Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 15, 2017

No Balance Of Justice For Roseacre Wood?

  A Lancashire resident has been refused permission to take court action against the Communities’ Secretary, Sajid Javid, over Cuadrilla’s second Lancashire shale gas site at Roseacre Wood.

Jules Burton who lives 500m from the site, heard this morning that his challenge had been blocked by Mr Justice Dove, the High Court judge who on Wednesday dismissed two local challenges against Mr Javid over the Preston New Road fracking site.

Mr Burton said he was astonished by today’s news. He described the ruling as “not merely questionable but worrying in the extreme”. He said it had “rendered the democratic decision process to nothing more than window dressing”. Mr Burton’s challenge centred on the decision by Mr Javid to reopen the public inquiry on Roseacre Wood.

The Communities Secretary said on 6 October last year that he was minded to approve planning permission for the site. This was despite objections from parish and district councils, refusal of planning permission by Lancashire County Council on road safety grounds and a recommendation to reject Cuadrilla’s appeal for the same reason by the inspector at a 19-day public inquiry. Mr Javid said Cuadrilla had failed to provide adequate evidence that it had properly addressed the safety issues. The reopened inquiry would, he said, give the company the opportunity to “provide additional evidence on this point.”

Mr Burton argued that reopening the inquiry was “irrational”, “tainted by bias” and amounted to an abuse of power”. He said it was “inconceivable” that the Secretary of State would allow an unsuccessful objector an opportunity to present new evidence after an inquiry had closed. He added that the Secretary of State had not consulted with parties at the inquiry about whether the proceedings should be reopened and had not considered the financial impact and distress this would have on local people.

In his ruling on Mr Burton’s challenge, Mr Justice Dove said “I am satisfied that it would not be appropriate to grant permission in this case. It was not necessary for the reopened inquiry to be before the same Inspector, and there is no reason to infer bias from the proposal that another, entirely independent, Inspector should be commissioned to hear the reopened inquiry.”

Mr Justice Dove ordered Mr Burton to pay the Secretary of State’s costs of £2,055 within 14 days but turned down Cuadrilla’s claim for costs. When asked if he would pursue the case, Mr Burton said “I cannot afford to”.

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