Lancashire

Preston New Road fracking protesters lose legal challenge

Protesters
Image caption Preston New Road Action Group brought the review claiming the decision was an "abuse of power"

Two High Court challenges against the government's decision to give fracking the go-ahead in Lancashire have failed.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid approved plans for shale gas extraction at Cuadrilla's Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton in October 2016.

The Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) said the decision was "flawed", while Gayzer Frackman claimed it did not consider climate change.

But Mr Justice Dove dismissed their judicial review actions.

The decision means that, for the first time in the UK, shale rock will be drilled into horizontally, a process which is expected to yield more gas.

The campaigners had urged the London High Court judge to find that the decision to grant a planning application for the site in Fylde was neither fair nor lawful.

At a hearing at Manchester Civil Justice Centre last month, the judge was told the planning application by developer Cuadrilla was refused by Lancashire County Council in 2015 but later granted following an appeal and a planning inquiry.

Image caption The Little Plumpton site at Preston New Road is situated between Blackpool and Preston

David Wolfe QC, on behalf of PNRAG, told the judge the group had been "wrong-footed" because a planning inspector's decision to approve the site was based on an argument made after their closing submissions at the inquiry, when the group's advocate was not present.

He said the inspector's decision that the site would not have a significant impact on the landscape because it was only granted permission for a temporary period was not lawful and breached the council's development plan.

Marc Willers QC, on behalf of Mr Frackman, said the site would lead to a "considerable quantity of greenhouse gas emissions" and the commercial gas produced at the fracking site would go directly to homes and industry.

He said: "There will be no assessment of these greenhouse gas emissions arising from the gas being pumped through the gas grid to homes and industry."

Mr Javid and Cuadrilla were represented at the hearing, but the court was told Lancashire County Council was not taking part.

Mr Justice Dove, giving his ruling on the PNRAG case, said none of the grounds argued "have been made out in substance".

Turning to Mr Frackman, he said one of the grounds was arguable, but added: "It is not made out in substance."

Pat Davies, chair of PNRAG, said the group reacted to the decision with "heartfelt disappointment" adding, "the Fylde Coast will become the guinea pig for this dirty industry and no longer be a safe or desirable place to live, work or retire to."

Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: "We respected the democratic right of those opposed to this consent to challenge the Secretary of State's decision.

"However, we always remained confident the planning consent would stand."

Lancashire County Council refused permission to extract shale gas at the site in 2015 on the grounds of noise and traffic impact, but Cuadrilla appealed to the secretary of state who subsequently ruled in their favour.

Cuadrilla started construction work at the site at Preston New Road in January and it has been the scene of continued protests by anti-fracking campaigners.

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