Lancashire County Council delays fracking planning decision

A decision on planning permission for two exploratory fracking sites in Lancashire will be deferred for up to around two months to allow consultation on further evidence submitted by developer Cuadrilla Resources.

Preese Hall near Blackpool where drilling caused seismic activity

The Lancashire County Council Development Control Committee reluctantly deferred the planning application decision after their chief legal advisor Ian Young warned that not allowing an adequate consultation period to consider the new information would be unlawful under Regulation 22 of the Town and Country Planning Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 2011. 

New proposals have been received on noise mitigation for the first site at Preston New Road, and proposals on noise mitigation and traffic measures were received for the second site at Roseacre Wood. The information directly relates to issues raised by planners last week who recommended that planning permission was refused at both sites.

"The applicant's request for deferral and their submissions in support of the request have been considered carefully by officers in particular the legal basis of the request. Having done so and with the benefit of advice from leading counsel my unequivocal advice to the comitttee is that the proposals now submitted by the applicant in respect to both noise and traffic must be regarded as substantive information. It therefore follows that the proposals must be advertised and consulted on by the council," said Young. "In this circumstance it is my advice to the committee that the determination of both applications must be deferred. Not to do so would in my view mean that the council would be acting unlawfully."

This would then give the applicant grounds to challenge the refusal to defer and that this would ultimately be successful, cause more delay and have significant financial consequences for the council, he said.

Councillors at the planning meeting were visibly disappointed at the outcome but said that they were "duty bound" to follow legal advice. "I for one will have to vote for deferment but I do so with a heavy heart on the basis that if I did not it would be considered unlawful and I cannot put this authority in that situation," said councillor Paul Heyhurst of the Fylde West division.

Last week council planners advised the Development Control Committee to refuse planning permission. They raised concerns over night time noise at both sites and fears over traffic issues at Roseacre Wood. Cuadrilla said that its new evidence mitigated these concerns  by including additional noise mitigation measures of a further sound barrier around the major parts of the drilling rig along with other measures such as additional shielding around individual components of the drilling rig.

In a statement Cuadrilla said it remained committed to developing shale gas and that there would now be the opportunity for the public to review and comment on the additional measures.

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