Preston New Road campaigners lose legal challenge

Campaigners say they'll fight on after they lost appeals against fracking at Preston New Road.

Court of Appeal judges rejected challenges from the Preston New Road Action Group and campaigner, Gayzer Frackman.

They had claimed a decision to allow drilling at the site in Little Plumpton was unfair and unlawful.

The claims were dismissed by the three judges.

It means shale gas company Cuadrilla can continue its drilling operations.

Cuadrilla said they welcomed the Court of Appeal verdict handed down by Lord Justice Simon, Lord Justice Lindblom and Lord Justice Henderson dismissed the two claims made against the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid’s, decision to grant planning consent for its shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road. The case was heard by the three judges at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in August 2017.

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla said: “We are very pleased that the Court of Appeal has robustly dismissed both challenges on all the grounds presented, as well as dismissing requests for further appeal. The same challenges were previously dismissed by the High Court in a similarly detailed judgement made in April 2017. We have always remained confident that that the planning consent would stand, particularly after such a lengthy and thorough review of the application and positive recommendations for approval by both the professional Planning Officers at Lancashire County Council and subsequently an experienced Planning Inspector.

‘’As our lawful planning consent remains in place, even whilst the Court of Appeal case was heard, operations on site have continued to progress well. We have successfully completed our data acquisition programme in the shale and will commence drilling the horizontal sections of the first of two initial wells this weekend. Local businesses and workers in Lancashire continue to benefit from the significant investment and jobs that our operations are bringing to the county.”

Preston New Road Action Group have expressed their deep disappointment at the London High Court’s decision not to uphold their appeal against the Secretary of State, over fracking in Lancashire.

A spokeswoman for the group said: ‘’We are deeply disappointed at the decision. Our community has been marginalised and dismissed in favour of a decision made in the depths of Westminster.

“Over 100,000 people objected to this fracking application. In addition, our parish council, Fylde Borough Council and Lancashire County Council rejected the application. They had a duty of care to local residents and they fulfilled that duty. They determined that the risks of this industry far outweighed any benefits to the local community.

“By overruling Lancashire County Council, this decision only benefits big business. The last three years of this fracking challenge process has damaged democracy and trust in politicians, leaving our community feeling vulnerable and unrepresented.

“We will now take time to scrutinise the decision documents and liaise with our legal team. Our end goal has not changed: we are still intent on achieving justice for the Preston New Road community and beyond.”

Rowan Smith, solicitor at Leigh Day, who represented Preston New Road Action Group, said: “On behalf of the whole community in Lancashire, we are obviously bitterly disappointed by the Court of Appeal’s judgment. Clearly, our clients were right to take the legal battle this far, not least because the local council originally refused planning permission and the fracking industry’s chances were only saved by central government intervention.

‘’Our clients are in the process of considering whether to appeal.

‘’Meanwhile, with Ireland and Scotland having already banned fracking, surely it is time for the Westminster government to review its out of step ringing endorsement of fracking. All of this comes in the light of calls for fracking in the UK to be suspended, if we are to have any hope of meeting our Paris Agreement targets. Evidence now shows renewable energy is a cheaper alternative to dirty fossil fuels, such as shale gas, so the economics as well as the political and legal arguments all stack up against fracking being the answer to the domestic energy crisis.”

A spokesperson for Frack Free Lancashire said: “We are hugely disappointed that these appeals were dismissed today. We remain resolute and determined to counter and challenge any plans for fracking in Lancashire and beyond, and additionally, continuing to support those communities who are subjected to this industry being forced upon them.

“Public opposition to this filthy technology continues to grow, as does ourwillpower to fight this insidious industry which poses far too many risks to our health, environment and ultimately our climate change targets.

“The fight continues.”

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