Marc Willers QC represents campaigners in High Court challenge against Lancashire fracking plans

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Activists have challenged permission granted to Cuadrilla for test fracking sites near Blackpool in Lancashire. Environmental and planning law barrister, Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers represents local campaigner, Gayzer Frackman, in his challenge against the Government’s decision to overturn Lancashire County Council’s refusal to allow planning permission for fracking.

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This case has been reported in the Guardian, the BBC and Drill or Drop. The site of four wells in Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton, is the biggest fracking mission to be given the go-ahead to date.

At the Manchester High Court hearing which took place from 15 March to 17 March 2017, Marc Willers QC made representations that Cuadrilla had given estimates of emissions from initial flow tests on the four wells, but had not calculated the greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of gas produced from extended well tests, which would be piped into the gas main.

Marc Willers QC said the exploration scheme was “production in disguise” and the emissions from gas produced in the extended well tests should have been accounted for in the environmental impact assessment. Without this assessment, he said:

“It would leave the government’s climate change policy, the carbon budget set down in the Climate Change Act, and the Paris Agreement in tatters. We would have unassessed, unabated production of shale gas – and even other fossil fuels because you could extend the argument – without any regard to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive or our climate change obligations.”

Marc Willers QC also argued that the Secretary of State should have applied the precautionary principle and refused permission because there were gaps in the regulatory system for shale gas. Marc Willers QC said the argument by the inquiry inspector that there were no risks to health from the shale gas scheme was “irrational”.

Judgment is awaited.

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