Shale catastrophe: For Friends of the Earth

nimbyThe rejection of Cuadrilla’s planning application for two sites in Lancashire is a catastrophic day – for Friends of the Earth.

For this update I’m going to depend on Ruth Hayhurst’s blog Drill or Drop. Ruth is certainly sympathetic to the anti cause,but she’s also extremely professional and fair. She’s a journalist of the old school (she even still uses shorthand!).

 In the interests of recycling, most of the work in this post comes from her reading of it. I would have dug it up sooner, but why duplicate the effort? I also hope that it coming from Ruth should make it more valid to those in the green press too eager to gloss over the details.

The two sites were rejected for rather mundane reasons. That’s Cuadrilla’s bad luck, but they have very good reasons to appeal that their lawyers will get paid for, so I won’t duplicate that either. The catastrophe lied in a complete rejection of every single one of Friends of the Earth’s objections. Over to Ruth, my highlights:

What else the planners considered (in alphabetical order)

Air quality The report concluded that the proposed developments would generate some emissions to the atmosphere but, if regulated, this would not be unacceptable.

Architecture and cultural heritage The planners said there would be significant effects from both proposals and buy neurontin online recommended a survey when the sites were being prepared.

Community and local economy Both proposals could potentially effect local people and the economy, the report said. It identified negative impacts such as increased traffic, protests, impacts on tourism, as well as advantages including community benefit payments, job opportunities and increased income for landowners from leasing fields. The planners concluded there were no statistics to support either case but the impact on communities would not be significant.

Cumulative and combination effects The two applications would not have cumulative effects on air quality, heritage, hydrogeological, seismic, water resources noise, visual or general disturbance, the report concluded.

Greenhouse gases Both proposals would generate greenhouse gas emissions but the planners considered the level to be acceptable. Ghg emissions from Roseacre Wood would be 22,613 tonnes of carbon equivalent a year, or 3% of Fylde borough’s annual emissions. The Preston New Road site would generate a total of 118,418-124,367 tonnes of CO2e, 3% of Fylde borough’s annual emissions.

Health The report acknowledged there was limited data on the effects on fracking on health. It quoted Public Health England as saying there had been very few epidemiological studies (as opposed to statistical associations) and those that have been carried out generally lack robust exposure assessments. (See also the assessment by the Director of Public Health – our report)

Hydrogeology Provided the proposals were controlled by regulations, the report concluded there would be no unacceptable impacts on hydrology or surface water.

Landscape The planners considered there would be significant localised impacts on the landscape at both proposed sites. However they concluded: “Whilst the duration is over an extended period of time, it would still be temporary

Landuse The impact was regarded as not significant

Lighting The report said there would be light pollution at night but this could be controlled and the impacts would not be bad enough to justify refusing the applications.

Need for development The report concluded that both applications complied in principle with local policy that mineral operations would be supported.

Seismicity The report assumed that the proposed operations would meet government requirements

Waste The report concluded: “It is considered that the proposal could be acceptably controlled by other regulatory regimes and would not have any unacceptable impacts.

Water resources The proposed developments would not have a significant effect on surface water run-off, drainage or water supplies, the planners said.

Wildlife At both sites, the report found there would be no unacceptable impact if conditions were imposed and the company was required by legal agreement to carry out mitigation. At Roseacre Wood, the planners said Cuadrilla had not provided information on protected species that had been requested. The application for that site could not be granted until it measures to protect great crested newts had been provided. At Preston New Road the likely impacts included change in bat behaviour because of the heat from the flare and accidental injury or deaths to brown hares.

Hopefully we’ll see a change in behaviour from Friends of the Earth. It’s a disastrous day for them unless they want to appeal the planners rejection on grounds that it wasn’t on their grounds. FoE’ science has been shown lacking in every single objection. This will make it far more difficult for FoE to argue their case in other fracking applications. In short, instead of waiting for the appeal in Lancashire to run its course, other fracking applications can go ahead knowing that any objections will be nimby, not political or climate related. So although the conventional wisdom, and the first instinct from greens is to herald this “victory”, it is in fact a crushing defeat. Friends of the Earth has attempted to run a scaremongering pseudo scientific debate that they should be ashamed of.  Lancashire has called them out. So will every other planner in the UK.

As for noise and traffic let’s look at the exact details of the fate that a handful of people, and several newts and hares have now been saved from. Temporarily.   

Drilling would take place 24-hours a day at both sites for 14 months. The first phase would be for five months. Three other phases, each of three months, would follow. Fracking would last for two months and would be for two months for three hours a day. At both sites, the planners raised concerns about the difference between low background noise levels and the predicted noise if the sites operated.

On the Roseacre Wood proposals, the report found:

The proposed development in this location would lead to a significant increase in night time background noise levels and consequently it is likely that this would have significant adverse effects on the health and quality of life and lead to an unacceptable loss of residential amenity to those residents at Old Orchard Farm and potentially beyond.


Both applications predicted the maximum traffic generated by the developments would be 50 two-way HGV movements a day (100 journeys) for one week on eight occasions. The proposed site at Roseacre Wood is served by minor and unclassified roads. The application suggested creating five passing places to allow two HGV lorries to pass.

But the planners concluded that for Roseacre Wood:

The impact of the increase in traffic, particularly HGV movements would be severe and … would result in a material impact on existing road users, particularly vulnerable road users and overall highway safety of which the potential is considered severe. Consequently it is considered that the application cannot be supported. In these circumstances, it is considered that the development would give rise to unacceptable impacts on existing road users that would be contrary to Policy DM2 of the Lancashire Minerals and Waste Local Plan.

100 Journeys a day for a week on eight separate occasions. I would suggest that Cuadrilla buy the neighbours a nice six month cruise. They need to broaden their horizons. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace could go along and they could show them the environmental impacts on climate change in the Arctic and Amazon. 

If they get seasick, they could also be shown, a little closer to home, the impacts on premature mortality on the elderly in Lancashire thanks to high gas bills. Or how about the 13,000 premature deaths coal based air pollution cause in the UK each year? I won’t tell others how to think.Then of course there is another point to consider: The gas potentially under the area belongs to every single one of the 64 million people in the UK. Do they really want to stand in the way of their rights not to worry about CO2, affordability and energy security?

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