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Campaigners urge appeal judges to overturn fracking decision


Campaigners are trying to overturn approval for a fracking site in Lancashire

Campaigners are trying to overturn approval for a fracking site in Lancashire

Campaigners are trying to overturn approval for a fracking site in Lancashire

Campaigning residents have urged leading judges to overturn a Government decision to approve a fracking site in Lancashire.

The Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG), along with environmental campaigner Gayzer Frackman, have taken their battle to the Court of Appeal in London.

The latest round of their legal fight follows their defeat at the High Court in April when they failed to persuade a judge in Manchester that the decision to grant a planning application for the site in Fylde was not fair or lawful.

Developer Cuadrilla's planning application was refused by Lancashire County Council in 2015, but later granted following an appeal and a planning inquiry.

The scheme was given the go-ahead in October by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

At the start of a two-day hearing on Wednesday before Lord Justice Simon, Lord Justice Lindblom and Lord Justice Henderson, David Wolfe QC, for the action group, submitted that "the Secretary of State, through his inspector, misunderstood key local and national planning policies".

In written grounds of appeal, he asks the three judges to "set aside" the ruling of Mr Justice Dove in the High Court and to "quash the Secretary of State's decision".

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PNRAG's solicitors at law firm Leigh Day said the appeal is based on four grounds - that the Communities Secretary and the inspector made "errors of law" by "misinterpreting" a policy protecting against harm to the landscape, "wrongly applying" the National Planning Policy Framework, denying a fair hearing during the planning inquiry, and "using a wildly different test for assessing the impact on the quality of life of those living nearby".

The judges will hear argument on behalf of both the Communities Secretary and Cuadrilla that the challenges by PRNAG and Mr Frackman should be dismissed.

David Elvin QC states in written submissions on behalf of Mr Javid that there is "no merit" in any of the arguments put forward by the appellants.

A spokeswoman for the action group said: " We trust that the Secretary of State's decision to allow fracking at Preston New Road will be found unsound, and Lancashire County Council's original decision will be reinstated.

"Even before any fracking has commenced, the local community has been subjected to disruption.

"They have suffered stress due to the process and, since work commenced on the site, their day-to-day lives have been disrupted by convoys of HGVs, a massive police presence and many road closures."

Mr Frackman, from Blackpool, said in a statement before the hearing: "This legal challenge tests the Government's 'drill first, ask questions later' approach to fracking.

"The Government must be held to account for failing to protect UK citizens from the health impacts of fracking and the untold damage it will cause to our environment, our climate, and those living near the site in Lancashire."

The planning permissions at the centre of the appeal are for exploratory and associated monitoring works in respect of exploration for shale gas.

In written argument on behalf of energy company Cuadrilla, Nathalie Lieven QC says it is "at the forefront of exploring for natural gas locked up in shale rock in the UK".

She adds: "This includes the potential recovery of gas from shale rock by hydraulic fracturing of the rock, otherwise known as 'fracking'.

"The planning permissions are the first horizontal exploration wells approved for drilling, fracking and testing of gas flow in shale rock in the UK.

"They involve one of the most important gas exploration projects in the UK and have the potential to play a major role in the UK's security of energy supply."

The hearing continues on Thursday.