Brokenshire blocks Preston fracking site over 'very significant' highways impacts

The communities secretary has refused plans for a shale gas fracking site near Preston in Lancashire after concluding that the scheme would have a "very significant adverse impact" on road safety, despite attaching "great weight" to "the benefits of onshore oil and gas development".

Fracking refusal: housing secretary James Brokenshire
Fracking refusal: housing secretary James Brokenshire

In October 2016, the then communities secretary Sajid Javid allowed two appeals by energy firm Cuadrilla for drilling and hydraulic fracturing at four exploratory wells, together with a monitoring station at sites near Preston.

However, he deferred a decision on a second fracking site at nearby Roseacre Wood to allow more time to consider the scheme’s traffic impacts.

The Roseacre Wood application sought consent for development including the construction and operation of a site for drilling up to four exploratory wells, hydraulic fracturing of the wells, access roads, security fencing and lighting.

Now, secretary of state James Brokenshire has decided to refuse the application.

According to a decision letter issued on behalf Brokenshire yesterday, the minister said he attaches "great weight" to "the benefits of mineral extraction; in this case the need for shale gas exploration and the benefits of onshore oil and gas development".

However, the letter said that the minister concluded that the development would cause a "serious and very significant adverse impact on the safety of people using the public highway."

"He considers that it is not possible to conclude that the demonstrable harm associated with that issue would be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level," the letter said.

A spokesman for Cuadrilla said: "We are naturally disappointed about the decision on Roseacre Wood and will examine the details in full before reaching a position."

In December, anti-fracking campaigners told the High Court that the National Planning Policy Framework's (NPPF's) support for on-shore oil and gas development was unlawful, partly because it is based on outdated scientific evidence, in a legal challenge to the document.

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