Formal legal proceedings have now been issued at the High Court against the Government’s decision to grant permission for fracking in Lancashire.
The legal challenge has been issued by the Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG), represented by law firm Leigh Day.
This follows a letter before action which was sent to Sajid Javid MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, last month requesting the Government reconsider its decision.
The Secretary of State refused to reconsider his decision, so PNRAG’s lawyers have applied for a statutory review of the decision under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
PNRAG argue that the Government’s decision to overrule Lancashire County Council’s refusal of planning permission for fracking in Fylde, Lancashire, is unlawful because the decision is fundamentally flawed as it failed to properly apply relevant planning laws and policy.
On 29 June 2015, Lancashire County Council refused planning permission to Cuadrilla Bowland Limited to use a site off Preston New Road for fracking. Cuadrilla appealed this decision, which, following a public inquiry, was recommended for approval by an Inspector and then confirmed by the Secretary of State on 6 October 2016.
The government’s decision to allow fracking in Lancashire is only the second license to permit fracking (as opposed to purely exploratory work) in the UK. The first was in relation to a site in Ryedale, North Yorkshire in May 2016. Leigh Day is representing the claimants challenging the decisions in both cases.
A spokesperson from Preston New Road Action Group said: “This application was conclusively rejected on sound criteria, through local planning systems at Lancashire County Council. That decision should stand. Local planning and local democracy exist for a purpose, it is best placed to protect and understand local interests.
“The UK has a proud history of democracy. It purports to represent the people whose solemn duty it is to serve. Yet this decision neither represents the people's wishes, nor those of their elected representatives in local democracy who possess crucial local planning knowledge.
“Our community has endured the threat of the fracking industry for almost three years. There is no social licence to proceed with fracking in Lancashire. Overwhelmingly, the communities affected said no. We continue to say no. We will not be silenced on this, for silence implies acceptance. There is no acceptance of a fracking industry.
“The decision by this lone voice in Westminster to overturn local democracy, has reverberated throughout the country. It begs the question of whether local democracy even exists, if it can be set aside in order to facilitate the interests of corporate industry.
“Therefore, we seek to prove that this judgement is essentially flawed. We intend to invoke further legal routes to challenge this ruling and deem it unlawful.”
Rowan Smith, of law firm Leigh Day, said: “Our clients believe that the government has made significant legal errors in overturning the Council’s refusal of planning permission to allow fracking on the site.
“For example, the decision appears to have been taken in breach of the Council's development plan, which restricts these types of developments, as well as in breach of the correct planning law tests.
“This matters to our clients, some of whom live within 300 metres of the proposed site, because they fear that any development, which is not granted in compliance with these laws and policy, would be unsafe and unsustainable for the local area.”
It is hoped that a hearing will take place at the High Court early next year.
Leigh Day is also representing Frack Free Ryedale and Friends of the Earth in their legal challenge of the decision by North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) to allow fracking in Ryedale near the North Yorks Moors National Park. An application for a judicial review of the decision has been made to the High Court, and the case will be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on 22-23 November 2016.