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Defend Lytham

The World According to Our Politicians

The world according to our politicians sometimes seems to bear little resemblance to the real world in which we live.

This morning John Hobson from Defend Lytham was interviewed live on air by Radio Lancashire down at the pier in St Annes.

The interview was requested because Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary had made statements about shale gas extraction the previous day.

In fact Radio Lancashire ran a series of interviews.

In the first of these Ed Davey sounded very uncomfortable as he tried to justify the government’s totally inconsistent approaches to the issues of energy pricing and regulation.

You can listen to it by clicking this link

After this Matt Lambert of Cuadrilla reassured listeners about the safety of shale gas. Now Mr Lambert is a perfectly amiable man, but his grasp of the technology is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that he corrected me, at the public consultation in Freckleton, when I asked him about the 100 well pads that Francis Egan said they would need, and told me it was 100 wells not well pads. So this chap, who thinks that Cuadrilla can extract nearly a trillion cubic feet of gas a year using just 100 wells (and not the 4,000 that Mr Egan’s 100 well pads would suggest), feels qualified to reassure us of the safety of shale gas. We think he needs to do a little bit more homework before feeling entitled to dismiss those who don’t agree with his simplistic assertions as “extremists”. Matt’s previous career was in the gambling industry with Betfair. How appropriate.

John’s interview mentioned the safety and regulatory issues and pointed out that Lambert’s other point – that shale was cleaner than gas – was giving a false choice.

You can listen to it by clicking this link

After 8 o’clock Mark Menzies, our local MP was interviewed. Now Mark hasn’t said a great deal publicly about fracking since 2012, even though it will probably be the biggest issue to affect the Fylde in our lifetime, so we listened with great interest. What did he have to say?

Mark Menzies on the front page of Cuadrilla's website

Mark Menzies on the front page of Cuadrilla’s website

Questioned as to what he meant by a Gold Standard for Regulations he stated that “by that I mean the sort of standards that we see in the North Sea, which in terms of offshore are the highest anywhere in the world“.

Perhaps Mr Menzies is not aware that the Off-Shore Safety Division of the HSE (which also looked after onshore rigs) was scrapped and absorbed into a single division covering the whole of the UK Energy Sector on April 1st this year. If this is what he means by a gold standard then we really do need to start worrying!

He went on to say that he wanted these “rigorous” offshore standards applied onshore and gave the example that he thinks “We should be looking at every site having Environmental Impact Assessments“.

Perhaps he hasn’t read the new guidelines from his own government which state “An Environmental Impact Assessment is only required if the project is likely to have significant environmental effects.” and that “it is unlikely that an Environmental Impact Assessment will be required for exploratory drilling operations which do not involve hydraulic fracturing unless the well pad is located in site which is unusually sensitive to limited disturbance occurring over the short period involved“.

When we asked recently whether the Conservatives would support an amendment in the EU making EIAs mandatory for every site, we received a statement of policy from Struan Stevenson MEP indicating that the UK Conservative MEPs would be voting against the amendment tomorrow.

Mr Menzies might trot out blithe statements on the radio about “every site having Environmental Impact Assessments” but it is clear that, even if he does have the best of intentions, nobody in his party is listening to what he says on the subject, and party policy is actively against making EIAs on exploration sites (which is what he says is needed) mandatory.

Challenged as to whether shale gas would mean cheaper prices Mr Menzies floundered in the clear blue water which separates David Cameron and Ed Davey on this subject, suggesting that if we found more gas than current estimates suggest is there then that would have an impact on prices. The consensus is that it would require massive production at a European level to have any downward impact on prices, so we didn’t find him at all convincing there. We suppose that it must be difficult as an MP to have to choose publicly between the conflicting statements made by your Prime Minister and your Energy Minister. In choosing to float in the middle here we don’t think he’ll have pleased either of them, let alone his constituents.

Asked whether fracking should be allowed to resume in our constituency he claimed that “a lot of this now sits in the hands of Lancashire County Council, who as Mineral Rights Authority have got rights over planning

Perhaps he is unaware of the fact that the new planning guidelines limit the role of the County Council to deciding on whether any application represents “an acceptable use of the land, and the impacts of those uses” and effectively forbids them considering “any control processes, health and safety issues or emissions themselves where these are subject to approval under other regimes. Minerals Planning Authorities should assume that these non-planning regimes will operate effectively.” The new proposals would forbid the Mineral Planning Authority from considering “demand for, or consider alternatives to, oil and gas resources when determining planning applications, and would place great pressure on them to “give great weight to the benefits of minerals extraction, including to the economy, when determining planning applications” which would leave any decision against shale gas development open to legal challenge. The government that Mr Menzies is part of is busily stripping away the powers of the Mineral Planning Authority, so his statement above is frankly quite meaningless.

Challenged that “Campaigners say that regulations have been watered down” Mr Menzies states that “there is absolutely no evidence at all of any safety regulations being watered down – the opposite and that will continue to be the case

Apart from the fact that, if he had been listening, he would have heard John give 4 very specific examples of how safety regulations and planning guidelines have been emasculated over the last 6 months, he surely can’t fail to be aware that Mr Cameron famously stated that “No regulation must get in the way” of shale gas extraction. Again we can only conclude that his well-meaning statements are being totally ignored by those with the real power.

Maybe it’s time that Mr Menzies started making a little more noise and being a bit less accepting of the way in which the Government that he is part of is ignoring the things that he is reasonable insisting that we need!

You can listen to it by clicking this link (It is preceded by short extracts from Matt Lambert & John Hobson)

Scruples Controversy

It would seem that the ParkView4U proposals for the Scruples site have caused some controversy.

There is a petition/questionnaire being done on the front which describes the Park View proposals as being for “Development to a Children’s Play Area and Cafe”.

This was of some concern to us as we were not aware of any suggestion that a Class 3 designation eat-in facility was being proposed, so we have taken the question up with ParkView4U directly.

They assure us that the proposal is not to have any sort of cafe or eat-in facility. Nothing more than an ice cream / snack cabin like the one at Park View is envisaged and absolutely refute any suggestion that there are any plans for anything bigger. No planning application has yet been submitted to Fylde Borough Council.

We would suggest that you should treat any suggestions to the contrary with caution.

As we have previously stated we believe that people should take the time to see what is really being proposed and to weigh up the alternatives before completing the consultation document on the FBC web site . ParkView4U will be holding a “Pop Up Beach Event” on 14th & 15th September so you can quiz them there.

We understand that FBC will continue to accept responses for the next 2 weeks.

BBC Radio 4 coverage of fracking – The Report

Last week’s edition of The Report focused on fracking


It made a better fist of it than many recent attempts at covering the subject, and it was interesting to hear local farmer, Andy Pemberton talking in the same vein as he did with Dutch TV station NOS about the risks to agriculture that fracking could bring.

The report was also notable for two other things – the evasiveness of Michael Fallon’s responses to questions about Cuadrilla’s permission breaches (thrown into relief by the news this weekend that they breached permitted noise levels over a protracted period in Balcombe) and the unscientific opinion of Professor Paul Stephens from Chatham House that the environmental NGOs have done a “really good job, a bad job if you have any interest in science , done a good job in getting local people to be very concerned about the environmental implications of shale gas operations

The fact that a respected academic feels able to go on national radio and dismiss the valid environmental concerns of NGOs like Friends of the Earth in half a sentence as being totally unscientific, is really quite appalling.

It’s well worth a listen if you have half an hour to spare, and it can be downloaded as a podcast


It seems that there is a certain amount of misinformation being circulated about the ParkView4U proposals for the Scruples area on the front.

We have heard that there are petitions being circulated describing the plans as being for a commercial development with a large cafe and merry-go-rounds.

The reality as described here http://www.parkview4u.org.uk/sand-and-water-play/ sounds rather different to us.

We would urge everyone to visit the Pop Up Beach Day on 14th & 15th September at the site to see what is really being proposed before making up their minds about whether the proposal is appropriate or not. We shall certainly be there.

Annoyingly the Fylde borough consultation at http://www.fylde.gov.uk/council/scruplesconsultation on the proposals only runs until 12th September, before the Pop Up Beach day takes place. Maybe they could be persuaded to accept comments after that date as well?

It is important that the various options for the site are weighed up, but Defend Lytham can see no reason to reject ParkView4U’s proposal on the grounds that is is a commercial enterprise. As far as we can tell it won’t be, and ParkView4u have a superb track record in sensitively developing and improving community assets.

Defend Lytham is not against development. It is against inappropriate development and another part of our brief is “To encourage the development of facilities for the public benefit.”

If the ParkView4U proposals are inappropriate we will, of course, challenge them. We don’t think this can or should be done before we have had a chance to see what is being proposed.

A message from the past?

It is interesting to note the motto under the Lytham coat of arms.

Lytham Coat of Arms

Lytham Coat of Arms

“Pro salute et amaenitate”


“For health and amenity (or pleasantness)”

Definitely not “for fracking” then :-)

Grange Road Application – Urgent Action!

It would appear that as of 5th September LCC are still accepting comments regarding the Grange Road Singleton extension application

If you are short of time please take a moment to copy and paste this template into an email and add your details to the bottom before emailing it to devcon@lancashire.gov.uk

Environment Directorate
Lancashire County Council
Transport and Environment
Development Management Group
County Hall,
PO Box 100

Dear Sir/Madam


I am writing to object to the above application by Cuadrilla Resources Ltd to extend planning permission for test fracking at Grange Road, Singleton, Lancashire.

With a new application for this site in the immediate offing, which will require an Environmental Impact Assessment, and as there have been material changes in government policy and guidance since the original planning was granted, it would clearly be inappropriate to grant an extension in this instance.

It can be seem clearly that Cuadrilla now admit that the “stimulation” referred to in the original application is now “fracking”. In the event that permission is granted I would ask what steps will be taken to ensure that Cuadrllla pay the £100,000 community benefit and also ask to whom it will be paid. If it is proposed that any part of this benefit is to be paid to LCC then you must surely have a conflict of interest in considering this application.

There is growing evidence that fracking poses serious risks to human health, the local environment and climate change, and the precautionary principle should be applied.

A recent report for the European Commission identified water contamination, water resource depletion, air pollution, biodiversity impacts and noise as high-risk concerns. There is also the concern that shale gas development could negatively impact human health. The risk of seismic activity – as evidenced by earth tremors caused by fracking at the Preese Hall site – is a serious concern for local communities, and poses furthers risks to well integrity and groundwater contamination.

The site is very close to the Wyre Estuary SSSI, and close to the Ribble Estuary SSSI RAMSAR site, an internationally important habitat for wildlife including wintering wildfowl. There are also economic risks to the important farming and tourism sectors in Lancashire, which have not been considered.

I further believe that the extraction and use of shale gas will make it much harder to meet our legally-binding climate change targets and fulfill commitments in the Lancashire Climate Change Strategy. Lancashire County Council says it has an important role to play in tackling climate change. As such it should be promoting expansion of renewable energy rather than the extraction of more fossil fuels. Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency will secure a clean and green energy supply for the future, tackle fuel poverty and create thousands of new jobs for the county.

I also note the Supporting Statement to the application is out of date and contains no detail of the proposed operations including hydraulic fracturing, merely referring to a ‘testing phase’. Please keep me informed of the progress of this application and opportunities to comment further.

Yours sincerely

Signed: Address: Date:

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Imprisonment of Information

We believe that the Community Benefits scheme for shale gas is shoddily put together, inadequately thought through and shows every sign of being policy made on the hoof.

It talks fuzzily of payments to communities without defining what a community is, it talks about making payments to county councils when they are te ones being asked to make decisions on related planning applications and it suggests amounts which would scarcely pay for a 20 MPH scheme in Lancashire, let alone provide any meaningful compensation for the financial loss and loss of amenity that would be suffered if shale gas exploration and production were allowed to go ahead.

We have asked Mark Menzies MP whether he agrees that there would be a conflict of interest if County Councils both made decisions on planning applications and received funds if, and only, if they were granted. He has not replied.

We made a Freedom of information Request to the DECC to find out more about the background nearly 2 months ago. We asked for

(a) All submissions to DECC Ministers which concern community benefits
relating to shale gas or fracking during the period 1 January 2012 to the date of
this email;

(b) All correspondence between DECC Ministers and the Office of
Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) which concern community benefits
relating to shale gas or fracking during the same period.

(c) All correspondence between DECC Ministers and Cuadrilla Resources (or
associated companies) on the subject of said community benefits during the
same period.

We finally received this response today from a staffer at the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil

Thank you for your email of 10th July 2013 where you requested the following

(a) All submissions to DECC Ministers which concern community benefits relating to shale gas or fracking during the period 1 January 2012 to the date of this email;

(b) All correspondence between DECC Ministers and the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO) which concern community benefits relating to shale gas or fracking during the same period.

(c) All correspondence between DECC Ministers and Cuadrilla Resources (or associated companies) on the subject of said community benefits during the same period.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (‘the Act’), you have the right to:
• know whether we hold the information you require
• be provided with that information (subject to any exemptions under the Act which may apply).

We can confirm that we hold information in the scope of your questions (a) and (b).

In relation to the information requested under (a) and (b), we believe this information is exempt from disclosure under Section 35(1)(a) of the Freedom of
Information Act, which provides that information may be exempt from disclosure where it relates to the formulation and development of government policy.
The exemption from disclosure under Section 35(1) (a) of the Act is subject to a public interest test.

We recognise that there is a general public interest in the disclosure of information, as greater transparency makes government more accountable, and there is a public interest in being able to assess the quality of information and advice given to Ministers, which is used in subsequent policy formulation.

However, there is also a public interest in the government making the best possible decisions. Good government depends on good decision-making and this needs to be based on the best advice available and a full consideration of all the options without fear of premature disclosure. As the shale gas industry is at an early stage, policy on community benefits for shale gas is being formulated and reviewed as companies move into exploration and production phases and the industry develops operating experience. The onshore industry launched the Community Engagement Charter on 27 June 2013 and has committed to keeping the Charter and interaction with local communities under review. Industry will be consulting communities on the benefits that will be offered to them, and Ministers will continue to monitor developments in this area. Government policy on community benefits for shale will be formulated and reviewed in light of these developments.

We believe that any disclosure of information of the type specified would prejudice the ability of Ministers and officials to conduct rigorous and candid risk assessments of their policies and programmes including considerations of the pros and cons without there being premature disclosure which might close off better options. In our view, the balance of public interest therefore lies in withholding the information you have requested.

We can confirm that we do not hold the information requested under (c).

We have asked for a review of this decision

We need to be able to see what communication is happening around these community benefits because it is currently being handled in such an obviously incompetent way. The results of disclosure might well be embarrassing but that is surely no reason to refuse the request.

Defend Lytham reaction to Mr Cameron’s support for Fracking on Radio Wave

You can hear John’s short interview with Radio Wave by clicking here

David Cameron’s Support for Shale Gas

This week the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has expressed his support for shale gas saying “Fracking has become a national debate in Britain – and it’s one that I’m determined to win” (1)

In his article he twice tells us that he expects fracking to reduce energy prices, that it will give us 51 years worth of gas supply and that it might create 74,000 jobs. He reassures those of us in the “desolate” and “unloved” regions North of his Oxfordshire constituency that “We are all in this together” and that he wants “all parts of our nation to share in the benefits: north or south, Conservative or Labour”. He tells us that local people must have say in planning decisions about fracking, and tells us we shouldn’t be worried about the environmental impact”. Finally he tells us “we cannot afford to miss out on fracking.”

Defend Lytham would question many of the assertions made by the Prime Minister in his article.

Firstly the suggestion that shale gas will mean any sort of reduction in gas prices has been debunked, not only by bodies like Deustsche Bank, The Committee on Climate Change and Bloomberg Finance, but by Cuadrilla themselves. It seem that the only people who keep perpetuating this myth are those in our government who are trying to make a political case for fracking. Defend Lytham believes that this suggestion is unhelpful in furthering the debate on fracking.

Secondly he suggests that fracking will give us 51 years worth of energy if 10% of the hypothetical reserves could be commercially extracted. This figure is a fine example of the selective use of data. 10% of the BGS estimate is 130 trillion cubic feet (tcf). Average annual gas demand since 2000 has been 3.6 tcf (2). Even allowing the optimistic 10% of the estimated gas in place that would only amount to 36 years. Professor Peter Styles, professor of applied and environmental geophysics at Keele University, who has studied the issue suggests that increased supply would also increase demand and that we should not expect more that 25 years use from 130 tcf (3). To exaggerate the potential by using the lowest figure in the previous 12 years, as Mr Cameron does here, is highly misleading. Defend Lytham believes that a proper assessment of fracking’s potential is necessary if people are to make informed choices.

Thirdly he tells us we can expect around 74,000 jobs. This figure cannot be justified. It comes from a report by the Institute of Directors that ignores huge variations in cost structures between countries and makes hugely over-simplistic comparisons as a result. The report’s author refuses to comment on criticisms of his methodology. Defend Lytham believe that an honest assessment of any potential employment gains and losses which might result from fracking is essential to public understanding of this issue. This figure is definitely not the result of such an honest assessment.

Turning to Mr Cameron’s exhortation that “I want all parts of our nation to share in the benefits: north or south, Conservative or Labour. We are all in this together. ” Defend Lytham was surprised to read in the Daily Mail that, after saying this, Mr Cameron avoided answering the question of whether he would welcome fracking in his own constituency no less than 10 times (4). It seems that there is no sacrifice so great that the Prime Minister won’t talk about it.

Defend Lytham cannot understand how Mr Cameron is able to state that local people will not be “cut out and ignored” as this is precisely the impact that the Government’s new planning guidelines will have, by effectively reducing Lancashire County Council’s role to rubber stamping planning applications.

Mr Cameron’s reassurances regarding environmental impact fail to convince. Ignoring the fact that he doesn’t seem to know the difference between a cricket pitch and a cricket field, he claims that “similar types of drilling have been taking place for decades in this country without any real protest”. As a claim that is as disingenuous as the claim made by Cuadrilla last year that their well at Elswick is representative of future fracking developments. That claim was censured by the Advertising Standards Authority for being misleading and an exaggeration.

Defend Lytham would remind Mr Cameron and the public that shale gas and fracking is such challenging engineering that 50% wells here have failed and that leading academics are calling for more research to be carried out before further experiments are undertaken. It is simply not sensible to be using the UK population as guinea pigs.

Finally he tells us “we cannot afford to miss out on fracking”.

Defend Lytham believes that Mr Cameron has failed to make an adequate or convincing case to support that statement.

1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10236664/We-cannot-afford-to-miss-out-on-shale-gas.html
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/224643/gas_since_1882_historical_data.xls
3. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jun/27/britain-shale-gas-deposits-supply-25-years
4. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2390937/Would-David-Cameron-welcome-fracking-constituency.html

Frack Free Lancashire

Fracking In the UK

Fracking The UK

If you want to learn about fracking this book comes highly recommended!

"Untrustworthy, unbalanced and potentially brain washing." - Amazon Review - Yes the industry hates this book that much :-)