Judge dismisses bid to challenge government minister over reopening Lancashire fracking inquiry

BY RUTH HAYHURST ON MAY 17, 2017

A Lancashire resident failed today to bring a legal challenge to the decision by the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, over one of Cuadrilla’s proposed shale gas sites.

Mr Javid announced in October 2016 that he was reopening the public inquiry into plans to frack at Roseacre Wood, near Blackpool, despite the recommendation from an inspector that the scheme should be refused on highway safety grounds.

Roseacre resident, Jules Burton, who lives 500m from the proposed site, sought to bring a legal challenge in the High Court against reopening the inquiry.

He argued that the Secretary of State’s decision was unfair, irrational, tainted with bias and an abuse of power.

But in the past few minutes, Mr Justice Kerr, sitting at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, said the case was not arguable and he refused permission for a challenge. He confirmed a written ruling issued before Easter by Mr Justice Dove.

After today’s hearing, Mr Burton said:

“This has nothing whatever to do with justice and everything to do with the interpretation of the law. This is the interpretation the government chooses to put on the law because the government wants to promote fracking.

“Unfortunately this is not a triumph for democracy or a triumph for people. It is contrary to everything that should represent fairness in the British judicial system.”

Mr Javid said in October he was minded to approve Cuadrilla’s plans to drill, frack and test up to four wells at Roseacre Wood. But he said Cuadrilla had failed to provide adequate evidence that it had properly addressed highway safety issues.

Reopening the inquiry would, Mr Javid said, give the company an opportunity to “provide additional evidence”.

The reopened inquiry has been scheduled for six-to eight days and is expected to begin on 10 April 2018. Cuadrilla had said it would use the time before the new inquiry to undertake further traffic surveys and assessments that would inform updated transport plans.

A spokesperson for Cuadrilla said this afternoon:

“We are pleased that the Secretary of State’s “minded to grant” decision, regarding our planning appeal for our proposed shale gas exploration at Roseacre Wood, has been upheld. Cuadrilla looks forward to demonstrating that it will meet the necessary highway conditions which are to be considered at a public inquiry in April 2018.”

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