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  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 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  EWHC 808 (Admin).
• Fracking activists in Lancashire lose high court bid to stop drilling, The Guardian, 12 April 2017.
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