Countryside ‘not right place for fracking bid’

Fracking: Fylde Council has agreed to object to two applications to drill shale gas in the area
Fracking: Fylde Council has agreed to object to two applications to drill shale gas in the area

The Fylde countryside is not the right place for an industrial process.

That was the message as councillors met to consider six planning applications related to shale gas production.

Fylde Council’s development management committee voted to object to fracking for shale gas at two sites in the borough at Plumpton Hall Farm, Preston New Road, Westby, and at Roseacre Hall Farm, near Treales.

But they agreed not to object to monitoring operations at Grange Road at Singleton and at Plumpton Hall Farm.

Lancashire County Council will make the final decision, but the views of Fylde Council will be considered as part of the consultation process.

Parents, pensioners and landowners were among 45 members of the public who addressed the committee during yesterday’s hearing at Lowther Pavilion, Lytham.

Concerns over loss of agricultural land, damage to tourism, threats to health, additional traffic and risks to wildlife were all raised by speakers.

But representatives of applicant Cuadrilla said the economic benefits of fracking outweighed concerns.

Graham Daniels, of Carr Bridge Park which is made up of 169 park homes close to the Preston New lookRoad site, said: “I moved here eight years ago after retiring to an area whose attractions are its peace and tranquility.

“The noise from this will destroy the environment. The overwhelming majority of residents do not want this development.”

Patricia Davies, chairman of the Preston New Road Action Group, of Foxwood Close, said people lived less than a kilometre from the proposed site and warned their lives would be disrupted.

In a statement read out on her behalf, she said: “All these homes and properties would be adversely affected by fracking. In Australia, these sites are not allowed within two kilometres of family homes, that’s for a reason of safety. “

Father-of-three Peter Watson, of Staining Wood Farm, Westby, said: “Central government has seen the need for additional energy and has made a speedy decision to fast track fracking.”

The committee agreed it should object to the drilling process on the grounds it was contrary to planning policies designed to protect the countryside. These included noise disruption in relation to the Preston New Road site and traffic issues at the Roseacre site.

But there were mixed views on whether to support applications for monitoring operations.

Coun Heather Speak said: “My concern is, if we are not going to object, we are giving Lancashire County Council the wrong message. We don’t want fracking full stop.”

Earlier she told the committee: “People are scared and that is quite evident today.”

However the committee voted not to oppose monitoring operations.

Gillian Cookson, of Treales and Wharles Parish Council, spoke out against drilling on the Roseacre site.

She said: “This will have a gross impact on the character of the Fylde countryside. This is an industrial process in the countryside.”

But Mark Smith of engineering consultants Arup, representing the applicant Cuadrilla at the hearing, said the economic benefits of the proposals outweighed any environmental impact.

He said: “We also believe our proposals fully accord with national policy. The benefits in our view clearly outweigh the environmental impact.”

The applications for monitoring at Roseacre and for an extension of the time limit for the restoration of the Preese Hall site at Weston to April 30 2015 were adjourned after the committee ran out of time.