An environmental campaigner is to go to the High Court in a bid to stop energy firm Cuadrilla from fracking the UK’s first horizontal shale gas well pending a legal challenge.
Bob Dennett, who claims Lancashire County Council’s emergency response planning and procedures in relation to Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site are inadequate, will attempt to win a blocking order at a hearing in London on Thursday.
Last week, Mrs Justice Farbey granted Mr Dennett an interim order, temporarily preventing Cuadrilla – which is an interested party in the case – from carrying out any hydraulic fracturing operations at the site.
After considering Mr Dennett’s application on the papers, the judge said it was “not appropriate” to grant any further order without hearing from Cuadrilla as the company’s “commercial interests are affected”.
A different High Court judge, Mr Justice Supperstone, will now be asked to extend the temporary order until Mr Dennett’s legal challenge can be heard.
Mr Dennett, who has raised more than £12,000 to cover his legal costs, said: “This case has been made to safeguard the lives and wellbeing of thousands of local residents and businesses, including schoolchildren, in the event of the need to evacuate the area in the vicinity of the Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire.”
Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan has described the challenge as “a last gasp attempt at trying to frustrate the process”, but added that he was “confident” that fracking would soon begin at the site.
The firm will initially test gas to see whether it is viable, but if the operation is a success up to 20 wells could be built.
Mr Egan claimed the plant was the most environmentally monitored of any oil and gas site in the world.
He said that as well as monitoring air quality, water quality, noise and traffic movement, seismic activity would be monitored and work would be suspended if it reached a certain level.
Mr Egan added: “I think people can and should be reassured that there is a huge degree of scrutiny and technical sophistication on this site.”
Connor Schwartz, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said: “The risks of fracking are well-known and it’s only right that local people raise their concerns about safety at the Lancashire site.
“In a week in which the scale of action needed to avert climate chaos has dominated the headlines, isn’t it time the industry and the Government walk away from fracking and invest in a renewable energy future instead?”