Lancashire County Council has been given notice of two possible planning applications to develop the construction of Well Pads, Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing of 4 Exploratory Boreholes at 2 sites in the Fylde District.
Should planning applications be submitted. Lancashire County Council will require a Transport Assessment to be undertaken for each site to investigate the traffic impact of the proposal on the highway network.
These two possible drilling sites will be typical in the infrastructure requirements if wide spread development takes place across Lancashire.
One site is just off an “A” road which indicates direct access affording the prospect for an acceptable and safe means of access to be provided to trunk road standards. The traffic from the site can be contained within the principle road network.
Access to the more rural development will need to negotiate a significant length of narrow rural road. The highway consultant for the developer is considering a number of routes. To date, no routes have been agreed as being acceptable. Many of the local roads have very limited carriageway width and there is limited scope for the creation of passing places / carriageway widening. The impact of safety of the development traffic is an issue for close consideration through the Transport Assessment process. Given the nature of the local roads likely to be affected here, HGV movements at the anticipated levels may have a material impact on highway stability. For example, they may over-run the edge of carriageway where they meet traffic coming in the other direction, resulting in verge rutting and crumbling the tarmac. They may also accelerate the deterioration of local road surfaces. These and other similar impacts on road condition constitute another key issue for consideration through the Transport Assessment process.
As a build up to the Transport Assessment, Lancashire County Councillor John Fillis, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, recently visited these sites in order to gain a clearer understanding of the challenges the Shale Gas (Fracking) Industry brings to the rural roads especially.
Cllr John Fillis said “There are many debates currently taking place regarding the safety, necessity and morality of the Fracking Industry. Lancashire County Council has a duty to consider these proposals based on current planning guide lines and without prejudice.
The issues that are of primary concern to the Highways Department are the availability of an appropriate route to the development sites, the impact that the additional vehicle movements will have on highway safety, the impact that these traffic movements will have on the structure of the highway and local communities that live along or may be required to access those routes.
From the information we have so far the impact on the rural roads will increase the deterioration and direct damage during the exploratory stage, if this is increased to full production the road network will collapse.
Unlike other industries where we are able to plan the infrastructure to support it and provide the environment that separates it from intruding on residential areas, were possible. The current government appears to be developing a Free Range Fracking policy, which restricts local authority’s ability to implement measures that would reduce the impact on local communities. There is no clear or cohesive specific industry specific legislation regarding environmental or health and safety legislation that protects local communities from the possible risks that such an industry brings with it. There is just a series of cobbled together quasi judicial bodies that have developed regulation from other industries that they may be able to take action on once something goes wrong.
The government has announced that it will make one off funding available to local communities through a charity; the council will receive some funding retrospectively, while the majority of the money flows down south into the government’s coffers. Expecting the People of Lancashire to carry the cost of these roads, to the determent of the existing network is totally unacceptable. The people of Lancashire should not be forced to subsidies the Fracking Industry.”