Fracking firm in shock call for planning delay

Francis Egan, Cuadrilla's chief executive
Francis Egan, Cuadrilla's chief executive
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Shale gas exploration firm Cuadrilla has made an 11th hour call for the postponement of a crucial three-day hearing into two fracking applications in Lancashire next week.

The company, due to argue its case for drilling at Roseacre Wood and Little Plumpton before the county council’s development control committee starting on Wednesday, approached County Hall on Friday afternoon asking for the meeting to be deferred for “two to three weeks.”

The request followed shock news on Wednesday that both planning applications had been recommended for refusal by Lancashire’s top planning boss on the grounds of noise and traffic.

Cuadrilla says it has come up with amended proposals at both sites. But the company argues, under planning laws, the applications need to go back for consultation before being determined by the committee.

Chief executive Francis Egan told the Evening Post: “This is too important to rush.

“We believe our request is fair. We have already accepted three extensions at Preston New Road (Little Plumpton) and two at Roseacre Wood over the last six months. So I don’t think it is unreasonable for us to ask for one.”

On Wednesday Cuadrilla admitted it was “very disappointed” by the findings of LCC planning chief Stuart Perigo, but vowed to address the “minor” issues raised in the hope of overturning the objections and winning approval.

The company has now offered to further reduce noise limits at both sites and introduced a one-way traffic system to halve the number of HGV movements through Roseacre Wood.

Mr Egan said: “What we are now offering is additional noise mitigation. Under planning law that additional information should be consulted on, therefore the committee hearing should be delayed until that is done.

“Ultimately we know we can address this outstanding issue. But we can’t rush it. We need to make sure that the local residents are happy and that the planning officer gets what he wants too so that, hopefully, he would be able to recommend that the committtee support the proposal.

“We estimate it should take between 14 and 21 days, so two to three weeks.”

Around 100 speakers - for and against fracking - have asked to address the planning hearing at County Hall, which is expected to last four days.

The applications are seen as a test case for the future of shale gas extraction in the UK.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “The applicant has made a request to members of the Development Control Committee to defer its decisions on the planning applications relating to shale gas exploration at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood. That request will now be given due consideration.”