Councillors urged to ‘be brave’
Residents living near a proposed fracking site have urged councillors to “be brave” and refuse to give it the go-ahead.
Energy firm Cuadrilla wants to develop two new sites between Preston and Blackpool to explore for shale gas by drilling, fracking and testing the flow of gas.
A report from Lancashire County Council planning officials recommended that one of the sites – at Preston New Road near Little Plumpton – be passed subject to a number of conditions being met such as hours of working, control of noise and highway matters.
The council’s development control committee will have the final say on the matter in a decision expected tomorrow at County Hall, Preston.
Members are to listen to 70 speakers, both for and against, before they make their ruling on the Preston New Road site.
Passing the application would enable fracking at the site following drilling at up to four exploration wells but a separate application would be required if Cuadrilla wished to progress to commercial fracking.
One of the early speakers was father-of-three Peter Watson, who lives just 100 metres from the site location.
He said he understood the principle of free enterprise having created hundreds of jobs in sustainable businesses but “not at any cost to the community”.
Warning that thousands of people in the parish would be affected, he said: “If the application is approved our health, our quality of life and our property will be disastrously affected.
“Please be brave, act independently from Government politicians and reject this application.”
Graham Daniels said increased traffic would have an impact on more than 300 senior citizens aged over 60 who lived on a residential park less than half a mile from the planned drilling site.
“They fear they will be trapped in their own homes,” he said. “People do matter, and the idea that the residents can be treated as collateral damage is quite frankly unacceptable.”
John Tootill, who runs nearby Maple Farm Nursery, said the business he set up more than 30 years ago was in danger.
He said: “The biggest threat to our existence is the proposal to drill and frack in our locality, including under our homes.
“This will destroy our business, way of life, four jobs and our home. Our environment will be too contaminated to carry on.
“The serious health effects associated with fracking have been well documented. You must listen and accept their good sense, rather than the council officials who have been influenced by a Government with industry connections.”
The Government is pushing for the development of a shale gas industry in the UK, claiming it would create jobs and growth, reduce energy prices and cut the country’s reliance on gas imports.
Opponents have raised fears that the process causes earthquakes, can pollute water supplies, and could lead to inappropriate development in the countryside and damage house prices.
Hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure underground to fracture shale rock and release the gas trapped in it.
Committee members will also meet on Thursday and Friday to rule on plans by Cuadrilla for a second site at Roseacre Wood, Roseacre.
Planning officials recommended that application be turned down because of the increase in traffic which would result in ”an unacceptable impact” on rural roads and reduce road safety.
Hundreds of anti-fracking protesters gathered near to County Hall, opposite the city’s train station, as the meetings got under way.
Earlier, planning officer Stuart Perigo gave a short presentation on the Preston New Road application and why he had recommended its approval.
The fracking procedure would take place over a two-year period with flow testing to continue for a further two years, the committee heard.
Mr Perigo said that a total of 18,126 representations opposing the application had been received by last Friday, with 217 in favour.
But he told the committee that the figures had to be viewed in context, with the vast majority of opposition coming from outside the immediate area.
By the end of May, 3,027 out of 18,022 representations against came from within the Fylde area – a total of 4.87% of its adult population.
Before the application was discussed, councillors voted 12 to three in favour of not deferring the matter until reading a soon-to-be-published report on the impacts of fracking, which had previously been redacted.
The internal document – titled Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts – had several key sections obscured when it was published by the Environment Department (Defra) last summer in response to a request under environmental information laws.
At a meeting earlier this year of the full county council, councillors voted unanimously for a motion calling on the Government to release the report in full but received no response.
Last week, the Information Commissioner ordered Defra to publish the document in full by mid-July following a complaint by environmental group Greenpeace.
“We are very frightened, we are not being told the truth, Medact brought a brochure out that tells the truth, they say that’s not true… So far we’ve not got to know where they’re going to put the radioactive waste..”
Let’s hope Greenpeace front Medact’s poison hasn’t spread any further…