Friday, 17 April 2015

County Council continues Fracking Consultation for two more weeks

Fracking tanker at Barton Moss

Although today is officially the final day for members of the public to 'have their say' in Lancashire County Council's (LCC) consultation on two controversial fracking applications, County yesterday confirmed that, as they have not yet set a date for the hearings, they will continue to accept submissions from the public for "at least another two weeks", which would take us to Friday 1 May.

LCC's Shale Gas Development page here provides details on how to leave your feedback, either through an online form, or by email or through the post.

Cuadrilla's fracking applications
In June 2014 the council received applications from Cuadrilla to drill, frack, and test gas flows, with associated separate applications for environmental monitoring, at Preston New Road  (LCC/2014/0096) at Little Plumpton, and Roseacre Wood (LCC/2014/0101).

In January 2015 LCC's Development Control Committee decided to defer determination of the applications after Cuadrilla asked to submit further proposals intended to mitigate concerns raised by planning officers. See previous article: Lancs County Council defers fracking decision 8 weeks.

The new information was submitted on Cuadrilla's behalf by their longstanding partners, Arup, in March 2015. Where Air Quality is concerned it notes that pollution from gas flaring is not 'particulate matter' and not within the remit of the Council. It offers redrafted routes for the large numbers of tankers and other construction, maintenance, supply and waste removal vehicles servicing these rural sites.

Cuadrilla's relationship with Arup has been rewarding for them. In September 2014 Arup's Executive Chairman Sir Philip Dilley left them to become the Chair of the Government's Environment Agency. In January 2015, the EA granted Cuadrilla's applications for environmental permits for the two sites.

Consultation website links broken
The consultation on Arup's new information has run into some problems as the LCC website has apparently been going through an upgrade, which has meant that their Shale Gas page links to the information being consulted on no longer work. LCC have assured us they are working to restore them, and when they do you will find them on LCC's Shale Gas Development page here,

Links via the planning portal
'Advanced' users of the LCC website can find the new information relating to Traffic Management, Air Quality, Noise and Visual Impact via the online planning portal for the two applications at Preston New Road (LCC/2014/0096) and Roseacre Wood (LCC/2014/0101) (go to Attachments page 2 in each case).
It's also available at libraries in Lytham, St Annes, Ansdell and Kirkham, and at the offices of Fylde Borough Council in Lytham St Annes.

Following the consultation the council's planners will assess the new information and responses to the consultation before making recommendations to the Development Control Committee.

Rigging the consultation?
An investigation by Greenpeace revealed that "supporters" listed by pro-fracking lobby group the North West Energy Task Force, funded by the fracking company Cuadrilla, include, for example, an elderly care home in Yorkshire and a Welsh fishing resort.  Only 149 of the lobby group’s 343 small business supporters are based in Lancashire - less than half of the total, and just 0.3% of VAT-registered Lancashire business.  Only 14 are based in the Fylde, where Cuadrilla wants to launch the UK’s first full-scale fracking exploration project.

The Task Force’s listed supporters include the London-based trade body Oil and Gas UK and the Morecambe and Lunesdale Conservative Association. Several small enterprises also appear to have been signed up as supporters multiple times.

The 'Task Force' claimed that its “activities and views are independent of our financial supporters".  It
coordinated a recent joint letter from businesses to Lancashire County Council, urging it to approve Cuadrilla’s planning applications, under the headline “Lancashire business leaders to local council: ‘Give shale a chance.’”

But the list of businesses signed up to the letter includes an angling resort based in North Wales and a Liverpool-based events company that organises conferences for the shale gas industry.  Another signatory to the letter was a Derbyshire based company called PR Marriott Drilling Group, which Cuadrilla has previously identified as its main contractor for drilling wells. PR Marriott claims to be “the largest onshore deep drilling company based in the United Kingdom”.

Cuadrilla's PR company, PPS Group, is the company exposed in 2007 on Channel 4's 'Despatches' for their involvement in the Spodden Valley asbestos site development scandal in Rochdale. Their tactics were described as including: sending of fake letters in  favour of planning applications, attempts to infiltrate community campaign groups, bugging of private council meetings, the creation of 'secret dossiers' about councillors. The documentary alleged possession of a PPS Group document describing whether it could "bribe” or “bully" a London Borough Council.

Networking is important in business, and when heavyweight players begin to apply pressure through their placemen in networks such as the Blackpool Chamber of Commerce, in whose offices Cuadrilla have leased their Lancashire HQ, it can be awkward and potentially risky for local businesses to refuse them. Nevertheless, where fracking is concerned, 99.7% of Lancashire businesses appear to have done just that.

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