In an important appeal decision issued on 12th February 2019 which deals another blow to the beleaguered fracking company Cuadrilla and the nascent shale gas industry in this country Communities Secretary James Brokenshire refused consent for exploratory works at Roseacre Wood on the Fylde. Alan Evans successfully represented Lancashire County Council in the appeal.
The Council had first refused permission for the proposal in June 2015 on highway safety grounds. There was an original inquiry (at which Alan also represented the Council) in 2016 following which the inspector recommended refusal of the appeal on the same grounds but the then Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, issued a “minded to approve” decision letter on 6th October 2016 subject to the inquiry being re-opened so that it could be considered further whether the highway safety issues might be satisfactorily overcome. After the second inquiry in April 2018, the inspector found that Cuadrilla’s much revised strategy to mitigate the effects of the development traffic on the local minor road network was not sufficient to remove the serious highway safety concerns and that an unacceptable impact would remain. The Secretary of State agreed and dismissed the appeal accordingly.
The case shows both that the great weight that the Government continues to attach to the need for shale gas exploration may be trumped by routine planning considerations and that it is far from certain that an initial “minded to approve” decision will necessarily result in a favourable outcome for an appellant. The decision letter and inspector’s report are required reading for all those involved with fracking. Copies may be found here.
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