Readers will recall my amusement at the antics of the anti-fracking fraternity at the Cuadrilla shale gas inquiry in Lancashire, who had found a tame noise consultant who was willing to testify that the sounds emitted by a shale gas operation, which were expected to reach the levels of the dawn chorus at times, would be wholly unacceptable.
Given that Cuadrilla have already drilled and fracked a well at Preese Hall in Lancashire, this begged the question of how residents in that area had coped. Backing Fracking, the pro-shale group, has gently inquired of Lancashire County Council to see what complaints had been received by council noise abatement officers and they have now had a response.
Press release: for immediate release
Legal officer confirms that earlier drilling and fracking on the Fylde didn’t result in a single nuisance complaint.
A request for information made to Fylde Borough Council has revealed that during the construction, drilling and fracking carried out previously by Cuadrilla Resources at sites in Weeton, Singleton and Westby, the local council didn’t receive a single complaint about noise nuisance from nearby residents.
When asked for clarification, and whether or not the council had received any complaints about other sources of potential nuisance such as odour, dust, traffic or light pollution, Fylde Borough Council’s legal officer replied saying that the responsible environmental health officer had received no complaints at all.
The request for information was made by campaigners at Backing Fracking, who support shale gas exploration in Lancashire and elsewhere in the UK, after hearing testimony from local opponents at the recent six-week long public inquiry in Blackpool saying that noise had been a problem before and would be again.
The inquiry was established to consider Cuadrilla’s appeals against the refusal of planning permission for two temporary shale gas sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood, and heard from a number of local people expressing views both for and against fracking.
Chris Evans, from Backing Fracking, says the lack of complaints is a real eye opener.
“The fact that the council didn’t receive a single public complaint about noise or other potential sources of nuisance when Cuadrilla was operating at its earlier three sites on the Fylde, just goes to show how unobtrusive and tolerable those activities must have been at the time.
“I think what’s happening now is that some opponents are unfairly using the threat of noise and sleep disturbance to influence residents into objecting to shale gas exploration. Without any current frame of reference, those residents are understandably going to be worried about what it will be like, but all they need to do is look to past experience which tells us it wasn’t as bad as it is now being claimed.”
The group also obtained copies of the planning permissions relating to Cuadrilla’s earlier sites, and found that they each imposed a planning condition limiting night time noise to a maximum of 42 decibels. During the public inquiry, representatives for Lancashire County Council and local opponents argued that 42 dB limit was insufficient to provide protection from noise nuisance.
“Faced with this evidence of a previous precedent, you have to ask why it is that Lancashire County Council and others would now try to argue that 42 dB is too high a limit, especially in light of the fact that nearby residents were undisturbed by it. What’s different now that wasn’t a problem back then in virtually identical rural settings?
“The fact that there were no complaints to Fylde Borough Council in the past means it really does look like the opponents are deliberately scaremongering in order to stop shale gas at any cost, which would not only mean we could lose out on the potential economic benefits but would lock us into coal and higher CO2 gas imports for longer,” concludes Chris.