Objectors have won fracking’s first real battle in Lancashire . . . but gas explorers Cuadrilla are still looking to win the war.
Despite being “very disappointed” that planning officers want councillors to reject two drilling applications between Preston and Blackpool, the firm insists “minor” issues over noise and traffic can still be resolved.
And Cuadrilla is doubling its efforts to force a rethink when the matter comes before a landmark three-day planning hearing at County Hall next week.
“After an extraordinarily lengthy period of consultation and review of around seven months we are surprised that, at this late point, the planning team at Lancashire County Council has raised objections about background noise for both sites,” said a company spokesman.
“We believe, supported by independent experts, that we have come forward with measures that would mitigate the noise of drilling and fracturing and the proposed noise levels are within the limits set out in government guidance.
“For our application at Roseacre Wood we had already supplied within the last week extra information regarding traffic routes which we and our expert advisers believe addresses all the new issues which have recently been raised.”
Opponents of the plan to drill for shale gas at Roseacre, near Elswick, and Little Plumpton, near Kirkham, were celebrating their first victory in a three-year saga when LCC planning chief Stuart Perigo recommended planning refusal in a 600-page document published yesterday.
At the same time business leaders, keen to see Lancashire benefit to the tune of millions of pounds and thousands of jobs, expressed their concern at a potentially lost opportunity.
But the decision will still rest with the 13 members of the authority’s development control committee when it takes evidence from more than 100 people during the marathon hearing starting on Wednesday.
Amongst those listed to speak is resident James Nisbet whose home sits just 500 metres from the proposed drilling well at Roseacre.
He will tell councillors he has been struggling to sell his home since news of shale gas exploration work in the area was first revealed.
“I’m not as close as some, but I’m close enough,” he said. “We need to move because my wife is not well, but we can’t sell. We’ve had five viewings and they have all liked the house. But when they see how close we are they don’t go any further.
“It is excellent that the planning experts are recommending refusal.
“It is a decision for common sense.
“I really hope the councillors support the recommendation because the alternative would be to allow this community to wither on the vine.”
Councillors tasked with deciding the issue have been told that the principle of shale gas exploration would have been acceptable at both sites but for the issues of noise and traffic.
Cuadrilla added: “In the end the councillors will have to weigh the relatively minor impacts, which affect only a small number of households and for which we have proposed adequate proposals for mitigation, against the wider local and national economic and energy security benefits.
“We will await the decisions on both these applications and we believe that all of the limited issues that have been raised can be resolved.”