Secretary of State dismisses Cuadrilla fracking proposals at Roseacre Wood over highways safety concerns
The Secretary of State has dismissed Cuadrilla’s appeal in respect of a proposed shale gas exploration (fracking) site and the associated monitoring works at Roseacre Wood.
In 2016, Cuadrilla had promoted one route to access the site. Following an inquiry, Inspector Wendy McKay recommended refusal of the scheme on highways safety grounds. The Secretary of State recognised the highways safety concerns identified by the Inspector but gave Cuadrilla an opportunity to demonstrate that these concerns could be overcome.
The Secretary of State took this step because he was of the view that the Appellant had failed to provide adequate evidence that they had properly considered and addressed the safety issues and failed to demonstrate that the proposed mitigation was workable in practice.
The inquiry was therefore reopened and sat for several weeks in April 2018.
The reopened inquiry
The focus of this reopened inquiry was the highways implications of the scheme. This time Cuadrilla promoted three routes to access the site. The Inspector, this time Melvyn Middleton, and in turn the Secretary of State, concluded that the highways safety issues had not been satisfactorily addressed.
At the reopened inquiry, Ben Du Feu who was instructed by Harry Campbell of Harrison Grant Solicitors acted for Roseacre Awareness Group (RAG), a group of local residents opposed to the scheme.
The Inspector and the Secretary of State recognised the concerns raised by RAG that the survey data provided by Cuadrilla did not cover critical parts of the routes relied upon and found this to be a serious weakness in the Appellant’s case. [DL104]
The Inspector and Secretary of State found that there would be a significant increase in the volume and type of Heavy Goods Vehicles using the affected routes (which are presently mostly quiet rural lanes) and that there would be a substantial increase in the number of articulated lorries (OGV2) using the routes. [DL105]
The Inspector and Secretary of State also rejected several of the mitigation measures offered by Cuadrilla including a Route App; the use of a driver education programme; and a capped sum of £100,000 to improve the roads as inadequate. [DL106]
Cuadrilla had proposed numerous passing places along the three routes, however, the Inspector and the Secretary of State found that many of these were inadequate and failed to conform to guidance previously given by the Secretary of State. This was again a fundamental weakness in the Appellant’s case. [DL107]
Following a detailed analysis of each of the three routes (Blue, Green and Red) the Secretary of State endorsed the Inspector’s findings that in the absence of satisfactory mitigation measures, the proposed development would have a serious and very significant adverse impact on the safety of people using the public highway. [DL116; DL119; DL121]
As the risks identified were found to cause demonstrable harm and had not been eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level, the development was therefore not in accordance with the development plan policy JLMW policy DM2, or the development plan taken as a whole.
The Secretary of State also found that as there would be an unacceptable impact on highways safety, the proposal would be contrary to paragraphs 108 and 109 of the revised NPPF and would not represent sustainable development. [DL123 and DL129]
The Secretary of State was not persuaded that there were any material considerations which indicated that the proposal should be determined other than in accordance with the development plan and therefore dismissed the appeal and refused planning permission. [DL137]
This decision will be of interest to all people involved with the fracking industry and other projects producing high volumes of traffic. It demonstrates that the issues likely to be persuasive in opposing such schemes are not the merits of the industry itself, but the impacts of the individual project on the local community it affects.
You can read the decision here.
Ben Du Feu acted for RAG instructed by Harry Campbell of Harrison Grant Solicitors.