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Fracking hearing told decision not about “rights or wrongs”

Fracking news
Caudrilla's plans sparked a country-wide fracking debate

Cuadrilla has told a hearing a decision to refuse fracking was not about the “rights or wrongs” of shale gas extraction.

A five-week hearing has begun in Blackpool after the energy company decided to appeal a refusal to frack in a number of licences.

Representing the company, Nathalie Lieven QC, told the inquiry that the appeals over the two sites concerned applications relating to the exploration of onshore natural gas through hydraulic fracking of shale rock or related monitoring works.

She said: “Self-evidently that process is controversial. However, this is not an inquiry into the rights or wrongs of shale gas extraction and how it relates to the UK’s climate change obligations.

“This is a planning inquiry,” she said, warning it must be considered in the context of national planning policy.

She pointed to a ministerial statement setting out the Government’s view that developing gas was a “key requirement” in the move towards a low-carbon economy and there was a clear need to seize the opportunity to explore and test UK shale potential.

The planning application at Little Plumpton was turned down last year by Lancashire County Council on the grounds of unacceptable impact on the landscape, visual amenities and noise, while the site at Roseacre was refused over traffic concerns.

But Ms Lieven said objectors to the schemes had failed to acknowledge or properly take into account the temporary nature of the impacts.

She said night-time noise would be of short duration and would affect just a handful of homes, while mitigation measures would be put in.

And with the monitoring units for the site mainly underground and the drilling rigs only in place for a few days, “the idea that will cause industrialisation of the countryside is far-fetched”.

At Roseacre, she said the traffic would be a maximum of 50 HGV movements a day for 12 weeks, and that the risks of meeting a lorry on a country road were not different to what they were anywhere in the countryside.

“Ultimately these are proposed developments where the Government has stated that there is a national need, and where the planning impacts are very limited,” she said, adding the planning balance was clear that the appeals should be granted.

Alan Evans, representing Lancashire County County, said that the local authority had turned the planning application at Little Plumpton down against the advice of planning officials, which he suggested was “local democracy in action”.

His remark prompted applause from people listening to the inquiry, who were told to be quiet before he went on to say that the council was relying on professional evidence for its case.

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