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Stop fracking and invest in green energy – please sign the petition

We need to develop renewable green energy and scrap fracking. A petition has been created suggesting just that. Please sign it – if 10,000 signatures are received the government will respond to this petition; at 100,000 signatures the petition will be considered for a debate in Parliament.

The petition states: Scrap Fracking UK Wide & Invest in Green Energy. We should be a country leading the way in renewable energy. Why would the government invest time & money into an energy alternative that can cause so much damage? Scrap it all together and focus on making the UK 100% energy sustainable. You can sign the petition here.

Petitions do make a difference. Please also consider the following:

Cuadrilla has appealed to overturn the Council’s decision. Friends of the Earth have an electronic petition which you can sign online, asking David Cameron to respect Lancashire’s decision. You can sign here.

David Cameron said communities would have a voice in whether fracking would happen near them. People in Lancashire, and now their representatives in the council have clearly rejected it and we need to tell the Government that this decision is final and it must not be decided by the Secretary of State. You can download and print a petition form here and get people to sign it.

Thank you.

 

As Cuadrilla appeals, Cameron overrides LCC on Halite and gas storage

Cuadrilla has announced that it is to appeal both of its refused planning applications at Roseacre Wood and Little Plumpton (Preston New Road). Responding to the announcement  Friends of the Earth’s North West campaigner Furqan Naeem said:

“Cuadrilla’s decision to appeal Lancashire’s Council’s resounding no to controversial fracking shows a blatant disregard for the views of local people and local democracy.

“Lancashire councillors and residents have rejected fracking and the Government’s recent report revealing potential negative impacts on everything from the health of residents, to house prices, to climate change shows they were right to do so.

“An appeal will put further pressure on residents who have been fighting to keep their community free from this filthy industry for four years now. Cuadrilla bullied their way into a second chance to make the case for fracking in January, they don’t need a third.

“David Cameron must stick to his commitment that fracking decisions belong with local councils and not allow Lancashire’s decisions to be overturned.”

Fears are that Cameron will overturn LCC’s decision in much the same way as the previous democratic decisions which stopped Halite using the salt caverns in Wyre to store gas have been reversed by the Government. Wyre Borough Council and LCC both turned down Halite’s application  yet Cameron has chosen to ride roughshod over residents in the North West. Will he do the same for Cuadrilla? There are a couple of petitions demanding that he respect the decisions taken by Lancs County Council.  Friends of the Earth have an electronic petition which you can sign online here or  you can download and print a petition form here and get people to sign it.

Frack Free Lancashire and Friends of the Earth are also Crowdfunding to cover the potential cost of a judicial review to overturn Lancashire County Council’s decision to allow Cuadrilla to install seismic monitors in 91 fields surrounding Roseacre Wood. We believe that this decision is seriously flawed and open to a judicial review. Please donate and help us get this thrown out. Further details are available here.

Preston New Road Community Group Slams New Task Force Group Report

PRESTON NEW ROAD COMMUNITY GROUP

PRESS INFORMATION 15th July 2015

Preston New Road Community Group Slams New Task Force Report

Preston New Road Community Group has described the newly-published report by the Task Force on Shale Gas – Assessing the Impact of Shale Gas on the Local Environment and Health – as out-of-date, inadequate and biased.

The group says the report’s assessment of health impact is feeble and contains nothing new, sidestepping the real issues. It relies on a report by Public Health England which was based on old US data and which failed to take into account the majority of evidence which now demonstrates clear risks. Yet the Task Force report dismisses a more recent Medact report which used an updated information base. The report misrepresents the summary findings of the recent New York study, taking over 7 years to compile, which led to a ban on fracking in the State, and the Task Force fails to assess the increased health risks in the UK whose population density is many times greater than in US fracking regions.

Whilst the report points out deficiencies in UK regulation, in particular the failure of the government to implement independent well monitoring and provide for the proper future monitoring of abandoned wells, it has a number of serious omissions which affect the validity of the report’s conclusion that fracking “could” be safe.

The report’s failures include:

  • No consideration of risk of seismic activity damaging wells rather than buildings (as happened at Preese Hall).
  • No consideration of whether the Infrastructure Act now allows waste water injection, and no comparison with re-injection of waste water for reuse for fracking.
  • No examination of potential migration routes from fractured rocks to aquifers.
  • No discussion of reuse of waste water for fracking.
  • No mention of the 2014 Preese Hall barrier failure in discussion on well failure.
  • Avoidance of discussion on for how long monitoring should take place on abandoned wells and how frequently monitoring should take place of water or soil.
  • No mention of air monitoring.

PNRCG conclude the report is fundamentally flawed, and the industry-funded body shows clear bias, particularly in repeating ad-hominem attacks on two of the writers of the Medact report.

A spokesperson for PNR said-

“This report says we must wait until wells have been fracked in the UK before health impacts can be assessed. Once again this is saying we at Preston New Road are to be used and our health put at risk in a UK fracking experiment. The evidence from the US is clear. There is a definite health impact on communities from fracking.

“The Medact report concluded from studying the latest data from the US that there was sufficient risk established for the precautionary principle to be invoked. Yet the Task Force, rather than discussing this conclusion, accuses Medact of being an anti-fracking organisation, accuses its report of providing no new data, and repeats personal slurs on two of the contributors. This is outrageous, particularly when it endorses the PHE report which provided no new research data, and failed to take account of the latest peer-reviewed reports.

”It is very hard to avoid the conclusion that the Task Force, which is funded by the industry, has shown evidence of pro-fracking bias. This is also shown by its calling for a change to the planning system to speed up fracking by taking the drilling of monitoring boreholes out of local hands. The democratic process is being dismantled to allow this Industry to proceed at reckless speed.

“This report has itself nothing new to say. It repeats the same old message, fracking could be safe with tough regulation. We are tired of hearing this same old story. UK regulation is not tough enough. It is not enforceable by agencies which have their budgets and workforce cut. We refuse to be treated as guinea pigs, and demand that both Cuadrilla and the government abide by the Lancashire County Council decision to refuse planning permission at Preston New Road.”

For immediate release

Please help us raise the funds for a judicial review

Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Lancashire are Crowdfunding to cover the potential cost of a judicial review to overturn Lancashire County Council’s decision to allow Cuadrilla to install seismic monitors in 91 fields surrounding Roseacre Wood.

We believe that this decision is seriously flawed and open to a judicial review.

If we lose the case we will have to pay costs which can be capped at £10,000 because it is an environmental issue. The decision was passed for “seismic” monitors in a total of 91 fields surrounding the village of Roseacre. The decision for the main drilling site was refused on the recommendation of the Planning Officer. Without the main drilling site there is no logic in the permission for the “seismic arrays”.  If there is to be no fracking, why do we need seismic monitoring? As Councillor Kevin Ellard remarked in the Council Chamber – if you’re not going to build a battle ship, why do you need a dry dock?

If this decision isn’t overturned it is possible that Cuadrilla could apply for change of use at a future date and use these fields for fracking pads.

If this decision isn’t overturned it will set a precedent for Cuadrilla and other companies in the whole of the UK and potentially Europe.

We need your help to fight this, hopefully, final battle against fracking in Lancashire. Please pledge as much or as little as you can afford to send the frackers packing once and for all.

You can donate safely here

Supporting solar farms in the Fylde

RAFF, along with other local anti-fracking groups, supports renewable energy. There are currently three solar farm planning applications lodged with Fylde Borough Council:

 

Cash farm, Mythop Road, Weeton

South of Todderstaffe Hall Farm, Weeton.

Staining Wood, Preston New Road, Westby with Plumpton

Please write to Fylde Borough Council and offer your support for this clean renewable source. It will provide a very valuable contribution to national energy resources. with minimal effect on the landscape and environment. We need to move away from damaging fossil fuels to renewable sources as soon as possible.

A farmer speaking on Radio 4 recently explained that the impact of solar farms was minimal. His sheep could still graze there, they could shelter under the panels when it was very sunny or raining, and when the winter frosts made much of the pasture inedible the patches that were sheltered by the panels remained frost free, and were suitable for grazing. It’s a win-win situation for our climate, our environment, our farmers and our sheep!

The redacted report the Government didn’t want you to see is published in full

The redacted DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) report has finally been published in full but was delayed until after Lancashire County Council had met to consider two major planning applications to frack areas of the Fylde. The report, Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts, was authored by DEFRA’s Rural Community Policy Unit. It was originally written in March but a daft only came to light weeks later under environmental information laws. Not only did the Government delay its publication but it also removed large portions of the text (redacted). This censorship even included removing the author’s name. In particular, assessments of the impacts on house prices and local services were heavily redacted.

The full, unredacted version has finally came out after the Government was forced to publish it following an appeal to the Information Commissioner.

You can read the full unredacted report  here. To make it easier to see just exactly what was left out of the original Dianne from the Inskip anti-fracking group has added pop-up boxes next to the redacted paragraphs. Just roll over the pop-up and see the explosive text that our Government didn’t want us to see. Our grateful thanks to Dianne.

 

Lancashire is not open for fracking!

Following last week’s  unanimous decision to refuse permission for Cuadrilla’s fracking application at Roseacre Wood, Lancashire County Council has also thrown out the company’s plans to drill, frack and test up to four wells at Preston New Road. The planning officer had recommended that the application be approved. Councillors were also advised that should they refuse it, an appeal by Cuadrilla could prove costly for both the Council and the people of Lancashire. However, conflicting legal advice was obtained by Friends of the Earth and Preston New Road, and delivered to councillors over the weekend. It was this advise that persuaded the councillors that they could vote with their consciences without fear of a costly appeal. The vote was nine to three with two abstentions to reject the application. The decision was greeted by a standing ovation in the chamber and a party outside the council building.

The consequences of LCC’s decision will be wide ranging as other councils will now be emboldened to reject fracking in their areas. Already we have seen a drop in energy company shares, which will have a further adverse effect on investment in UK shale gas. Cuadrilla will more than likely appeal; the right wing press is already full of advice to the Government on how to overrule Lancashire’s decision.  Energy and climate change minister Andrea Leadsom has said that the Government will seek to “persuade” Lancashire residents to accept fracking. What an insult to the people of Fylde. The democratic process from local parish councils to Fylde Borough Council to Lancashire County Council has clearly stated that Lancashire is not open for fracking. We will not be dictated to by our Government or large energy companies. We will continue to fight for our county and a frack-free future.

 

Seventeen North West MPs and MEPs join call for halt to fracking

Frack Free Lancashire and Central Lancashire Friends of the Earth press release

Sunday 28 June 2015 Immediate release, contact 07940 006783

 Seventeen North West MPs and MEPs join call for halt to fracking

Seventeen North West MPs and MEPs have joined thousands of Lancashire residents to call for a halt to fracking.

The call comes as Lancashire County Council prepares to decide tomorrow (Monday 29 June) whether or not to grant Cuadrilla permission to frack at Preston New Road near the village of Little Plumpton in the Fylde. [1]

 The MPs and MEPs signed a joint statement expressing serious concerns about the risks that fracking poses to people’s health and the environment and calling for any fracking applications to be withdrawn or refused planning permission. [2]

They join a growing number of people and organisations calling on councillors in Lancashire to reject the applications, including:

  • 850 elected officials from New York State [3]
  • medical charity Medact [4]
  • chemicals charity CHEM Trust [5]
  • over 300 Lancashire businesses [6]
  • over 90,000 people from across the UK [7]
  • 11,000 Lancashire residents who formally objected to the Preston New Road plans [8]

Jasber Singh from Central Lancashire Friends of the Earth said:

“We’re delighted that MPs and MEPs from across the North West have joined the growing call to put fracking on hold.

 “Fracking isn’t just a threat to people’s health and the local environment, it also undermines action on climate change.

 “Over 11,000 Lancashire residents have objected to the plans to frack at Preston New Road. We urge councillors to stand up to pressure from officers and Cuadrilla, and protect residents and the environment by rejecting these unnecessary and unwanted fracking plans.”

The Development Control Committee meets on Monday 29 June to decide on the plans for Preston New Road. The Frack Free Lancashire alliance of local community groups opposing fracking is urging residents to join a rally outside County Hall, Preston, from 9am.

ENDS

 NOTES TO THE EDITOR

1. Lancashire County Council: Agenda of Development Control Committee on 23 June:
council.lancashire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=118&MId=4919&Ver=4 Preston New Road site deferred to Monday 29 June.

2. The 17 North West MPs who have signed the joint statement on fracking are:

  • Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire)
  • Yvonne Fovargue MP (Makerfield)
  • Kate Green MP (Stretford and Urmston)
  • Margaret Greenwood MP (Wirral West)
  • Theresa Griffin MEP (North West)
  • Andrew Gwynne MP (Denton and Reddish)
  • Sir Gerald Kaufman MP (Manchester Gorton)
  • Barbara Keeley MP (Worsley and Eccles South)
  • Afzal Khan MEP (North West)
  • Rebecca Long-Bailey MP (Salford and Eccles)
  • Justin Madders MP (Ellesmere Port and Neston)
  • Michael Meacher MP (Oldham West and Royton)
  • Lucy Powell MP (Manchester Central)
  • Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East)
  • Cat Smith MP (Lancaster and Fleetwood)
  • Jeff Smith MP (Manchester Withington)
  • Julie Ward MEP (North West

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TKwI4N68h4GErxZiT_V30z0RNCwSMjsuNs0–uzUTMg/edit?usp=sharing

3. Letter from New York State elected officials to Lancashire County Council:
http://www.nyelectedofficials.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/EOPNY-Letter-to-Lancashire.pdf

4. Medact: Health professionals call for an immediate moratorium on fracking due to serious risks to public health:
http://www.medact.org/news/new-report-health-fracking-the-impacts-opportunity-costs/

5. CHEM Trust: Chemicals from fracking could cause significant pollution and damage to wildlife:
http://www.chemtrust.org.uk/chemicals-from-fracking-could-cause-significant-pollution-and-damage-to-wildlife/

6. Friends of the Earth: Over 300 Lancashire businesses say no to fracking:
https://www.foe.co.uk/news/over-300-lancashire-businesses-say-no-fracking

7. Friends of the Earth: Fracking update: “guinea pigs” send anti-fracking message to Lancashire Council:
http://www.foe.co.uk/news/fracking-update-guinea-pigs-send-anti-fracking-message-lancashire-council

8. http://frackfreelancashire.org.uk/cms/?p=841

Democracy? Residents NOT allowed to present their legal advice to councillors

To recap: The Planning & Development Committee was adjourned last Wednesday (24th June) after a vote to refuse Cuadrilla’s application to frack Preston New Road was seven in favour, seven against and one abstention.

Councillors had been advised that there were no  grounds for turning it down and that if the Council were to refuse them Cuadrilla could appeal, resulting in costs against the council. RAFF has been informed by a reliable source that councillors were also told that if they voted against the application they could be personally liable for costs. Our research so far has not found a single case where a councillor has been found personally responsible or ordered to pay costs.

Following the result of the vote on Wednesday, councillors asked for that advice to be provided in writing. The advice was eventually provided to the councillors and the public  However Councillor Paul Hayhurst declared that the written advice was different in tone from the advice they had received from the  and it was agreed that the council would adjourn to allow both the council and residents to seek legal advice, and meet again on Monday 29 June.

Meanwhile, Preston New Road Action Group sought the advice of two barristers specialising in planning law to comment on the Council’s legal advice. A spokesperson from the Preston New Road group, said: “The latest advice from two barristers confirms the view that the committee would have valid reasons for refusal on noise and landscape grounds, and that risk of costs would be small if it went to appeal.”

Dr Ashley Bowes, a specialist planning barrister has reviewed the advice given to the planning committee – you can download it here.

The excellent web site Drill or Drop has summed up his advice. It says:

Dr Bowes said Mr Manley’s advice did not reflect the full picture of evidence before the committee or the full extent of members’ duties and powers.

He said applications which did not comply with the development plan should be refused unless there were good reasons not to. In Lancashire, the development plan comprises the Lancashire Waste and Minerals Plan and the Fylde Local Plan.

Dr Bowes said it was up to councillors to decide if an application complied with the development plan or whether there were any issues that outweighed this.

“In particular”, he said, “members are entitled to depart from their officer’s advice provided there is a rational and discernible basis for doing so”.

Dr Bowes said there was evidence that the Preston New Road scheme, if approved, would result in “demonstrable harm”, in particular from its impact on the landscape and visual amenity. The committee may decide, he said, that this puts it in breach of policies EP11 of the Fylde Local Plan and DM2 of the Lancashire Waste and Minerals Plan and that the harm is not outweighed by the temporary (six year) timescale of the scheme.

A report to the committee by noise consultants for PNRAG concluded that there would be unacceptable noise from the site. The consultants said proposed conditions were not appropriate to mitigate the harm. This could also put the scheme in breach of policy DM2, Dr Bowes said.

On Wednesday, the committee voted on a motion to refuse the application, using these and other policies as a reason. The vote was tied seven-all with one abstention. The chairman used his casting vote to defeat the motion.

Dr Bowes said if the committee refused the application Cuadrilla was entitled to appeal. The usual rule was that the council and the company would bear their own costs, regardless of the outcome of the appeal, he said. The exception is where the planning authority has acted unreasonably by not substantiating its reasons for refusal.

He said the impact of the fracking site on the landscape and the unacceptable noise “would be wholly defensible at appeal on the evidence before the committee”.

“Provided the eventual reasons are supported by evidence at appeal there is no serious risk of costs even if the appeal is allowed”.

There are important reasons contained in this advice for turning down the application but Lancashire County Council have now said that the Preston New Road residents will NOT be allowed to submit their barrister’s legal advice either verbally or in a written format. This is outrageous. It was stated clearly by both the proposer and seconder of the adjournment that the deferral would provide the Preston New Road group with the opportunity to seek their own legal advice.

The democratic process is being misused in favour of Cuadrilla and a planning officer who continually shows his desperation for this application to be approved.

 

That Was The Week That Was

It was only a period of three days (23 -25 June) but it provided an emotional roller coaster for everyone following the fracking applications being heard by Lancashire County Council. Below, Jenny from Friends of the Earth describes the highlights.

A people’s carnival against fracking

Around 500 of us met in Preston on Tuesday (including several dogs against fracking) and many thousands more gathered online for a huge demo against two fracking applications in Lancashire. There was a carnival atmosphere – the t-shirts were yellow, the air was filled with supportive car horns, and the atmosphere was electric. There was even a frack-free wedding party that got involved!

Hundreds of us handed in our updated petition against fracking in Lancashire (which now has over 40k signatures! And alongside Avaaz and 38 Degrees this brings us up to over 180k signatures against fracking in Lancs). We danced, we sang and we surrounded the Council with a huge yellow ribbon…

The  day ended with an inspiring rally. The speakers included some of the 39  local anti-fracking community groups that have united under the umbrella of Frack Free Lancashire. The  Nanas Against Fracking told us “the oven gloves will come off” if the council gives fracking the go-ahead. Vivienne Westwood spoke, as did trade unions, and there were messages of support from across the country
and from anti-fracking MPs.

It was a proud day for all of us and a testament to what we can achieve together. Check out the great photos on Facebook, Twitter (@wwwfoecouk @Frackfreelancs) and in the Guardian.  And thanks so much to everyone for bringing the energy and atmosphere – both on the streets and online.

 

What happened inside the Council chambers?

From Preston to Australia, people everywhere were asking Lancashire County Council to say NO to dangerous fracking and inside the Council, they seemed to be listening to us. There was a fair amount of discussion of the risks posed by fracking during their Preston New Road application proceedings, and the first few councillors spoke out against fracking.

But then a vote part way through proceedings showed that the committee of councillors was divided down the middle. Controversially it emerged that this was as a result of some secret legal advice given by the council to councillors on the planning committee. Some councillors expressed frustration that this ‘tied their hands’ and insisted on the advice being made public.  This led to the decision being delayed until Monday.

Despite this meaning another frustrating delay for our movement, the people thronging the streets stayed strong and hopeful. We know every delay is more costly to Cuadrilla and makes fracking ever less attractive. And we know we’d rather a delay than a rash decision the wrong way.

Also in our favour is the fact that the following day councillors unanimously rejected fracking in Rosecare! This is another blow for Cuadrilla. Unfortunately it was still agreed that monitors will be put in the ground to observe gas levels and activity which doesn’t close the door as much as we’d all like,  but it’s a blow to Cuadrilla and the fracking industry none the less.

So what next?

It’s all about Monday’s fracking decision and it’s on a knife edge. It’s unacceptable that councillors feel like they’re being backed into a corner and pushed into accepting fracking. This is a fight to keep us safe from dangerous fracking and now also a fight to protect our local democracy.

That’s why many of us will be heading to Preston again on Monday to show councillors that we will stand with them and support them to stand strong in the face of this pressure and kick Cuadrilla out.

If you’re travelling to Preston for Monday – we will be able to reimburse the first 100 tickets booked on National Express Coaches. Please just scan your receipt and send it along with payment details to fracking@foe.co.uk. You’ll need to arrive by 9am for the start of the meeting (any Londoners will need to take either the 23.30 (on the 28th) from Victoria Coach station and arriving at Preston at 06.50 or the 00.30 (on the 28th) from Victoria arriving 09.15 in Preston) – tea and coffee on arrival!

Please join us on Monday in Preston if you can – and if you can’t be there in person you can join online with #DontFrackLancs

Looking forward to being with you all again then,

Jenny and the fracking team

#DontFrackLancs

PS Social movements, trade unions, NGOs and Faith Groups have got together to make a set of united demands for the climate talks in November.  You can find out more here and please do support them on social media and share with your networks. Thanks all.