A community group has begun legal action against the Government in relation to its decision to grant permission for fracking in Lancashire.
The Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG), represented by law firm Leigh Day, have written to the Secretary of State for Local Government to argue that his decision to overrule Lancashire County Council’s refusal of planning permission for fracking in Fylde, Lancashire, is unlawful.
The decision by Government to allow fracking in Lancashire is the second such license to be granted in the UK. The first was in relation to a site in Ryedale, North Yorkshire in May 2016.
Leigh Day are representing the claimants challenging the decisions in both cases.
Lawyers for the Lancashire group argue that the decision is fundamentally flawed in its misapplication of planning laws and policy.
It is also claimed that the Government did not properly consider the disproportionate effect that fracking on the site would have on vulnerable residents such as the elderly and school children nearby.
On 29 June 2015, the Council refused planning permission to Cuadrilla Bowland Limited to use a site off Preston New Road for fracking. However, the company appealed this decision and their appeal was controversially upheld by the Secretary of State on 6 October 2016.
The letter before action from Leigh Day requests that the Government reconsiders its decision.
If the government refuses then the group will consider bringing a statutory challenge under section 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 against the decision.
A spokesperson from Preston New Road Action Group said: “PNR Action Group are appalled at the decision of the Secretary of State to overturn local planning decisions in this manner. It was clear at a local level this application was rejected by both the Planning Committee and local residents. There is no social licence to frack Preston New Road.
“The dismantling of local democracy to facilitate this industry is a travesty of justice and begs the question of whether democracy exists any more at a local level. This decision by Westminster is troubling on a number of fronts.
“Lancashire said ‘no’ loudly and clearly and in line with local planning policies, that decision should stand.”
Rowan Smith, of law firm Leigh Day, said: “We believe that the Government’s decision to overturn the Council’s refusal of planning permission to allow fracking on the site is fundamentally flawed.
“The decision appears to have been taken in breach of the Council's development plan, which restricts these types of developments, as well as contrary to the correct planning law tests.
“We will also argue on behalf of our clients that to allow fracking on this site would have an adverse affect on the health of local people and would ruin the much-loved local landscape.”
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, following the court's permission to allow the claimants to rely on further evidence about the potential impact of fracking on climate change.