In a landmark climate litigation case, ministerial approval of planning permission for Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire is expected to be challenged in the High Court on climate change grounds this year. Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers is representing the claimant, anti-fracking campaigner Gayzer Frackman, in the High Court challenge.
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid MP, granted planning permission for shale gas exploration at the site on 6 October 2016, overturning the refusal by Lancashire County Council 15 months earlier.
The Court will be asked to consider what should be included in environmental impact assessments. The claimant will argue that through limiting the environmental assessment of the site to shale gas exploration instead of exploration and production, the Minister failed to consider the cumulative effects of commercial gas production on climate change and public health, contrary to the European Union Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive.
The Court will also be asked to consider whether the Minister applied the precautionary principle when deciding if all potential impacts on public health would be controlled effectively by regulators. The claimant’s requests for disclosure of the £5 million-pound ‘independent evidence’ about the robustness of existing regulations, referred to in the Government’s 2014 Autumn statement, have so far been refused. Without this independent evidence, the claimant contends that Mr Javid had an obligation to dismiss or adjourn the planning appeals, pending the provision of such evidence.