Councillors have their say at second day of fracking meetings

Photo Neil Cross'Protesters outside the fracking meeting at County Hall, Preston
Photo Neil Cross'Protesters outside the fracking meeting at County Hall, Preston
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Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside County Hall in Preston for the second day of the fracking hearings.

Members of Lancashire County Council’s Development Control Committee heard impassioned pleas on Tuesday from Fylde residents not to allow Cuadrilla’s bid to test frack on a field close to Little Plumpton.

But on the second day, when a decision was set to be made, councillors examined the application and asked questions about the planning application.

The meeting was introduced by chairman Coun Munsif Dad who explained that the council would discuss both the application to test frack and the associated application to set up monitoring arrays.

Coun Chris Henig wanted to know about the noise levels expected from the fracking operation and how it might affect wildlife.

Council’s expert witness Peter Simpson from Jacobs Engineering said they had looked at the application and believed that with the accoustic control conditions applied to the application no adverse effects would be expected.

Coun Anne Cheetham asked if the road system would be able to cope with the trucks serving the fracking operation. She was concerned that there would be an impact on the nearby bus stop with people having to cross the road and the neighbouring Carr Bridge Caravan site.

She said: “I walk the length of road there took interest in the drainage and noticed they were full and wondered if there would be an impact on that?”

Stuart Perigo chief planner, said there was a condition on the application for Cuadrilla to be responsible for any issues arising surrounding the road surface and drains.

Paul Hayhurst asked: “Director of public health recently published a health impact on these proposals and there were 61 risks identified. Can I ask if these have been addressed and how many outstanding?

In reply, Director of Public Health Dr Sakthi Karunanithi said: “The key risks that were identified lack of public trust stress and anxiety along with isolated health effects.

“I have followed up all 61 recommendation. There’s a strong regulatory framework in this country but there isn’t the monitoring of outcomes that has been suggested so far.”

He said LCC would be willing to work with other agencies to baseline and monitor but said there was no other agency as far as he was aware ready to carry out this monitoring.

“A local independent scientific robust process is needed to to reassure local comminitues and pick up potential problems,” he said.

He said a robust health monitoring study should be set up before furhter development continues.

Coun Hayhurst said “I am concerned about what I have heard. Can the doctor give us an assurance that there will be no health impact?”

Dr Karunanithi spoke about the uncertainty surrounding health impacts. he said said physical levels of pollutant were not the only issue but there was the anxiety effects to be considered.

Planning officer Andrew Mulanney added that with regard to air quality due to emissions and noise they did not believe there would be any impact on public health.

Coun Nikki Penney had concerns about the possible harmful nature of the fracking liquid injected underground.

She said: “No one seems keen to give us an estimate of how much flowback liquid will be left in place. Would the well casings be capable of ensuring no migration of the fluid into ground water?”

Steve Molyneux of the Environment Agency said: “The EA would object to any operations which would affect drinking water supply but in this case the application is well outside area.

“We do not believe there is a plausible pathway to contaminate ground water.” He said monitoring and testing of the wells would be undertaken and would be continued throughout the operation and post fracking for a number of decades.

The operator would be required to carry out sampling and independent monitoring would take place alongside this.

Pat Davies of the Preston New Road Action Group reacting to the previous days hearing said members of her group felt that if the bid was passed they had fears about monitoring of the conditions applied to it.

She said: “We think they are unenforceable in reality. The Environment Agency has had 25 per cent of its staff cut by the Government. How will they cope with this?

“Why does any planning application have to have more than 40 conditions put upon it for it to go ahead?”