Wishy Washy – A sign of things to come?
We learned yesterday on the Drill or Drop website that Senior Lancashire County Council councillors have been criticising Cuadrilla‘s record on planning conditions.
Marcus Johnson, the cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, told the council’s development control committee this morning: “It has to be said that, as we are discovering at Preston New Road, the applicant [Cuadrilla] doesn’t have a particularly good record when it comes to planning conditions.”
Shall we just take a look at one of the things that is in question currently to see just why our Councillors seem to be losing patience with our off-shore speculator backed chums at Cuadrilla? Wheel washing.
The “Preston New Road Exploration Site Construction Method Statement“, forms part of their planning permission. It states in its very first paragraph that:
The CMS identifies a number of planning conditions applicable to the phase of operation and how they will be complied with on site
In this document we can see that it states very clearly that:
Once the new access has been surfaced a wheel cleaning facility will be installed immediately beyond the surfaced area. This is identified in drawing PNRJ-ARP-DR-CH-0003.A dry wheel wash system will be installed on the outbound lane of the new access road which all delivery wagons will have to drive over prior to leaving site during the construction phase.
What is the new access referred to? It is clearly the 20 metre area between the road and the cattle grid shown here highlighted in brown.
It has already been surfaced as can clearly be seen here, and has been for at least two weeks, maybe longer.
– so according to the plan, a wheel cleaning facility should have been installed two weeks ago, or at very least before any further work on the access road was started. There is a clear critical path identified in the document which goes on to clarify:
Following completion of the temporary site compound, site access junction and wheel washing facilities the works will commence on the main access road. Topsoil will be stripped using tracked excavators with topsoil formed into bunds and treated as described above. The topsoil strip will be undertaken prior to any construction traffic being permitted on the area in accordance with Landscaping, Biodiversity and Archaeological requirements.
Specifically this is what is required according to the permission to operate granted to Cuadrilla:
The dry wheel wash unit uses a bar system which provides efficient wheel cleaning along with environmental benefits, e.g. no waste water, no diesel use, no concrete sump installation, no queues of vehicles waiting for the jet wash. The wheel wash will be monitored by a trained operative to ensure that wagons are suitably clean to exit onto the public highway. If the wheels on the wagon are clean before the entering the wheel wash then it can be driven past the facility to avoid unnecessary cleaning and noise generation. The wheel wash is easily maintained and cleaned by lifting the unit, using the lifting points along the sections and removing the debris with a site based loading shovel or bucket. The dry wheel wash system will be monitored and cleaned out at least weekly or more often if required. As a precaution a road sweeper will be kept on standby to ensure that in the unlikely event of debris or mud being deposited on the A583 then it will be cleared as soon as practicable. Site representatives will conduct daily visual checks during construction to monitor tracked mud being taken onto the public highway to inform whether a road sweeper is needed. The dry wheel wash will typically be as shown in the photograph in figure 3.A standard system is approximately 20m long, with 2 x 3m on/off ramps and 2 x 7m centre sections and can clean up to 15 vehicles per hour if necessary.
Figure 3: Indicative photo of proposed wheel wash
Not only is there no sign of the proposed wheel wash system, the staff on site when questioned appear to have no idea that it was required as soon as the 20 meter access area was surfaced and before further work on the pad access road was started, and even though this has been pointed out to them on numerous occasions they refuse to comply with the regulation and continually allow HGVs and other vehicles to leave the site without any form of wheel cleaning.
On occasion under severe pressure from protectors via the police PLOs they have given wheels a perfunctory dry brush. However, the police claim that they are powerless here and that any attempt to stop a vehicle which has not had its wheels cleaned leaving the site would result in arrest. The best that the police can suggest, in the absence of any enforcement by LCC, is to contact the Environment Agency or our local MP.
Here is a photo (courtesy of Ros Wills) of a truck leaving the site without its wheel having been given any treatment at all.
It is clear from all this that work on the main access road, which is well under way, should not have been started until the wheel wash facilities were installed, but Cuadrilla appear to believe that they can play fast and loose with the terms they have agreed.
Is it any wonder that senior councillors are losing patience, and what can we expect when they start to deal with more serious matters like fracking? If they can’t stick to rules on something as simple as wheel washing, what hope is there that they won’t cut corners where the stakes are considerably higher?
Lancashire County Council Planning Department have been contacted and we will update this article with any response that we receive. If Cuadrilla’s “Community Information Line” can shed any light on this we’ll publish their response as well.
I have now spoken with LCC Planning Department and received a peculiar sort of response. In essence they seem happy to ignore the clear statement that “The CMS identifies a number of planning conditions applicable to the phase of operation and how they will be complied with on site” on the grounds that the condition was (in his opinion) badly drafted. (Who drafted it?). The fact that work has continued in breach of the clearly stated conditions on the CMS, does not appear to concern the Planning Department as no accidents have happened as a result. There was no satisfactory response to my point that allowing breaches until something happens is a pretty appalling way of enforcing regulation.
Apparently Cuadrilla have now brought in a wheel washer (but not the equipment specified in the CMS). This is acceptable to the planners if no dirt is allowed to get onto the highway, pending their provision of the specified equipment. Again there was no satisfactory response to the point that, while it may be acceptable to be flexible with regard to site construction, when a CMS is in place such flexibility should be discussed and documented before being allowed.
So it appears that yet again Cuadrilla get away with having flouted planning conditions. At what point will the council start to sit up and take notice?
POST POST SCRIPT
Shortly after I got the complacent response from the planning department this photo was posted on Facebook
Shame on our planning department.