Fracking 'would ruin tranquil fields', inquiry hears

Protesters and supporters of fracking gather outside the appeal hearing in Blackpool
Image caption Both anti- and pro-fracking campaigners have gathered outside the hearing in Blackpool

Shale gas extraction would turn "tranquil fields"' into "industrial installations", anti-fracking campaigners have told a hearing.

Energy firm Cuadrilla is appealing against Lancashire County Council's decision to refuse permission to extract shale gas at sites in Roseacre Wood and Little Plumpton.

The Roseacre Awareness Group (RAG) was making its final speech at the inquiry.

Cuadrilla is due to make its closing statement later.

RAG spokesperson Elizabeth Warner said the group, which represents some residents from Rosacre Wood, was concerned about increased traffic, the effect on the landscape and damage to health and well being.


Local roads were not designed to cope with 44 tonne lorries, she said.

"Tranquil fields" would be turned into a "lit industrial installation," she warned.

Cuadrilla Chief Executive Francis Egan said the council had gone against the advice of its own planning officials over the Preston New Road application and had ignored its own legal advice.

He said because of this, the company would apply for costs if it won the appeal on the grounds the council was unreasonable.

Mr Egan added: "I think it is perfectly reasonable that there should be consequences for the council's decision."

Fracking - or hydraulic fracturing - was suspended in the UK in 2011 following earth tremors in Blackpool, where Cuadrilla previously drilled.

Lancashire County Council rejected both of Cuadrilla's planning applications last year on the grounds of noise and traffic impact.

The energy firm disputed those reasons at the appeal hearing and said night-time noise would be short and affect only a handful of homes.

At Roseacre, the traffic would be a maximum of 50 HGV movements a day for 12 weeks, Nathalie Lieven QC, representing Cuadrilla, told the public inquiry.

Image caption The two sites are situated between Blackpool and Preston

Analysis: Judy Hobson, Environment Correspondent, BBC North West Tonight.

The fracking inquiry is drawing to a close but a final decision is still weeks away.

Planning Inspector Wendy MacKay has listened to five weeks of speeches and arguments, sometimes emotional and passionate. Whatever her recommendation, Communities Secretary Greg Clark has the final say.

Residents against fracking are furious the Government will make the final decision. They feel local views will be ignored and fear it will rubber stamp the applications.

The outcome is supposed to be based on issues like road access, noise and light pollution. Some think this might favour Cuadrilla because the council's own planning officers' view of the Preston New Road plan, but nothing is certain.

It is thought a decision could be made in the summer, with Lancashire becoming the first area in the UK to have large scale test fracking, but if Greg Clark denies permission, it's hard to see where future applications would succeed.

The Little Plumpton bid had initially been recommended for approval, subject to working hours, noise control and highway matters.

Following the end of the hearing the planning inspector Wendy McKay will make her recommendations to the government.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark will make the final decision because the proposals are "of more than local significance," the government said.

Demonstrations from both pro- and anti-fracking campaigners have taken place outside the appeal hearing at Blackpool Football Club which began last month.

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