Lessening any potential impact of our proposed operations on local residents is important to us. We have therefore written to the Chair of Lancashire County Council’s Development Control Committee (DCC), regarding our planning applications for shale gas exploration at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood, outlining additional information regarding further mitigation measures on noise and traffic concerns. The detail of this additional mitigation requires proper consultation and planning regulations clearly require this. We have therefore also requested a deferral in the determination of our planning applications to allow for this consultation to take place.
The Planning Officer’s recommendation to refuse planning permission for the Preston New Road exploration site was on the single ground of night-time noise levels at the nearest residential properties. For Roseacre Wood the Officer recommended refusal on two grounds (i) noise and (ii) traffic. We note that the Planning Officer’s reports are satisfied with all other aspects of each of the two planning applications.
Regarding our application at Preston New Road the sole reason given by Planning Officers for their negative recommendation was ‘it has not been satisfactorily demonstrated that night-time noise levels would be reduced to acceptable levels’.
In our planning application, we committed to achieving a night time noise limit of 42dB at the nearest residential property. During six months of consultation the Planning Officers never advised this would not be an acceptable limit. We are aware that 42dB is the limit that Lancashire – and other County Councils – have previously typically set for night-time onshore drilling operations. In a report sent to the DCC Chairman we have committed to the additional noise mitigation measures of a further sound barrier around the major parts of the drilling rig along with other measures such as additional shielding around individual components of the drilling rig. These additional measures will reduce the night-time noise levels at the nearest residential property to no higher than 39 dB (less than the sound of a refrigerator humming from 2m).
Night-time noise was also cited as a potential issue at Roseacre Wood and whilst we believe that our commitment to achieving a night time limit of no greater than 40dB at the nearest residential property fully complies with National Planning Policy Framework, we have proposed additional noise mitigation measures that will now reduce the levels to no greater than 37dB.
We have from the outset recognised the importance of traffic to communities local to the Roseacre Wood site. It is for this reason that we have agreed in principle with the Ministry of Defence to route all HGV traffic during operations through the RAF Inskip site, ensuring that HGV traffic does not pass through the local villages of Wharles or Roseacre during site construction, drilling or fracturing operations. We have already shared with the Planning Officers extra information regarding traffic routes which we believe addresses all the new issues which have recently been raised. We remain committed to a maximum of 25 HGVs per day for the relatively short peak periods (approx. 12 weeks in aggregate over a 6 year period) with the average number of HGVs over the drilling and fracturing operational period being just 5 HGVs per day.
We and our expert advisers believe these mitigations address all issues which have recently been raised by the Planning Officers and should be more widely discussed before the DCC determines the planning applications.