EPP4

APPEAL BY ISLAND GAS LTD, PORTSIDE ELLESMERE PORT

APPEAL REFERENCE APP/A0665/W/18/3207952

SOCIAL HARM PROOF OF EVIDENCE

Dr Anna Szolucha (MA Hons., PhD)

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Social Sciences

Northumbria University, Newcastle

Cover image

Contents

1.     Introduction

2.     Social impacts constitute an integral and important part of land-use planning

3.     Local sustainability principles and inequalities – the social context and significant social impacts of the proposed development

Local understanding of sustainable development 30 years on

Local context

Local Plan Part One’s approach to sustainable development – delivered through better industry, not just any industry

Impact of the proposed development – the social aspects of climate change mitigation and adaptation

4.     Social impacts of the proposed development are significant and multifaceted

What is a social impact of unconventional gas development?

Are perceived impacts real?

Should social concerns about hydraulic fracturing be considered although the application is stated not to be for fracking?

Unconventional gas development may exacerbate inequality and have a negative impact on health, social cohesion and community resilience

Public distrust of the proposed development and multiple definitions of fracking in the UK

Social impacts of conventional and unconventional gas development – the Appellant’s characterisation of the development as “conventional”

5.     Conclusions

Appendix 1      Witness Statement of Ellesmere Port Frack Free

References

1. Introduction

  • My name is Anna Szolucha. I am a social scientist. I have a Masters (Hons.) degree in International Relations/Political Science from the University of St Andrews and an interdisciplinary doctorate from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
  • I have nine years of full-time equivalent research experience. I am currently a full-time Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Social Sciences, Northumbria University in Newcastle; and part of a new research programme – “Unconventional Hydrocarbons in the UK Energy System: Environmental & socio-economic impacts & processes” – funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Our project is one of seven research consortia funded under this £8m programme which aims to provide an independent scientific evidence base to understand potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of unconventional hydrocarbon development.
  • I became interested in unconventional gas development in 2011 and began studying it from a social perspective in 2013. Since 2015 I have been conducting full-time research on the impacts and history of shale gas development in Lancashire, UK and south-east Poland. In addition to academic articles, books, book chapters and an edited collection, I am also the author of the first social impacts assessment of shale gas development in the UK, which concluded that: “A thorough understanding of social and psychological factors as well as public understanding of risk is central to taking informed decisions about shale gas exploration and extraction in Lancashire and the UK.” I regularly present my research findings at international academic conferences, most recently at the conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth in Oxford and a conference organised by the Petroleum Group of the Geological Society of London. I am also a recipient of multiple European and national academic scholarships, grants and research awards, most recently the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions award of the European Commission for ‘Communicating Science’ about the impacts of shale gas developments.
  • In order to prepare this proof of evidence, I visited the proposed site and the surrounding area and had two group discussions with members of the local communities.
  • The evidence which I have prepared (pro-bono) and provide for this appeal reference APP/A0665/W/18/3207952 in this proof of evidence is true and I confirm that the opinions expressed are my true, independent and professional opinions.
  • All views contained within this proof of evidence are attributable to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Northumbria University

2. Social impacts constitute an integral and important part of land-use planning

2.1 Social impacts go to the core of land-use decisions because it is the planning system that shapes the make-up of communities and their environments, influencing the lives and well-being of residents. However, despite relevant provisions being in place for recognising the significance of the social effects of development in planning law and guidance at both national and local levels, the social impacts of the proposed development have not been properly considered or addressed by the Appellant.

2.2 In this particular case, the failure to adequately consider the social impacts of the proposed project may alter the planning balance in favour of a socially undesirable development.

2.3 To make efficient use of inquiry time, I review only a few core documents in terms of the significance of social impacts in existing planning law and guidance; hence, the review is not exhaustive. However, in my view, it is representative of and covers the most important provisions for considering social impacts as an integral and equal part of planning decision-making.

2.4 In section 2, paragraphs 7 and 8 of the Revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) [CD6.2], achieving sustainable development is clearly defined as imposing three overarching and interrelated objectives on the planning system: the economic, social and environmental objective.This “triumvirate” of objectives, whereby each dimension of development is given its due and equitable weight, underpins the planning system and the presumption in favour of sustainable development. The social objective is geared toward supporting “strong, vibrant and healthy communities”.

2.5 Section 8 of the NPPF deals with the different social aspects of promoting healthy and safe communities through planning. The planning practice guidance provides further clarification on what is meant by a “healthy community”:

A healthy community is a good place to grow up and grow old in. It is one which supports healthy behaviours and supports reductions in health inequalities. It should enhance the physical and mental health of the community…

The definition of a healthy community makes clear references to health inequalities which are affected by socially determined exposure to risk factors.

2.6 The Local Plan (Part One) of Cheshire West and Chester [CD5.1] sets out its vision in distinctly social terms:

By 2030 Cheshire West and Chester will be a desirable and attractive place to live, work, learn and visit with vibrant towns and rural villages, reflecting the vision of the Sustainable Community Strategy.

2.7 The Strategic Objective (SO8) highlights the local authorities’ aim to:

Create stronger, safer and healthier communities by enabling access to leisure, recreational and community facilities and promoting walking and cycling.

2.8 Policy STRAT 1, which constitutes the main reason given by Cheshire West and Chester Council for rejecting the Appellant’s planning application, treats the economic, social and environmental objectives of the borough on par with one another, further reinforcing the equal significance of the social dimension of development in planning decision-making:

The Local Plan seeks to enable development that improves and meets the economic, social and environmental objectives of the borough in line with the presumption in favour of sustainable development.

2.9 Paragraph 7.2 of the Local Plan emphasises the prime role that health and well-being of local residents plays in the Council’s decision-making. It also highlights the relevance of two local policies (SOC5 and SOC6):

Ensuring the long-term health, social and well-being of our communities is an essential role of the planning system. Reducing health inequalities is one of the key priorities of the Sustainable Communities Strategy.

2.10 The significance of social impacts in positive planning for gas exploration and appraisal is underlined in paragraph 1.3 of the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) of Cheshire West and Chester Council on “Oil and Gas Exploration, Production and Distribution” [CD5.5]which interprets the aims of the Local Plan thus:

The Local Plan seeks to ensure that minerals development takes place in a sustainable manner that promotes economic, socialand environmental well-being.

2.11 The relevance of the social effects of development is further acknowledged in paragraph 1.5 of the SPD which strongly encourages consultations with “communities potentially affected by the proposed development” and stipulates that community engagement should be undertaken throughout the application and development process.

2.12 Paragraph 2.3 of the SPD highlights the key relevance of the Local Plan (Part One) policy SOC5 to applications for oil and gas development. The policy is directly relevant to the social impacts of oil and gas development:

SOC5 Health and well-being – development that gives rise to significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life (e.g. soil, noise, water, air or light pollution, and land instability, etc) including residential amenity will not be allowed.

2.13 Paragraph 5.26 of the SPD lays out the importance of social factors that may contribute to health impacts from oil and gas development and treats them on a par with economic and other community determinants of health:

Applicants will need to consider the impacts of the proposed development on the health and wellbeing of local communities close to the proposed development. These should include direct impacts on health caused through emissions to land, water, and air, and from transportation, and indirect impacts on health that might occur through social, economic and community factors.

2.14 Paragraph 5.28 of the SPD on cumulative impacts is also relevant because the cumulative social impacts of other existing development in the area, planned development and the proposed gas activities have not been assessed. However, such an assessment is imperative for determining whether the cumulative social impacts of multiple industries in the area can be kept to the level deemed acceptable by the local community. Moreover, the cumulative social effects of local industries should be evaluated in view of their mediating impact on the health of the local population.

2.15 In summary, this brief review shows clearly that national and local planning policy make extensive reference to the significance of social impacts in planning decision-making. The Legislator has afforded equal relevance to the economic, environmental and social impacts of development;provisions to this effect were introduced in the NPPF and are reflected in the Local Plan as well as the associated guidance. Nevertheless, the Appellant’s interest in the potential environmental and economic impacts of the proposed development has not been matched by the same level of attention in the interconnected area of social effects.

2.16 The exclusion of a particular kind of impacts (in this case – important elements of the social impacts of the gas appraisal project, as set out below) may have profound consequences for the assessment of whether, on balance, the impacts associated with the proposed development should be considered acceptable and sustainable in Ellesmere Port.

3. Local sustainability principles and inequalities – the social context and significant social impacts of the proposed development

Local understanding of sustainable development 30 years on

3.1 The current definition of sustainable development was adopted at the 96thplenary meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on 11thDecember 1987. The objective of sustainable development was summarised as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Over the last 30 years, the understanding of sustainable development as a practice has evolved to meet the distinctive needs and conditions of local populations all over the world. It has, rightly, been adapted to locally specific circumstances and objectives. In Ellesmere Port, sustainable development should be understood as more than a conceptual principle which may be untenable in the context of oil and gas exploration and extraction. Instead in this case, sustainable development seems to be firmly grounded in the local history of the area and aimed at addressing the specific socioeconomic challenges that it is facing. It is, therefore, pertinent and justified to evaluate the proposal to flow-test the EP-1 well by taking into consideration the specific characteristics and history of the town.

Local context

3.2 The Appellant notes that the appeal site is bounded by industrial uses on all sides. Some of the businesses on the private road leading to the wellsite are relatively new but Ellesmere Port used to be a major centre of manufacturing, and multiple industries in the area have been in existence for a long time. Many of these industries are part of the chemical and petrochemical sectors, including Stanlow oil refinery and petrochemical complex (in Ellesmere Port) which includes a chemical waste incinerator (reportedly used to dispose of Syrian chemical weapons). There is a uranium enrichment plant in Capenhurst adjacent to a proposed storage facility for radioactive waste from a nuclear submarine reactor decommissioning project, as well as a recycling plant and a waste incinerator in Ellesmere Port. The wider area has been known for its coal and salt mining industries. The area around the proposed site used to be the centre of various industries and businesses, such as: a paper mill which was operational for over seven decades and closed down in 2010 (now being regenerated as a port facility), a steel-cladding company (HH Robertson) and a flour mill. Ellesmere Port houses the Vauxhall car factory and chemical works abound along the Mersey estuary. The town is cut through by the M53 motorway and bordered by the Manchester Ship Canal.

3.3 The town’s high industrial density and poor record in air quality have been associated with establishing an Air Quality Management Area in Ellesmere Port. The town consistently ranks among the most deprived areas in Cheshire West and Chester across a number of deprivation factors. Over 80% of Ellesmere Port Town (ward) residents live in areas of multiple deprivation (compared to approximately 20% for England and less than 20% for the borough of Cheshire West and Chester) [EP21, p.12]. Despite the wealth of industry in the surrounding area, around 100% of residents in Ellesmere Port Town live in a zone of employment deprivation, which testifies to the fact that the town centre is no longer a place where important retail or community and leisure services are located.

3.4 In the Rossmore ward, where the appeal site is located, the percentage of residents with bad or very bad health is almost double the borough’s average. Male and female life expectancy at birth are both significantly below the borough’s average by 6 and 5.2 years respectively [EP04 p.4]. The local disparities are substantial and in the most deprived areas of the borough, men live 9.7, and women – 8.1 years less than in the least deprived areas [EP38 pp 16-17]. 20.9% of children in the Rossmore ward have special educational needs, compared to the borough’s average of 14.3% [EP04 p 8]. In Ellesmere Port as a whole, almost 40% of residents live in the most deprived areas and around 30% – in the least deprived areas of the town (compared to 20% and 20% respectively in England) [EP27, p1]. The comparison may suggest a significant inequality gap because the vast majority of residents live in either the most or the least deprived areas of Ellesmere Port.

3.5 Many residents earn more by commuting to outlying employment areas. Thus, Ellesmere Port may be increasingly seen as a dormitory town. The non-resident workers rather than town’s residents are the main beneficiaries of the high value jobs offered by automotive and chemical industries in the area. In the last decade, Ellesmere Port suffered an industrial bust when around half of its manufacturing workforce was lost, leaving derelict brownfield sites and contamination issues. The car factory announced plans to make further redundancies in 2017 and 2018 and it reduced the number of shifts to one early in 2018, and in November it announced a further 241 job losses. Some areas of the town remain neglected or badly maintained and a sense of community is declining. Although some residents seem to feel a sense of attachment to the place and are nostalgic about its past, they too note that Ellesmere Port is losing its character, making some residents feel resigned and disempowered.

Local Plan Part One’s approach to sustainable development – delivered through better industry, not just any industry

3.6 The NPPF (paragraph 9) reaffirms the importance of local circumstances for planning policies and decision-making:

Planning policies and decisions should play an active role in guiding development towards sustainable solutions, but in doing so should take local circumstances into account, to reflect the character, needs and opportunities of each area.

3.7 The wording of the Local Plan (Part One) confirms that its policies are firmly anchored in the local history and data by reflecting:

locally determined priorities for new homes, jobs, the environment and infrastructure development.

3.8 The industrial history of Ellesmere Port, the problems with deprivation as well as its image are acknowledged throughout the Local Plan. They form the basis for a local vision of moving away from the past by promoting regeneration and development as well as efforts aimed at building the image of the town as a “prosperous area”.

3.9 Policy STRAT 4, which defines the development priorities for Ellesmere Port, cannot therefore be treated as a carte blanche for any kind of industrial development, in any part of the town. Instead, it should be read through a historical and social lens. The Local Plan is steeped in local history and circumstances. The policy states that:

Ellesmere Port has the potential to deliver substantial economic growth through the availability of significant sites for industrial, manufacturing and distribution purposes…

When read in the context of the socioeconomic challenges that Ellesmere Port has been facing over the last decade, policy STRAT 4 encourages a better use of the designated industrial and manufacturing sites, primarily for the purposes of creating significant employment opportunities for residents and attracting inward investment. The policy does not reflect a predisposition to approve industrial development in areas with prior industry. Rather, it calls for a qualitative shift in the kind of industries that are invited to operate in Ellesmere Port.It is expected that new industry will change its approach to the social impacts that its activity generates. In other words, new industrial development in Ellesmere Port is expected not so much to contribute to the industrial and manufacturing history of the town as to help to address some of its undesirable social and economic impacts through high quality development and technologies. This view is corroborated by paragraph 2.6 of the Local Plan which states:

Ellesmere Port will be a confident industrial area, a hub for high quality industries and technologies including the green energy and waste sector, attracting inward investment. Perceptions of the town will be enhanced as a result of improvement to the image of the town as a prosperous area.

Moreover, policy STRAT 4 identifies “key sites with considerable potential to achieve future economic growth” as New Bridge Road, Stanlow, Ince Park and Hooton Park.

3.10 Cheshire West and Chester Council decided that the proposed development would be contrary to the provision of Policy STRAT 1 of the Local Plan (Part One) which states that proposals should support locally specific sustainable development principles. In its decision notice, the Council also stated that the proposal did not

mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change, ensuring the development makes the best use of opportunities for renewable energy use.

3.11 In the Statement of Case, the Appellant proposes a few interpretations of the Council’s reason for refusal. By treating sustainability as an abstract concept and focusing on the physical impact of climate change, however, the Appellant fails to account for the local specificity of sustainability principles and the implications of climate change decision-making for the local livelihood, social cohesion and inclusion of communities in and around Ellesmere Port.

3.12 The social and economic dynamics of the town’s industrial history are likely to have contributed significantly to the deprivation levels in Ellesmere Port. There is a growing body of scientific literature in the UK which assesses the unequal distribution of environmental risks across society. Deprived communities are more likely to live in areas with high density of industry. They tend to experience a disproportionate share of environmental burden and harm, and are identified as those most in need of remedial action. Air Quality Management Areas are also located in populations that are disproportionately deprived relative to the rest of England[1].

3.13 Clustering industry in an area of poor environmental quality and social deprivation may perpetuate an unequal distribution of adverse effects of development. In my view, policy STRAT 1 of the Local Plan addresses these implications of inequality and deprivation in the area. The Councillors’ mindfulness of this local characteristic was also apparent during the discussion of the planning committee at Cheshire West and Chester Council in January 2018. At the meeting, the vast majority of Councillors and residents were of the opinion that higher standards needed to be applied in Ellesmere Port, precisely because of its deprived status as well as the existence of multiple industrial sites as possible simultaneous sources of hazards and emissions. One Councillor put this view in emphatic terms, saying that:

“I can remember – on more than one occasion – telling the Members that the people of Ellesmere Port are sick of being used as a dumping ground for the rest of Cheshire; it may be now for the rest of the UK.”

The Appellant recognises this local specificity in its planning application [CD2.4] (paragraph 7.17) in relation to policy ENV 11 and acknowledges the local “aspiration that new industrial development is designed to a high standard”. Nevertheless, the Appellant does not seem to propose any effective compensatory mechanisms that would address the negative visual impression of the area and its historical perception, concluding that the proposed development “has been designed to be functional and comply with relevant health and safety legislation.”

Impact of the proposed development – the social aspects of climate change mitigation and adaptation

3.14 International and scientific bodies have identified socioeconomic inequality and deprivation as one of the key factors in planning for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The 5threport of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change[2](IPCC) points out that:

Differences in vulnerability and exposure [to the impacts of climate change] arise from non-climatic factors and from multidimensional inequalities often produced by uneven development processes.

Hence, reducing inequality and deprivation and improving social cohesion are the most important social-based measures for the mitigation and adaptation to climate change.Distributed renewable energy generation is also widely regarded as a mitigation measure that helps to reduce social inequalities and has the potential to empower local communities. These priorities are also embedded in policy STRAT 1 and they can be considered as social and locally-specific adaptation measures. The Appellant does not address the problem of local inequalities and does not seem to recognise their role in contributing to the local mitigation and adaptation efforts concerning climate change.

3.15 The NPPF recognises the importance of the human dimension in using planning to reduce social vulnerability to climate change effects and it defines climate change adaptation as:

Adjustments made tonatural or human systemsin response to the actual or anticipated impacts of climate change, to mitigate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities.

3.16 A failure to recognise local inequality as an important consideration for climate change mitigation and adaptation may lead to a “vicious cycle”, where initial deprivation makes populations suffer disproportionately from climate change impacts, which in turn diminishes the communities’ ability to cope with those impacts and results in even greater inequality. Climate change can, therefore, aggravate inequality but inequality can also aggravate the adverse impacts of climate change.

3.17 There is no provision in the NPPF or the Local Plan (Part One) which would suggest that the temporary nature of the proposed development (appraisal process of 18 weeks with a potential delay of operations of up to 3 years) may absolve the decision-makers and the developers from assessing the risks of cumulative and synergistic failure to address climate change in the near term. The IPCC[3]states with high scientific confidence that:

Adaptation and mitigation choices in the near term will affect the risks of climate change throughout the 21stcentury. … During this near-term period, risks will evolve as socioeconomic trends interact with the changing climate. Societal responses, particularly adaptations, will influence near-term outcomes. In the second half of the 21st century and beyond, global temperature increase diverges across emission scenarios… For this longer-term period, near-term and longer-term adaptation and mitigation, as well as development pathways, will determine the risks of climate change.

The Appellant does not seem to recognise the societal importanceof the near-term planning for climate change mitigation and adaptation and contends in their Statement of Case that:

the entire development from start to completion is programmed for circa eighteen weeks. The effects of climate change are not going to be experienced within this short time frame and therefore the design of the appeal proposal would not differ, irrespective of future effects of climate change.

3.18 Professor Kevin Anderson is giving evidence to this inquiry on the significance of potential emissions from the proposed development and the unconventional gas industry in general. I defer to his assessment of the issue. However, I wanted to draw the Inspector’s attention to the socially specific aspects of climate change risk assessment.

3.19 Climate change risks are affected by social choices and local decisions that are made in the near term. Considering the temporary nature of the proposed development, the impact of emissions from the exploration site is only one of the possible ways in which the proposed development may influence climate change. In the near term, the development may maintain or intensify inequalities that already exist in the area by providing a few high-quality jobs for people from outside the town and several elementary positions – for local residents. This would contravene the local sustainability efforts to battle inequalities and establish Ellesmere Port as a prosperous area for all its residents.

3.20 Local residents engaged in the planning process have repeatedly expressed an opinion that they felt that the Appellant fell short of their expectations regarding community consultations. This trend is particularly worrying because by failing to work with local residents, the Appellant loses the chance to respond to locally-specific sustainability principles and fails to engage the community as a major resource for adapting to climate change.

3.21 Furthermore, in the local perceptions and the Appellant’s declarations, appraisal for gas in Ellesmere Port is meant to evaluate the economic and geological viability of production. Hence, from a social perspective, the decision about whether to allow this temporary development is equivalent with a decision about whether to allow a new fossil fuel industry and full-scale production of gas in the town.

3.22 To summarise, sustainability policies and principles that apply to the proposed development should not be treated as abstract planning controls but as planning solutions informed by national policies and tailored to the local circumstances, history and challenges. What constitutes an (un)sustainable development is likely to be different in Ellesmere Port compared to other parts of the borough and the country. The proposed development does not take this local specificity into account and seems to apply an abstract understanding of sustainable development. I suggest that this approach may be inadequate in that it fails to recognise the social significance of local sustainability efforts for the future of the town in the near and longer term.

3.23 Although industrial development is generally viewed favourably by the local residents, there is an expectation that new developments should not perpetuate the historical and unsustainable attitude of their predecessors. The existing deprivation and inequalities are marked as problems to be solved by new development instead of being exacerbated by it. However, the Appellant has not satisfactorily demonstrated that their approach to local development is qualitatively better than that of other industries in the area.

3.24 Climate change mitigation and adaptation have a key role to play in addressing social inequalities and deprivation in Ellesmere Port. They are a crucial part of local sustainable development planning in the near term but they have not been considered by the Appellant.

3.25 The failure to address inequality and the local specificity of sustainability for climate change mitigation creates significant adverse social impacts of the proposed development to which I turn in the following section.

4. Social impacts of the proposed development are significant and multifaceted

4.1 Unconventional gas exploration, appraisal and extraction are becoming a socially undesirable land use in the UK. Unlike 9-10 years ago when substantial research on the UK’s unconventional hydrocarbons was scarce and the level of public awareness – low, it is now very likely that unconventional gas development will cause controversy and set off opposition anywhere it is being proposed. This fact is borne out by the many social concerns which have been raised about shale gas and coal bed methane (CBM) in Ellesmere Port and all over the UK. The sheer scale and intensity of reactions to the prospect of unconventional gas development suggest that social risks and potential adverse impacts of shale gas activities are unlikely to be insignificant.

4.2 At this stage (when shale gas in the UK is not being produced at scale), most of these social impacts have not emerged directly from the physical aspects of development such as traffic or pollution, but rather from the social processes and interactions with energy companies and the local and national authorities. This distinctly social dynamic which led to the emergence of these impacts, and is likely to exacerbate them in the future, does not mean that the effects of the proposed development are any less real or important.

What is a social impact of unconventional gas development?

4.3 Social impacts are usually not quantifiable in the same way that noise levels or air quality are, but the emerging social science research on unconventional oil and gas in the UK and worldwide has repeatedly confirmed that the social impacts of this kind of development are significant and need to be taken into consideration in planning and decision-making. The failure to do so, exacerbates the adverse impacts of development and may deepen social inequalities.

4.4 Assessing the social impacts of the proposed development means examining the ways in which social, psychological, health and political change processes associated with this development are already impacting and may impact on the daily lives, beliefs, livelihoods and community dynamics in Ellesmere Port. This definition of social impacts adopts and builds on some commonly accepted principles and best practices in social impact research, particularly those that have been formulated by the International Association for Impact Assessment. Social impacts can be experienced in a physical/bodily way or may be felt at the perceptual or emotional level. I would like to draw the Inspector’s attention to the fact that different people will have different thresholds of observation, tolerance, sensory sensibility and a different ability to cope with positive or negative impacts of development. Thus, the residents who are poorer, suffering from health problems, unhappy about and opposed to the proposed development may experience its impacts more intensely than others. Labelling those experiences as non-significant may lead to the deepening of the unequal distribution of impacts among different groups in society.

4.5 Social impacts are a key social indicator of what local residents consider to be an acceptable use of land. Landscapes are not simply physical environments and places where a particular community is located. They are also cultural phenomena and any changes made to the landscape or to the people’s understanding of it, alters the way communities experience and imagine the place, their role in it as well as themselves.

Are perceived impacts real?

4.6 Perceived impacts are by definition real and relevant social impacts, because they reflect a person’s understanding of risk. Furthermore, perceived impacts are real because people tend to respond to impulses according to their own perceptions, fears and beliefs. People’s understanding of risk can trigger a physiological response and hence, is widely recognised as a mediator of many health impacts. Stress and anxiety are real social impacts and they are not merely individual or subjective but may contribute to collective trauma caused by a common experience of unconventional oil and gas development. Social dynamics concerning trust, credibility and public engagement are also crucial for assessing social impacts and risks.

Should social concerns about hydraulic fracturing be considered although the application is stated not to be for fracking?

4.7 As I will explore below (paragraphs 4.29-4.36), there are reasonable grounds for the apparent lack of a consensus view between the parties to this appeal regarding whether or not the proposed development involves some form of fracture stimulation. Whilst the application states that the proposed flow-testing does not involve hydraulic fracturing, significant public uncertainty prevails. Some residents seem to understand the technical difference between various stimulation technologies, but they still believe that that the proposed development will use hydraulic fracturing, or fear that the current flow-testing will inevitably lead to the use of hydraulic fracturing in the future. Some residents do not believe that the difference between acidisation techniques and hydraulic fracturing is substantial enough to reduce their environmental concerns. They perceive the Appellant’s removal of hydraulic fracturing from the application as disingenuous, dangerous and potentially harmful.

4.8 In this context, the Planning Officers’ understanding of the social implications of a non-fracking development is in direct conflict with the wealth of social science theory on the subject and it cannot be supported by empirical evidence.The Officers’ report [CD2.23 paras 6.7 and 6.8] states that:

A number of objections listed above relate to issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing or specifically reference hydraulic fracturing. It should be noted that this does not form part of the proposals. … In terms of the mental health impact on nearby residents, it is acknowledged that application involving hydraulic fracturing can cause high levels of public concerns, however hydraulic fracturing does not form part of the application. The site itself is located in an industrial area where a number of industrial activities take place and the development itself would not be visible from any residential areas.

As explained in the previous paragraph, the perceived risk of hydraulic fracturing is likely to have the same social and indirectly, some of the same health, effects as if fracking was part of the application.This is particularly so in this case where significant public doubt exists about the truthfulness of the Appellant and the level of trust in the information the company has provided is low.

Unconventional gas development may exacerbate inequality and have a negative impact on health, social cohesion and community resilience

4.9 The Local Plan (SO11) and the Saved Policies of the Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Local Plan [CD5.2 para 2.10]include relevant objectives and principles which aim to ensure that new development in the area does not create unacceptable individual or cumulative impact on the local amenity and health of residents but instead, it improves the quality of life in Ellesmere Port without causing long-term social, economic or environmental harm to present or future generations. As explained in section3 of the current proof of evidence – from a social point of view – this would mean that new development should seek to address and not exacerbate the socially unequal distribution of industrial sites and the associated potential impacts in Ellesmere Port and its surrounding area.

4.10 Industrial clusters already tend to be more concentrated in more deprived areas, leading to the phenomenon known as “sacrifice zones”. In a situation when equity appraisal of the proposed development is lacking, the socially unequal distribution of risk raises particular challenges for democratic decision-making. In this case, the decision reached by the planning committee of Cheshire West and Chester Council is quite rightly regarded as a corrective mechanism through which distributional inequality was brought to bear on the narrow parameters of the technical risk assessment. The residents’ representations to the Council, as well as the discussion at the committee meeting in January 2018 reflect the fact that the proposed development was perceived as unfair from a social point of view.

4.11 In particular, the potential economic benefits of the proposed development were not seen to balance with or compensate for its potential adverse impacts. The residents and the Councillors did not seem to consider that “informed consent” was exercised at the time when the Appellant was granted its extant permission to explore and extract CBM from the EP-1 well; they also did not feel that the information provided by the Appellant regarding the current application was sufficient and that the company was entirely open about its plans in Ellesmere Port.

4.12 One of the most important equity implications of industry clustering in and around Ellesmere Port are health, including the mental health impacts of gas development. I defer to Prof. Andrew Watterson’s and Dr Patrick Saunders’ assessments of the potential health impacts but would like to make a few comments about the particular significance of industrial activity for psychological well-being of residents. Proximity to industrial activity may have an adverse direct and indirect impact on mental health. The indirect impact stems from individuals’ and communities’ perceptions of industry as harmful and/or polluting, contributing to social disorder and affecting local amenity. Industrial activity can be classed as a local stressor which causes anxiety, fear, stress and fatigue. If the social environment is characterised by a disproportionate density of industry that is located in the most deprived areas, this can lead to a cumulation of stressors and is likely to have a more negative effect on low-income classes, those with health issues and those who are unhappy about the new development, which are characteristics that are particularly pertinent in Ellesmere Port.

4.13 Long-term or historical proximity to multiple industries may be not only psychologically distressing but also lead to and increase feelings of powerlessness, which further exacerbate stress and anxiety. Powerlessness is a feeling that one is no longer in control of his/her life and one’s actions will not lead to desired outcomes. Powerlessness may be triggered and enhanced by a lack of consultations with local communities about the future of their locality, or the decisions that are made in the face of popular resistance. Powerlessness may lead to social isolation and can negatively impact on community cohesion and resilience. As one resident working in the Vauxhall car factory put it:

The people who live [in the town centre], I think the children are resigned to the fact that they can’t achieve more than this. I think it would be easy for them to think: ‘I will never be able to live in a detached house on the other side of the town.’ So it [the town] just declined and people have resigned to it. They think: ‘what can we do?’ And the people from more well-off areas can’t see what’s going on. I think people think it’s too far away to affect them. It feels like the big companies think that the people who live near are insignificant and that is so wrong and that angers me.

4.14 The local Integrated Strategic Needs Assessment (2014) [EP37 pp15-16, 23]shows that residents of Ellesmere Port fared worst in the borough in relation to feeling optimistic about the future and feeling useful. Additionally, they were significantly less likely to say that their area had improved over the last 2 years. While the extent to which these feelings are engendered by the proximity to industry is not certain, it is reasonable to suggest that the high density of industry in the area is a contributing factor, regardless of whether it is directly identified as such by the residents.

4.15 The proposed site is within 1 kilometre from residential areas, several schools, a hotel and a children’s play centre as well as the nearest motorway junction, which suggests that residents are very likely to become aware of the shale gas activities once the site is in operation. Depending on their social position, health and understanding of risk, they may also experience various levels of stress and anxiety.

4.16 The often highly specialised nature of the industries in Ellesmere Port and the wider area means that many of the jobs are high-skilled and staffed by commuting workers rather than local residents. Manufacturing jobs are mostly male-dominated. The local employment dynamic has led to the perception that “the industries are not catering to local people.” Some residents have also raised concerns about the economic benefits of the proposed development, as one of them put it: “I haven’t seen any jobs, anything for me or the people who live on my street.”

4.17 According to the Local Plan, high-skilled industries are still welcome in Ellesmere Port, but they are unlikely to make a positive impact if the underlying local inequalities in skills and education are not addressed so that the local residents can effectively avail themselves of the new employment opportunities. The current employment dynamics contribute to community fragmentation, which can be exacerbated by planning decisions that approve development without appropriate equity and social impacts appraisal. An example given by local residents was the construction of a big retail park on the outskirts of Ellesmere Port which furthered the decline of the town centre as a social and cultural hub of the town. This decision “has taken the heart out of the city”as one resident conceded. This example shows that potential economic benefits of that development should have been balanced with social losses.

4.18 It is the experiences like these that might have led the authorities of Ellesmere Port to begin refocusing its planning agenda (in Local Plan (Part Two)) around mixed use development which is supposed to not only lead regeneration efforts, but also reintegrate the town – both socially and in planning. The Cheshire West and Chester Inequalities Report (2015) [EP38] confirms the key role that local authorities play in tackling health and social inequalities:

Local authorities are uniquely placed to tackle health and social inequalities, as many of social and economic determinants of our wellbeing, and the services or activities which can make a difference, fall within their remit. The challenge is to reduce the difference in outcomes between rich and poor and to increase the quality of life and sense of wellbeing of the whole local community.   

4.19 Residents involved in the planning process and protest against the proposed development reported high levels of stress and fatigue. In addition to being worried about the potential impacts of shale gas exploration and extraction, residents felt stressed and fatigued mainly because of the demands associated with their participation in the planning process and grassroots activism. Their engagement often required more hours than a normal week of a full-time consultant, researcher or campaigner. In many cases, chronic stress has exacerbated their health problems and led to disengagement. Many of the residents engaged in opposition groups had not been previously involved in social campaigns or activism and some aspects of their involvement such as encounters with the police may feel intimidating. For some, their involvement has strained their family relations and friendships and has had financial consequences for their home budgets and businesses.

4.20 While there are no official local surveys which could unequivocally confirm anecdotal evidence about local attitudes to unconventional gas development, it seems that opposition outstrips support. There have been around 1,400 written objections and 1,044 signatories to the petition opposing the proposed development. Two representations were made in support of the application. Three local MPs are also publicly opposed to it. When residents conducted local surveys adjacent to other sites proposed by the Appellant, 80-85% of the population were against unconventional gas development. Similar results were reported in Lancashire next to the proposed shale gas sites, which further supports the view that there is no social licence for this activity.

4.21 The Appellant does not seem to enjoy a good reputation in the area and its public engagement record is poor. Some residents remember that the company secured an eviction order against a “community protection camp” at the Appellant’s previous site in Upton, only to announce shortly after the eviction was carried out that it was not going to drill for CBM at the site. The eviction, however, required significant police engagement (including the use of a police helicopter) and generated substantial costs (in the order of £200k for police costs), which the company refused to contribute to, earning a local “nickname” of “LieGas”. In the eyes of residents, the current application, which concerns shale gas rather than CBM (the target of the original application), is another example of how the company has misrepresented its real intentions to the public.

4.22 Many engaged residents feel that consultations carried out by the Appellant were inadequate and did not address their questions and concerns. The exhibitions organised by the Appellant were attended mostly by a small number of those residents who were already aware of the proposed development. The residents have also raised doubts as to the precise scope of those consultations. The inhabitants of the new residential estate which is 350 meters from the proposed site and the local businesses in the neighbouring area (with a few exceptions of businesses in Portside North) seem not to have been informed about this development. The Appellant also rejected an early invitation by a community group for a public debate on the initial development (2014). This approach seems to have undermined the relations between the Appellant and the local residents who now express deep distrust of the company.

4.23 The residents lack confidence in the company’s willingness to conduct its activities in Ellesmere Port in a safe and open manner. They are afraid that the Appellant may engage in “a deliberate flouting of regulations”, as one resident put it during the planning committee meeting in January 2018.

4.24 The Appellant’s attitude is perceived by residents opposed to the proposed development as offensive and intimidating. It also contributes to the feelings of stress, depression and anxiety. Previous research on the impacts of the planning process in Lancashire showed that local residents experienced a form of collective trauma related to the proposed shale gas development in the area, even before any construction and hydraulic fracturing began [EP07]. My colleague and I define collective trauma after K. Erikson as “a blow to the basic tissues of social life that damages the bonds attaching people together and impairs the prevailing sense of communality”; it “works its way slowly and even insidiously into the awareness of those who suffer from it,” and while “it does not have the quality of suddenness normally associated with trauma, but it is a form of shock all the same”. Local residents in Lancashire spoke of experiencing a profound sense of powerlessness and depression, a sense of loss, fear, betrayal, guilt, anger, and an emotional rollercoaster ride of highs and lows as the planning process ebbed and flowed through various stages and the appeal process. From the discussions and interactions that I have had with community members, it seems that similar symptoms of collective trauma are already emerging in relation to the proposed development in Ellesmere Port. They concern mostly stress, fatigue, feelings of anger or powerlessness as well as distrust of the police and the government. These are the social harms that may often go unnoticed by the planning system despite being a material consideration in planning decision-making.

4.25 The strained relationship between residents and the company is also very likely to sow the seeds for a wider social conflict once the shale gas activities at the site commence. This is one of the most significant social impacts of the proposed development and research shows that it may have an important effect on individuals long after their first engagement with the company.

4.26 The experiences from Balcombe, Barton Moss, Kirby Misperton and Preston New Road testify to an array of adverse social and community impacts when a company proceeds with an unwanted development, including: collective trauma, increased policing, an atmosphere of heightened insecurity and increased community disruption. Research also suggests that oil and gas wells in the UK are positively correlated with violent crime rates.[4]These negative impacts are more widespread and outstrip positive effects of unconventional developments such as: local donations by oil and gas companies, community fund payments or benefits to local subcontractors, which are much more concentrated and publicly – less visible.

4.27 The likely local conflict will reverberate all over the country and exacerbate the social effects of the proposed development by reinforcing individual and collective perceptions of social injustice. It will also result in the residents’ dissatisfaction with the political system with long-term personal effects concerning voting behaviour, protest and trust in the government. Increased policing that will accompany the resumption of gas development in Ellesmere Port is likely to lead to the radicalisation of beliefs, lack of trust in the police forces and the rule of law. These experiences may leave a long-lasting legacy of damaged relationships between communities and the local police.

4.28 The social impacts of the proposed development are not likely to be negligible and short in duration. There have been substantial social changes since the extant permission for CBM development was granted in 2010 so the previous planning consent cannot be considered as binding for the current application.

Public distrust of the proposed development and multiple definitions of fracking in the UK

4.29 There are currently multiple definitions of hydraulic fracturing and unconventional gas development. It is important to understand the role that the uncertainty in using these multiple definitions plays in generating significant public distrust and opposition, as has occurred in relation to this appeal.

4.30 There are two different definitions of hydraulic fracturing in law and national planning guidance. The meaning put forward in the Infrastructure Act (2015) has been regarded as the most controversial because it defines associated hydraulic fracturing as:

hydraulic fracturing of shale or strata encased in shale which—

(a)is carried out in connection with the use of the relevant well to search or bore for or get petroleum, and

(b)involves, or is expected to involve, the injection of—

(i)more than 1,000 cubic metres of fluid at each stage, or expected stage, of the hydraulic fracturing, or

(ii)more than 10,000 cubic metres of fluid in total.

However, it has been raised by Friends of the Earth in their consultation response that the current application may qualify as hydraulic fracturing because the volumes proposed for the use in the flow test exceed those above and fit the guidelines in the Direction of the Secretary of State of 29thNovember 2017.

4.31 A different definition is contained in the National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG)[CD6.1]and it states that:

Hydraulic fracturing is the process of opening and/or extending existing narrow fractures or creating new ones (fractures are typically hairline in width) in gas or oil-bearing rock, which allows gas or oil to flow into wellbores to be captured.

This definition is arguably more relevant to the technologies used on the ground. It is also more in line with the public understanding of the process.

4.32 However, a specifically social understanding of fracking extends beyond a particular stage in the shale gas development and encompasses the planning and exploration phases as well as all other industrial elements of hydraulic fracturing, such as truck traffic, waste disposal and the use of water.

4.33 Furthermore, the Environment Agency has clarified [EP20]that it regards acid fracturing/fracture acidisation to be a form of hydraulic fracturing and matrix acidisation to be a form of stimulation which aims to stimulate the flow in the gas reservoir. Acid wash is not considered to be a form of stimulation.

4.34 The Appellant proposes to use diluted acid to re-establish natural flow in the gas formation. In the Environmental Risk Assessment provided to the Environment Agency (IGAS-EPRA-EP-ERA-007 Waste Produced table 005), the Appellant stated:

Acid is used during well clean up (treatment) operations. The acid is used to expand existing channels within the rock formation to aid petroleum products to flow to surface.

4.35 This, however, may constitute fracking according to the local definition spelled out in the SPD:

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is a generic term for operations which aim to improve hydrocarbon flow rates in low permeability oil/gas reservoirs by increasing the natural fracturing in the rocks, or by creating artificial fractures. These operations vary, in choice and volume of fluid injected, pressures and rates, depending on specific reservoir attributes.

4.36 The local community, therefore, has legitimate reasons to consider that this development may involve fracking. This amplifies distrust of the Appellant and creates a local perception that the company is going to use hydraulic fracturing but is trying to avoid fracking regulations.

Social impacts of conventional and unconventional gas development – the Appellant’s characterisation of the development as “conventional”

4.37 Historically, the distinction between conventional and unconventional gas development has been important because it marked the achievement of certain technological milestones. In the UK, however, it seems that the industry is attempting (whether consciously or not) to redefine the conventional/unconventional division and the development in Ellesmere Port may be an emerging case study of shifting classifications in onshore oil and gas development. Such changes, however, are not synonymous with the public acceptance of a development that used to be considered unconventional. Thus, designating a development as conventional does not guarantee community acquiescence and it does little to abate risk perceptions, especially in a situation characterised by a significant lack of trust.

4.38 The Appellant seems to imply that they are proposing a conventional gas development because the geological

geometry allows for an accumulation of conventionally trapped hydrocarbons within the Pentre Chert in a stratigraphic pinch out.

However at this moment, the level of public distrust is high and it is very unlikely that the assertion that the development in Ellesmere Port is a conventional gas development will abate residents’ understanding of risk. To the contrary, it can exacerbate uncertainty and stress and it does not bode well for potential future cooperation between the local community and the Appellant.

4.39 Though no standard and precise classifications exist, there are at least three different but complementary ways of defining what exactly constitutes “unconventional gas”. Many claim (like the Appellant) that it is geology that makes a resource unconventional. Unconventional resources are both the source and the reservoir of gas, unlike in conventional sources in which oil and gas migrate and are often trapped in discrete accumulations.

4.40 Another definition of unconventional resources hinges on the technological difficulties of getting the gas or oil to flow. Unlike conventional resources, unconventional gas does not flow on its own to the wellbore and needs to be “stimulated”. What defines unconventionality of shale gas in this understanding is the fact that in order to “free up” an unconventional resource, advanced technologies are required. These technologies are often applied jointly and involve for example: horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, “slick water” or acidisation, together with a range of seismic and measuring techniques. However, the oil and gas industry has emphasised that this definition of unconventional resources is not fixed and resources may become “conventional” when new methods and technologies become available.

4.41 The third explanation of unconventional resources builds on the previous definition and points to the global gas prices as a factor that determines whether unconventional technologies, which are usually many times more expensive than conventional ones, can produce gas economically. According to this definition, inflated oil and gas prices around 2008 were the driving factor for the shale gas revolution. Unconventionality, therefore, was only unlocked when market conditions were favourable. If exploration becomes prohibitively expensive, projected resources are scaled down. In this understanding, it is economy rather than simply geology that determines the size of the resources.

4.42 Although unconventionality is clearly grounded in the geological and physical qualities of rocks, the above definitions demonstrate that materiality is hardly the only determining factor. Instead, the category is flexible; the boundary of what is considered an unconventional resource tends to move quite quickly.For example, the ultra-deep oil extraction in the Gulf of Mexico was once considered unconventional but is now grouped into the conventional category. Moreover, given that in 2010, unconventional gas provided 58% of the United States’ natural gas supply, defining it as unconventional may seem misleading.

4.43 While one can only surmise about the reasons why the UK’s oil and gas industry is perhaps trying to redefine the boundary between conventional and unconventional development, the Appellant’s actions to this effect are perceived as disingenuous by those opposed to the proposed development. It is feared that introducing this definitional uncertainty would aim to stifle opposition and circumvent proper regulations. Classifying the proposed development as conventional raises residents’ concerns that inappropriate monitoring and control mechanisms would be applied or avoided altogether, which may lead to a lack of proper oversight with significant social, environmental and health consequences. As the range of uncertainties concerning this application is increasing, the social impacts are likely to become more profound.

5. Conclusions

5.1 The Appellant has not considered or addressed many of the social effects of the proposed development and has not shown that unacceptable adverse social impacts would be mitigated or would not arise in the course of its operations. In addition to the direct social effects of the proposed development, its social aspects are also important mediating factors for health and environmental impacts. By failing to include the social context of the proposed industrial operations, the application becomes abstract in character, which precludes a more complete understanding of how risk factors operate in the reality of social environments. This is particularly so in relation to the social impact of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

5.2 Ellesmere Port is already a socially vulnerable area. The town consistently ranks among the most deprived areas in Cheshire West and Chester across a number of deprivation factors. Over 80% of Ellesmere Port Town (ward) residents live in areas of multiple deprivation (compared to approximately 20% for England and less than 20% for the borough of Cheshire West and Chester). Residents who are poorer, suffering from health problems, unhappy and opposed to the proposed development may experience its impacts more intensely than others. Labelling those experiences as non-significant may lead to the deepening of unequal distribution of impacts among different groups in society.

5.3 The social impacts of the proposed development are significant and multifaceted. The uncertainty over the exact type of the development (conventional/unconventional) and the use of hydraulic fracturing exacerbates many of the social impacts instead of abating risk perceptions.

5.4 The proposed development is perceived as unfair and the potential economic benefits are not seen to balance with or compensate for its adverse impacts. During the committee meeting in January 2018, the residents and the Councillors did not seem to consider that “informed consent”was exercised at the time when the Appellant was granted its extant permission to explore and extract CBM from the EP-1 well; they also did not feel that the information provided by the Appellant regarding the current application was sufficient and that the company was entirely open about its plans in Ellesmere Port.

5.5 The proposed industrial activity can be classed as a local stressor that causes anxiety, fear, stress and fatigue. If the social environment is characterised by a disproportionate density of industry that is located in most deprived areas, this can lead to a cumulation of stressors and is likely to have a more negative effect on low-income classes, those with health issues and those who are unhappy about the new development, which are characteristics that are particularly pertinent in Ellesmere Port.

5.6 The Appellant’s attitude is perceived by residents opposed to the proposed development as offensive and intimidating, which also contributes to the feelings of stress, depression and anxiety. As shown in document EP07, local residents can experience a form of collective trauma related to the proposed shale gas development in the area, even before any construction and hydraulic fracturing begins. Local residents in Lancashire spoke of experiencing a profound sense of powerlessness and depression, a sense of loss, fear, betrayal, guilt, anger, and an emotional rollercoaster ride of highs and lows as the planning process ebbed and flowed through various stages and the appeal process. Similar symptoms of collective trauma are already emerging in relation to the proposed development in Ellesmere Port. These are the social harms that may often go unnoticed by the planning system despite being a material consideration in planning decision-making.

5.7 The strained relationship between residents and the company is also very likely to sow the seeds for a wider social conflict once the shale gas activities at the gas site commence. This is one of the most significant social impacts of the proposed development and research shows that it may have an important effect on individuals long after their first engagement with the company.

5.8 Oil and gas development can only take place where these resources are found and documented. However, research shows that opposition to locally unwanted land use is never irrational or concerned solely about its own locality without recognising the needs of the wider population. When local residents’ attitudes, understandings and experiences are taken into account, they are found to be complex and diverse. It is important to consider these views because community involvement in the planning process in Ellesmere Port contributes to effective decision-making about unconventional gas developments.

5.9 When the social impacts set out above are properly taken into account, it is clear that the development is not sustainable, because it fails to comply with the social element of sustainability. This is reflected in the lack of compliance with STRAT 1.

Appendix 1 Witness Statement of Ellesmere Port Frack Free

Introduction

  1. I make this statement in connection with the return hearing CUADRILLA v IAN R CRANE on 10-11 July 2018 at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, Bridge Street, Manchester M60 9DJ.
  2. My home address is Address deleted for privacy reasons. However, I am acting on behalf of Ellesmere Port Frack Free (EPFF) of which we hold no offices or premises to operate from.
  3. The purpose of this statement is to provide the Court with some information relevant to these proceedings. This statement is made from our groups own knowledge and from information that has been provided to us through various sources and research.
  4. I am a local mother who is speaking on behalf of our grassroots movement Ellesmere Port Frack Free.We are a group of local individuals who come from an array of different political, educational and socio-economic backgrounds.
  5. Prior to forming our group a large percentage of us had no previous involvement with campaigning but felt the need to organise so as to stop this industry from becoming active in our area…or any other area.

The History of Ellesmere Port Frack Free

  1. We were and still are a group of individual local residents who became interested in the effects of fracking when we discovered our town had been granted a 25 year production licence for the drilling of coal bed methane under delegated powers.As we had no former knowledge of the oil and gas industry we were curios to discover more about the proposed operations.
  2. As a result of our naivety and curiosity we contacted IGas to request a representative to explain their operations and to engage in a local Q&A session. Along with the IGas invitation we also contacted Frack Off to see if they could send a representative in order to have a balanced view on the subject.  Local councillors along with our former MP were also invited to attend the meeting, which was to be held in a local community centre.  Unfortunately, although in hindsight not surprisingly IGas refused the local communities request; despite our flexibility on times and dates.
  3. This refusal to engage with our local community, despite webpage claims of actively participating in community engagement raised alarms with certain individuals including myself. As a result, we each started to conduct our own research into the practice and were alarmed at our discoveries.
  4. These finding led us to form a local grassroots movement which we decided to name Ellesmere Port Frack Free…the rest as they say is history!

Our concerns regarding hydraulic fracturing for fossil fuels.

  1. As previously stated each of our members have extensively researched the effects of fracking and continue to do so as new scientific evidence emerges.For many of us it has become a way of life, with each of us sharing our findings on our local social media page, through informal discussions, community meetings, campaigns and information sessions.
  2. The findings we have discovered are alarming and make us as a town fearful of our future.Not just from an environmental aspect but from a health and economical one also.
  3. The fact that IGas plan to operate in an already industrialised and heavily polluted area is of grave concern as it has been proven by various independent researchers that air quality around frack sites diminishes.
  4. More worryingly is how close the site is situated to large residential areas with their local amenities including a local primary school and medical centre (less than one mile as the crow flies).It is also within yards of numerous businesses who operate on a daily basis and in close proximity to and area of special scientific interest.

Our involvement in campaigning

  1. Due to a lack of community engagement from IGas, we, as a group have been left with the task of raising awareness within our local community. As previously stated none of our members had previous experience of campaigning but we learnt ‘on the job’, so to speak.
  2. Since our group was initially set up we have collectively campaigned to stop this highly toxic industry from getting a foot hold in our town.We have held community meetings and information sessions, canvassed from door to door and lobbied our politicians to listen to our views and concerns.
  3. This has seen our group grow from an initial handful of concerned residents to a group which now has approximately 1.4k members…many of whom ARE local people.
  4. A 38 degrees petition set up by EPFF in January 2018 saw nearly 2,500 local residents object to IGas application for an extended flow test which would see thousands of tonnes of acid and gas flared.
  5. Possibly as a result of the overwhelming amount of objections the planning committee rejected the proposal by 11 – 1.

 The future of Ellesmere Port Frack Free.

  1. Despite our local council rejecting the planning application, IGas have ignored a local democratic decision and appealed directly to central government to over-rule our communities wish. This is the same ill regarded process that Cuadrilla have used at Preston New Road, Lancs to secure their licence to frack.
  2. Not only have IGas appealed to central government in a total disregard to a communities wishes but they have also decided, along with Peel Holdings to issue an injunction against ‘persons unknown’ not only outside their site but for the length and breadth of the road owned by Peel Holdings.
  3. Previous protests against the industry were peacefully conducted and supported by many of the businesses surrounding the site who are situated within the injunctions boundaries. Understandably we are alarmed and upset that IGas have sought this injunction and we wish to appeal against their injunction.
  4. The injunction itself is intimidating with the very real possibility of being penalised either with a criminal record, financial fine or imprisonment. Many of us have no criminal record and our employment is secure as a direct result of this factor.
  5. This leads us as a group to believe that IGas aim is to intimidate us into submission. That we must simply put up and shut up or face prosecution.  It has made us question our believes on what is democracy?  Where our human rights to protest lie?  Is Britain that far gone that we can no longer have faith in our Prime Minister who states that “Local planning decisions should be returned to locally elected councillors” and that “Local councils need the power to stop unsuitable developments.”
  6. If this injunction is upheld it is a huge injustice; not only to us locally but to our country as a whole. Is IGas’s intention to scare us into inactive, mutism and open the floodgates for future companies to seek these injunctions when somebody disagrees with them?!
  7. We as a group of ordinary citizens plead to the courts to over-rule this injunction in order to restore our faith in the British law system and to uphold our human rights to peaceful protest in a manner and place that we seek fit.

Statement of truth

I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.

Signed:

Name deleted for privacy reasons

For and on behalf of Ellesmere Port Frack Free.

Dated: 12thSeptember 2018

References

Number Document
EP04 CWAC Rossmore Ward Snapshot 2017
EP07 Fracking Lancashire; The planning process, social harm and collective trauma

Damien Short, Anna Szolucha, Geoforum 2017

EP20 Use of acid at oil and gas exploration and production sites

Environment Agency 2018

EP21 CWAC Ellesmere Port Ward Snapshot 2017
EP27 CWAC Locality Dashboard 2015
EP37 Cheshire West and Chester Integrated Strategic Needs Assessment: Summary 2014
EP38 Cheshire West and Chester Inequalities Report 2015

[1]Pye, S., King, K., & Struman, J. (2006). Air Quality and Social Deprivation in the UK: an environmental inequalities analysis (Final Report to Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs No. AEAT/ENV/R/2170,). DEFRA. Retrieved from https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/reports/cat09/0701110944_AQinequalitiesFNL_AEAT_0506.pdf

[2]Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2014). Summary for policymakers. In Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (pp. 1–32). Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

[3]Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2014). Summary for policymakers. In Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (pp. 1–32). Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

[4]Stretesky, P. B., Long, M. A., McKie, R. E., & Aryee, F. A. (2018). Does oil and gas development increase crime within UK local authorities? The Extractive Industries and Society, 5(3), 356–365. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2018.03.006