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Aurora application for shale gas extraction is contrary to net-zero climate target

3rd March 2020

CPRE Lancashire, Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester objects to the application by Aurora Energy Resources to explore for shale gas/oil at land at Sutton’s Lane, Great Altcar (ref. LCC/2019/0037). This article outlines our reasons for objection.

In our letter to Lancashire County Council (available below), we set out insurmountable material considerations relating to the proposal:

1. The application is contrary to the UK’s legally binding climate change commitments of net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.

2. Comparison with national GHG emissions is inappropriate. What matters is the extent of fugitive natural gas in relation to the total amount of usable natural gas produced by the well. There is a negative balance.

3. Hydraulic fracturing operations are potentially very hazardous. Lancashire County Council must, before granting permission, be satisfied that issues relating to other regulatory regimes are adequate. We demonstrate why this cannot be the case.

4. CPRE asks LCC to require the applicant to demonstrate they have the capacity to deal with a surge of flowback fluid, which is an entirely possible event.

5. The activities would significantly increase the proportion of heavy goods vehicles on narrow country lanes, consequently the entire route should be subject to a 30 mph speed limit.

6. The application was called-in for consideration by West Lancashire Planning Committee due to the significant impact of the development on the openness of the Green Belt, and the potential loss of amenity to nearby residents.

7. We consider ‘very special circumstances’ do not exist to justify the development in Green Belt.

8. Residential amenity will be adversely impacted by an uplift in frequent heavy traffic, built intrusions in a tranquil area.

9. The local landscape character will be harmed. A drilling rig and well compound would be highly visible in the area. This would harm short and long range views. The area has a flat topography and limited intrusions due to the ditch field boundary system and is ill suited to shale exploration.

10. There are harmful impacts on the local ecology arising from the proposal. CPRE is concerned about the impact on the Downholland Moss SSSI. We are aware from our work in Fylde that birds are very flighty, will avoid noisy activity and will not land near to prominent structures such as drilling rigs.

11. The applicant has not properly assessed the impact of the proposed development on the area’s heritage, particularly to the Great Altcar Conservation Area is located to the south.

12. Tranquillity will be harmed by the significant intrusion levels, as the operations will be noisy in an area that is relatively undisturbed and light spill from security lighting will impact on dark skies.

13. Defra’s Agricultural Land Classification show the farmland is the highest grade of Best and Most Versatile grade 1. The NPPF states that local planning authorities ought to avoid the development of highest grade farm land.

14. There is a flood risk as the site is within Flood Zone 3. It is understood the site is in the catchment area that may be subject to increased flooding due to the Environment Agency ceasing the water pumping at Alt Crossens .

Debra McConnell, Chair said, “For the reasons set out above, we recommended that the application to explore for shale in the Altcar location be refused by Lancashire County Council. We should not embed harmful new development in green belt or the countryside. It is against the tide in terms of climate change, we need more cleaner renewable technologies to support the rural economy and jobs in the future.”

CPRE response to LCC consultation Aurora App Altcar

Suttons Lane, Great Altcar © Copyright Peter Mackenzie and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons
Quernmore landscape