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LCC planners recommend refusal for Cuadrilla Permits

Today planning officers at Lancashire County Council published their long awaited recommendations on Cuadrilla’s applications to extract shale gas at their proposed sites at Roseacre and Preston New Road, Little Plumpton.

The planners cited unacceptable noise and traffic impacts as the reasons for their recommendations

Edward Cook from Defend Lytham commented: “We are delighted that the council’s officers have seen sense and recommended these developments for refusal, although we are more than a little surprised that the other serious concerns expressed by the more than 27,000 people who wrote in to object, appear to have been dismissed.

These concerns are around impacts on air quality, archaeology and cultural heritage, greenhouse gas emissions, community and socio economics, ecology, hydrogeology and ground gas, induced seismicity and subsidence, land use, landscape and visual amenity, lighting, resources and waste, water resources ad public health.

Defend Lytham welcome this decision and trust that political pressure from central government will not be brought to bear on LCC councillors to vote against the recommendations of their own officers next week”

Defend Lytham Respond to Fracking Survey

Defend Lytham read with interest the findings of the new “Britain Thinks Survey” from Cuadrilla. Two things stand out from it.

Firstly the huge discrepancy between these reported survey results and national polls by YouGov, executed at about the same time, which show clearly that local people are very wary of fracking their local area. YouGov suggest that 46% oppose fracking their own area whilst only 25% support it.

Secondly the supposed benefits that most local people identify are jobs and cheaper energy.

It is ironic that these survey results were issued the day after job estimates for the entire UK industry were slashed by more than two thirds in a study by AMEC for the DECC(2). Direct and indirect job estimates for the entire UK industry, based on a report from the Institute of Directors in June (74,000), were slashed by more than two thirds in a study by AMEC for the DECC (15,900- 24,300). The AMEC study also shows that any employment is likely to last only 4-9 years and that so far local people have only been given 17% of any jobs.

We already know that Cuadrilla have admitted that fracking won’t bring cheaper energy.

What these survey results show is the a lot of local people are going to be very disappointed if shale gas extraction is allowed in the Fylde, because research shows that the benefits they expect are extremely unlikely to materialise.

Defend Lytham Media Reaction to the Annas Road Abandonment

Here are links to our radio interviews with Radio Wave and Radio Lancashire today

Radio Wave carried a short interview this morning – listen by clicking here

Radio Lancashire had a headline item featuring Mr Egan and his Pink Footed Geese and Whooper Swans (or should they be “whopper” swans?) – listen by clicking here

Radio Lancashire carried a longer piece with an interview with John Hobson of Defend Lytham in the main News section of the Drive Time programme clicking here

It is interesting to note that when asked by Judy Hobson during this interview “have there been conditions like this put on any of your other sites” Mr Egan responds with an unequivocal “No”

However, when Cuadrilla were in court in 2012 and the question of their having worked for 3 months beyond their existing planning permission was raised, we learned from Stuart Perigo Head, of Planning from Lancashire County Council, that “by drilling in winter they had failed to meet a key condition to safeguard bird life from the adjacent Ribble Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest. The defence argued that this may have resulted in a breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

It’s never easy to know how much we can expect Mr Egan to remember when he is interviewed, but we do like to remind him after the event of the things that slip his mind.

The Blackpool Gazette brings fracking to the fore

On Thursday 3rd October we read an editorial in the Blackpool Gazette which summed up a lot of how we believe local people feel about fracking. It was a reaction to the premature and arrogant statement by Prime Minister, David Cameron, that he wanted Blackpool to become the European capital of fracking.

We are reproducing it here because we feel it is well worth a read.

You can see it and the accompanying article here


Is arrogance behind our Frackpool rebranding?

So Blackpool is set to become the European capital of the shale gas industry is it?

Funny, I don’t ever remember the Prime Minister asking us residents before he decided to erect a new sign post at the end of the M55.

It appears David Cameron has got so far ahead of himself in his love affair with fracking that he is now declaring open season on rural Fylde’s rich shale gas potential.

“With its resources under the ground, let us make Blackpool the centre of Europe for the shale gas industry,” he told yesterday’s Tory Party conference.

Excuse me Prime Minister, who exactly are the “us” you talk of when rebranding the Fylde as New Aberdeen.

Maybe he was playing to the Manchester conference crowd, given the less than flattering remarks by one Tory peer who recently described life up here as the “desolate north”.

Or perhaps he genuinely believes the residents of South Fylde are as excited by shale gas as he is.

Sadly, as usual, when the highly contentious issue of shale gas and fracking is condensed into a soundbite nobody mentions the key issues residents here are asking, and none more so than that of regulation.

Over recent months we have heard all the rhetoric of “gold standard” regulation, but nobody in government is actually coming forward to explain exactly what that is.

There is little doubt some see shale gas as a key part of this country’s future energy make-up.

There are plenty who say it is safe, others armed with studies from around the world who vehemently argue against it.

The truth is that the jury on the reported risks versus the potential cash benefits is still well and truly out.

But what David Cameron has done in his speech yesterday is do nothing but raise the fears of those who feel they have not been given enough information or answers on either the scale of the industrialisation or how it will be policed, if indeed it is even given the go ahead.

At present shale gas firm Cuadrilla does not have permission to frack at any of its Fylde coast sites.

That has to be approved by Lancashire County Council.

It appears – given yesterday’s rebranding of Blackpool as the “European centre of shale” – this crucial local approval is seen as nothing more than a box ticking exercise by those in Westminster – even before we get to read a single Environmental Impact Assessment.

Given local councils are increasingly losing the power to decline rural housing developments, what chance of turning down a gas boom?

Wherever you stand on the issue, the people of the Fylde coast deserve better than such arrogance – we certainly deserve better than being used as a cheap conference one liner which could have major and lasting implications.

Nice to see some balanced reporting

In today’s Lytham St Annes Express our letter commenting on Councillor Armit’s letter was published – slightly edited down, but it had been a detailed response.

Immediately after it (in the interests of balance we imagine) was a letter from our old friend David Haythornthwaite.

It was quite bizarre to read his comments as David, as many of you will know, was once the vice-chairman of Defend Lytham!

Now it seems David has done all the Defending he thinks is necessary and is pushing fracking with every letter he writes to the local press. (And he has written several).

It’s ironic that not very long ago he was using the threat of letting the site at Greenlands Farm be used for fracking (or David’s other bête noire – “social housing” ) as a means of getting approval for his football ground!

Greenlands farm

Greenlands farm

But that’s in the past, and as we can see, things and people change.

Now David is hoping we all get behind “the project” so we don’t miss this “golden opportunity”.

It does seem peculiar that somebody can spend two years complaining about the impact of a housing development on the town and then ignore the incalculably greater negative impact that fracking will have.

It’s like complaining about a wasp’s nest and ignoring the articulated lorry which is about to run you over from behind.

We do hope he wakes up before it’s too late!


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)

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

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

Government Releases New Planning Guidelines

The government released yesterday details of the new planning guidelines for onshore oil and gas.

Defend Lytham is particularly concerned that the release of this document was delayed until the day after Parliament went into its Summer recess, allowing MPs no opportunity to discuss or comment on its content.

The new guidelines constitute a serious assault on the County Council’s right (in its capacity as the Mineral Planning Authority) to judge shale gas applications properly and in the interests of local residents and businesses.

Effectively these guidelines remove the authorities’ right to make decisions independent of central government policy on energy and on the environment.
Councils will no longer be able to take into account seismic activity, flaring, venting, water resources including aquifers, treatment and disposal of waste including radioactive materials, air emissions, safety and well integrity. Decision-making on these issues must be left to the government agencies, primarily DECC, EA and HSE.

Defend Lytham spokesman John Hobson commented:

“In the absence of any specific regulations for unconventional onshore exploration and production, with the regulatory bodies having little experience and no funding to make them capable of implementing and monitoring regulation, never mind giving detail consideration to planning applications, this is a recipe for disaster.”

For a more detailed analysis of the new guidelines please visit http://www.defendlytham.com/fracking/defend-lytham-response-to-government-fracking-guidelines/

Busy media day

We’ve been busy today talking to Radio Lancashire, BBC North West tonight and Radio Wave about the unnecessary tax breaks for fracking and the report that UK Water have validated our concerns about water usage and possible contamination.

You can hear a news segment from Radio Lancashire here:

Radio Lancashire

and a news segment from Radio Wave here:

Radio Wave

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 :-)