision comes  from Government. Our own guess would be probably not before the late Summer/Autumn an it could be as late as next spring.

But given the fun we well be having with Brexit by then - some aspects of which bring the possibility of an election, which would likely cause the decision-taking process to pause for the duration - and an election itself raises the prospect of a potential Labour Government.

And as we saw last week when Rebecca Long-Bailey, (Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) visited the PNR site and told everyone a Labour Government would ban fracking -  this must the most uncertain decision we can recall in a long time

Readers will note we put 'final' in italics above.

That's because we suspect that if the SoS decision is to allow the appeal, we would not be at all surprised to see a one or more Judicial Reviews being launched.

Our own view?

Well, it began solidly with Cuadrilla on the font foot and was looking bad for locals. Around the middle, there were indications it was moving slightly away from Cuadrilla. Over the last 2 or three days we think it moved decisively toward the appeal not being allowed. So overall it's a fine balance.

The big imponderable is Mr Middleton himself.

The scope of what he appears to take to be his terms of reference was very restrictive, and favour's Cuadrilla's case.

His body language and his tone said to us that he had made his mind up to allow the appeal and he seemed to limit evidence or challenge witnesses that didn't fit with that view.

But we did see some insights into his ability to separate dross from detail and we can only hope that he is able, as we said before, to hold two conflicting views in his head at the same time, and whilst personally he might favour allowing the appeal, his professional judgement may not.

Sajid Javid however  is less imponderable. If he gets the chance we're pretty sure he will allow the appeal.

So the odds are probably stacked against local people getting what they want.

But we've been wrong on our planning predictions before - notably when the Victoria Hotel in St Annes was saved from becoming more retirement flats by local people using the specific provisions of provisions of St Eric Pickles' Localism Act to protect local pubs and, as then, we'd be delighted to be proved wrong again in this case.

Dated:  24 April 2018

 

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