Fracking given planners’ go-ahead

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Published: Monday 15th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Proposals for fracking for shale gas at a site in Lancashire should be approved, planning officers have recommended.

Lancashire County Council has published reports with recommendations on planning applications from shale company Cuadrilla to develop two new sites between Preston and Blackpool to explore for shale gas by drilling, fracking and testing the flow of gas.

The report recommended that the application for a site at Preston New Road near Little Plumpton be passed, subject to a lengthy number of conditions being met, said the council.

But planning officials recommended an application for a similar site at Roseacre Wood should be turned down because of an increase in traffic.

The council’s development control committee is due to make decisions on the planning applications next week .

Cuadrilla submitted revised plans after planning officers recommended refusal for both sites in January for different reasons.

Planning officers had previously said the site at Preston New Road should be turned down because of concerns over noise impacts which would ”unnecessarily and unacceptably” affect neighbouring properties.

But now they have recommended its approval if a number of conditions are met, including controlling time limits, hours of working, control of noise and highway matters.

At the Roseacre Wood site, planning officers maintained their stance that there would be an increase in traffic, particularly heavy goods vehicles, which would result in ”an unacceptable impact” on rural roads and reduce road safety.

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.

Furqan Naeem, from Friends of the Earth, said: “We are disappointed that planning officers have not recognised the unacceptable impact that Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at Preston New Road would have on local people, climate change and the environment.

“The council must now listen to the tens of thousands of people who have objected to fracking at both sites, and the strong evidence put before them, and reject both of Cuadrilla’s proposals to frack.

“Fracking has already been halted in Scotland and Wales because of the serious risks it poses to the environment and health, and impacts on climate change – two-thirds of people in Lancashire want it halted too.

“Rejecting Cuadrilla’s plans is the only way to stop Lancashire’s communities and environment being made the UK’s guinea pig for risky and polluting fracking.”

Drilling at up to four exploration wells on both sites would commence if councillors approve the applications.

In its report on the Preston New Road site, planners found there would be some impacts in a range of areas including air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and “induced seismicity”.

But they added: “Such impacts would be low and could be mitigated and controlled by condition to an acceptable level and would also be controlled by other regulatory regimes and which the county council could assume and be satisfied that such controls would be enforced by the respective bodies.”

It said that predicted noise levels would fall below national guidance after Cuadrilla put in new measures including “limiting the height of the drilling rig and enclosing the site and particular pieces of plant and equipment”.

The report concluded: “It is therefore concluded that the proposal complies with national guidance regarding the exploration and appraisal for shale gas.

“Whilst there would be some negative impacts, most particularly for those living in closest proximity to the site, they would be for a temporary period and could be made acceptable by planning condition.

“There is no evidence to demonstrate that the proposal would have a negative impact on tourism, culture, socio-economic factors, agriculture or local employment opportunities.

“The proposal would bring benefits by establishing the presence and viability of exploiting an indigenous resource which could contribute to the national energy needs of maintaining a diverse energy supply and would bring some local benefits to the area in terms of employment and contributions to the local economy.”

Published: Monday 15th June 2015 by The News Editor

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