March date for legal challenges to ministerial ruling on Cuadrilla fracking site

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Legal challenges to a ministerial ruling giving the go ahead to Cuadrilla’s fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire will be heard next month (March).

An order issued today by the High Court has listed the case for three days, starting on 15 March 2017. The court had previously agreed to hear the case in Manchester.

The two challenges have been brought against the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, by Preston New Road Action Group and Gayzer Frackman.

On 6 October 2016, Mr Javid announced he was granting planning permission to Cuadrilla for drilling, fracking and testing up to four shale gas wells at the Preston New Road site. His decision overruled the refusal of planning permission by Lancashire County Council in June 2015. But Mr Javid followed the recommendation of the planning inspector at a public inquiry earlier in 2016.

Today’s order by Mr Justice Dove said the challenges would be dealt with as a rolled-up hearing. This means the judge will decide on whether the challenge should go ahead and the substance of the case at the same hearing.

He confirmed that the challenge by Mr Frackman would be dealt with under the Aarhus Convention. This means his costs, if his challenge failed, would be capped at £5,000.

Roseacre Wood
The order also referred to a third case: a challenge by a Roseacre resident to Mr Javid’s decision to reopen the public inquiry on Cuadrilla’s other site at Roseacre Wood. The planning inspector had recommended refusal of this scheme on highway safety grounds. But Mr Javid said Cuadrilla should be given another chance to present evidence on traffic issues.

Mr Justice Dove said he was minded to list this case immediately after the completion of the Preston New Road challenges.

“There is a clear interest in making the best use of court resources and taking the opportunity given the commonality of most counsel in the case to have the heard case heard at that time.”

He said he would make a decision on the listing of this case after receiving submissions by the afternoon of Thursday 23 February 2017.

Preston New Road comment
A spokesperson for Preston New Road Action Group said:

“We are pleased to confirm that Preston New Road Action Group now has a court date of 15th March, for our case against the Secretary of State.

“The stance by Sajid Javid to overturn Lancashire County Council’s decision to refuse Cuadrilla is not democracy in action: it is a top-down abuse of power to facilitate a powerful corporation over a community’s wishes.

“We believe it is fundamentally wrong that the Secretary of State, who is not local, does not represent us nor has been present during any of planning inquiries or hearings for the last three years, has intervened in favour of Cuadrilla.

“Over 100,000 people wrote letters of objection to this fracking application. Our parish council, Fylde Borough Council and Lancashire County Council rejected this application. They had a duty of care to local residents and they fulfilled that duty. They carefully determined that the risks of this industry far outweighed any benefits. Lancashire very loudly, said no.

“The scientific evidence and testimonies presented by our community and expert witnesses clearly demonstrated harm from noise, risk to the environment and our health, with unmitigable waste management issues. Cuadrilla failed to answer adequately on any of these topics. There is no way they can safely reduce the harm or indeed the dismantling of our basic right to breathe clean air and enjoy the peaceful environment of their homes.

“300 elderly residents aged 60-90 will be within 1000 metres of this site, some within a few hundred metres proximity. It will operate noisily in a rural area seven days a week, 24 hours a day and pump out methane gas into our environment for 90 days at a time.

“We find this decision entirely unacceptable, fundamentally flawed and we seek to demonstrate this within a court setting.”

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