Fracking – Planning Challenge for Judicial Review

Fracking – Planning challenges dismissed against Cuadrilla’s fracking developments in Lancashire

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for shale gas in the UK remains controversial.

The Planning Court released it decision on 12 April 2017 in the case of R (Preston New Road Action Group and others) v Secretary of State and others [2017] EWHC 808 (Admin), on 12 April 2017.


Cuadrilla’s shale gas fracking in Lancashire

In 2016, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (SoS) approved Cuadrilla’s appeal against Lancashire County Council’s refusal for the grant of planning permission for exploratory and monitoring fracking operations for shale gas fracking at its Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood sites in Lancashire.

Cuadrilla is permitted to commence shale gas exploration and monitoring operations at the two Preston New Road sites and monitoring operations at one of the Roseacre Wood sites.

Local protest groups applied to the Planning Court, which is part of the Administrative Court (High Court), for permission to challenge the SoS’s decisions under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990) by way of Judicial Review.

The Decision:

The Planning Court (High Court) considered the planning evidence and merits considered in the inquiry held by the inspector who recommended that the SoS grant the planning permissions and the grounds to be argued by the Local Protest Groups.

However, the Court dismissed the applications for both sites by refusing to grant permission for judicial review on the basis that none of the claimant’s grounds to be argued were made out in substance.


Although Cuadrilla’s planning permissions are not the first to be granted since 2012, it is the strongest indication yet that the shale gas industry has the government’s support in moving towards the commercial production of shale gas. It will also be the first time that horizontal shale gas wells will be drilled in England.

Cuadrilla’s CEO, Francis Egan, reportedly welcomed the Planning Court’s decision and indicated that the drilling rig for the wells is expected to arrive within weeks, while fracking is not expected to begin until later in summer 2017.

• R (Preston New Road Action Group and others) v Secretary of State and others [2017] EWHC 808 (Admin).
• Fracking activists in Lancashire lose high court bid to stop drilling, The Guardian, 12 April 2017.

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4 thoughts on “Fracking – Planning Challenge for Judicial Review”

  1. Dear Sir / Madam

    I am the founder and Chair of Frack Free EQS (Exmoor Quantocks Sedgemoor). I have had some success presenting to local Town and Parish Councils and requesting that they take a vote of the following proposed motion:

    “This Council recognises that areas of Somerset have been licensed for onshore unconventional oil and gas development, which could include the process of fracking.Unless these activities can be shown to have a ‘social licence to operate’ and that the consensus of scientific peer-reviewed evidence indicates that they can be carried out without risk to public health, without risk to the environment, without risk to water contamination, without risk to our rural economy, and furthermore that the industry as a whole can meet the three tests set by the Government’s Committee on Climate Change, the Parish of Bridgwater is resolved to be a frack-free zone.”

    Todate the following councils have done so:
    Watchet TC
    Dulverton TC
    Bridgwater TC
    Old Cleeve PC
    Minehead & Selworthy Without PC
    Chedzoy PC

    However, I was invited to present at Burnham & Highbridge Town Council this evening and one of the Councillors stated that the Councillors were forbidden to vote on a motion as it would predetermine a planning application (there are currently none) and consequently they would forfeit their right to be consulted by Somerset County Council Minerals and Waste dept when/if an application was received.

    Would you be kind enough to offer me some guidence on this matter? My view would be that it is the Council’s prerogative to vote on matters that affect their parishioners and that consultation on planning applications is their right as statutory consultees and that beside they would be required to consider the application on its merits.

    Kind regards
    Kevin Ogilvie-White

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