BY RUTH HAYHURST ON JANUARY 17, 2018
Council planners in Lancashire have said Cuadrilla’s revised traffic scheme for the proposed Roseacre Wood fracking site is still unacceptable.
In a report published today, they recommended that the county council continued to object to the application.
Lancashire refused planning permission in 2015 for drilling, fracking and testing up to four wells at Roseacre Wood. Cuadrilla appealed and the planning inspector at a public inquiry in 2016 recommended refusal on highway safety grounds.
Despite this, the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, said he was minded to allow the appeal and reopened the public inquiry to give Cuadrilla another opportunity to provide evidence on highway safety.
DrillOrDrop reported in November on Cuadrilla’s revised traffic management plans They are to be examined at the reopened inquiry in April 2018. The new plans include:
Two new routes for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), in addition to the original oneThe use of traffic lights to control HGV use of Dagger Road on the original blue routeA daily schedule of HGVs arriving and departing from the siteRestriction of HGV movements to weekdaysConvoys of up to 30 HGVs to enter and leave the site on nine occasions outside daytime working hours27 new passing placesThe proposals will be discussed by members of the council’s development control committee next week (25 January 2018).
Today’s report concluded that Cuadrilla’s new proposals were an improvement on the original plication. But the author, planning officer Jonathan Haine, said some of the previous problems remained and the new proposals had raised additional concerns. He said:
“It remains the fact that the Roseacre Wood site can only be reached by using a number of unclassified roads that are unsuitable in a number of respects to accommodate large numbers of HGV movements and that require specific mitigation measures to be employed to limit impacts to acceptable levels.
“It is considered that there are a number of factors that would limit the effectiveness of the mitigation measures without which the highway impacts would continue to be unacceptable.
“It is therefore considered that a number of highway impacts remain and which would not be satisfactorily addressed by the proposed mitigation measures.”
Members of the committee are recommended to:
“instruct officers to present evidence to the re-opened public inquiry which maintains the County Council’s objection to the development”.
“Severe impact” from increased traffic
According to the report, Lancashire’s highways department described as “severe” the impact of the increase in traffic to Roseacre Wood, particularly HGVs. The department said:
“There would be a material impact on existing road users, particularly vulnerable road users and overall highway safety of which the potential is considered to be severe and therefore the revised proposals cannot be supported.”
Mr Haine reported that there were objections from parish councils at: Treales, Roseacre and Wharles; Inskip with Sowerby; Elswick; and Grenhalgh with Thistleton. Kirkham Town Council also objected. Fylde Borough Council is due to consider the traffic measures on 18 January 2018
Under the revised proposals, Cuadrilla has three routes to Roseacre Wood. But Mr Haine said it would not be possible for a planning condition to require all three routes to be used simultaneously.
“Therefore any planning assessment must be based upon the worst case scenario where only one route is being used by the maximum of 50 vehicles [per day] over the duration of the project.”
He said issues with the original route, known as the Blue Route using Dagger Road, remained. Cuadrilla proposed to using traffic lights to control HGVs on the narrow sections of Dagger Road. But Mr Haine said:
“There is no information on how the traffic lights would be powered. It is unlikely that there is an electricity supply within the highway that can be used and therefore any lights would have to be powered by onsite generators therefore raising issues about the reliability of the lights and resistance to vandalism.”
One of the new routes, known as the Green Route, uses Roseacre Road. The Roseacre Wood site would result in 94% increase in traffic on this road, a narrow rural lane, with many sharp bends, restricted visibility, a large number of homes and street parking.
Mr Haine said:
“Use of this route by up to 50 HGV movements per day therefore raises issues about the suitability of the road to accommodate this level of HGV traffic and associated impacts on highway safety and residential amenity.”
Cuadrilla’s decision to limit HGV deliveries to weekdays would address conflicts with recreation users at the weekend, the report said. But it added: “the inevitable consequence will be more HGV movements on Monday to Fridays if the project is still to be completed within the proposed timescale of six years.”
The report said the Roseacre Wood site, if approved, could be subjected to similar levels of protest that have been seen at Cuadrilla’s other fracking site at Preston New Road. This would result in significant periods when traffic would be unable to access the site. More deliveries would then be needed on subsequent days to keep the development on track.
“There may be a greater number of days when traffic levels approach the maximum level of 50 per day. Higher volumes of HGV traffic gives the potential for greater conflict with other HGVs and vulnerable road users and also greater levels of noise and other general amenity impacts.”
Other issues: Convoys
Mr Haine said Cuadrilla’s proposed overnight convoys, while allowed at Preston New Road, would have significantly greater impact on villages on the route to Roseacre Wood.
“The relationship of the properties to the access routes in these villages together with the quieter ambient noise levels during the night would mean that such amenity impacts would be unacceptable.”
Cuadrilla’s plans depend on HGVs being able to pass other vehicles using passing places to be constructed on highway land.
Mr Haine said the roads were not urban clearways and no parking restrictions could be imposed. This meant that people, including protesters, could park on narrow sections of road, particularly Roseacre Road and Dagger Lane, making it very difficult for HGVs to pass.
Cuadrilla could control HGVs leaving the site so that its vehicle did not meet on the same sections of road. But it would not be able to control over HGVs, including farm vehicles.
If the passing places were not available for reasons including protests, Mr Haine said:
“There must be doubt as to the acceptability of HGV traffic using the proposed highways.”
The report also said a survey by Cuadrilla had found there were significant numbers of cyclists on all three proposed routes, even on weekdays.
“It can be expected that there would be an impact on this particular user group which could not be fully mitigated.”
Fylde Borough Council planning committee meets tomorrow (18 January 2018) at 2pm at the Community Centre, Mill Street, Kirkham PR4 2AN. Lancashire County Council development control committee meets on 24 January 2018 at 10am at Committee Room ‘B’ – The Diamond Jubilee Room, County Hall, Preston. The re-opened public inquiry is due to start on Tuesday 10 April at 10am at Blackpool Football Club, Bloomfield Road, Seasiders Way, Blackpool FY1 6JJ. The inquiry is expected to last eight days and will sit on Tuesday-Fridays.