Balloon goes up at fracking site visit

The Preston New Road  blimp showing the height of a 53m fracking rig seen from Weeton
The Preston New Road blimp showing the height of a 53m fracking rig seen from Weeton
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Residents opposing fracking on the Fylde raised a balloon to show how high a 53m gas drilling rig would be.

The move came as planning inspector Wendy McKay visited the two sites at the centre of the public inquiry, at Roseacre and off Preston New Road near Little Plumpton.

It is the third week of a five-week inquiry after gas exploration company Cuadrilla appealed against Lancashire County Council’s refusal of bids to drill and test frack for gas as well as install monitoring equipment at the sites.

People living close to the Preston New Road site arranged to have a blimp flying over the site for yesterday’s visit.

A spokesman for the Preston New Road Action Group said: “The group of local residents wanted to display an accurate height that Cuadrilla’s fracking rig would reach so that the Planning Inspector could visibly get an idea of where the top of the rig could be seen from within the radius of the site.”

Pat Davies, chairman of Preston New Road Action Group, said: “It is critical to us that the Inspector and the nearby community appreciate the height and dominance that a drill rig of 53 metres would present.

“In order to demonstrate the level of intrusion, a blimp seemed to be one method of accurately indicating just how high a structure of 53 metres represents, particularly as it will be on what is currently an agricultural field.”

But Cuadrilla’s chief executive Francis Egan said although there would be a visual impact it would only be temporary. He said: “A balloon is not a gas rig but it gives an indication of the absolute maximum height it would be.

“The thing to remember is that any rig would only be there for a short period of time – around 14 months.

“When it is taken down everything else is very low level.”

He said that the impact of trucks using rural roads to visit the sites was key point of discussion but Cuadrilla had mitigated the effects.

He added: “In absolute terms the impact is modest, certainly when compared to HGVs, wind farm, solar farm or even a normal construction site.”

Tonight at the inquiry at Blackpool FC’s stadium, residents will again have their change to give evidence.