Fracking paperwork breaks councillor’s toes

Coun Niki Penney following her injury
Coun Niki Penney following her injury

It’s been said that fracking could be dangerous for Lancashire - now here’s the proof.

Skerton County Coun Niki Penney - who was one of the councillors that said no to fracking today - broke her toes after slipping on fracking paperwork piled on her stairs at home.

Coun Penney, who joined other county councillors in refusing the application by oil and gas company Cuadrilla to explore for shale gas in the county, was so tired after reading through mountains of evidence that she came a cropper in the early hours of the morning.

She said: “It was about 2am and I’d been going through all the evidence.

“I was so tired that I decided to go up to bed, but on the way up the stairs I slipped on all the papers and emails and everything else.

“I thought there’s no way I’m going to A&E at this time so I grasped my feet and cracked my toes back in.”

Coun Penney went to A&E the next morning, and found she had broken four toes on her left foot.

She said that Lancashire Council Councillors “spoke together with one voice for the people of Lancashire”, when they made their decision to refuse test drilling at Preston New Road on June 29, and Roseacre in the Fylde on June 26.

The Preston New Road application has caused most controversy as it was recommended for approval by county council officers.

Councillors voted nine against and three in favour, with two abstentions.

But Coun Penney said “this was just the very beginning” as Cuadrilla would almost certainly appeal.

She said: “There were various reasons why I voted against, but the main ones were visual impact on the rural area, industrialisation of a rural area, noise and pollution.

“You’ve got to realise that there’s a higher level of noise in London than there is here in the countryside.

“I think what was positive about it was that this decision was made by all parties, including independent, and we all spoke together with one voice for the people of Lancashire.

“But this is only just the very beginning. They’ll go to appeal and they’re a big, rich company.”

Coun Penney said the potential cost to the council with an appeal was not a consideration.

She said: “You cannot take money into consideration when you’re making this sort of momentous decision.

“You’ve got to think about the lives of people. We’ve received thousands of emails from people all over the world. People telling us about the disasters they’ve had.

“Planning has been made a lot less regulatory by this government in order to make things easier for developers, and that is counting against us when it comes to the future of our children and grand-children.

“Cuadrilla is a rich organisation, and there’s no doubt they’ll be back again, just hopefully not to us.”

Coun Penney’s colleague Chris Henig, who represents Lancaster South East on the county council has been helping Coun Penney to get to all the meetings following her fall.

She said: “We have had an awful lot to read and an awful lot of evidence to listen to. This has been a very complicated and difficult few days, and very intense. We had verbal legal advice, but the follow up written legal advice was couched in much softer terms.

“In terms of economic benefits, I was asking myself - what economic benefits? There are employers within a two mile radius of the sites employing hundreds of people, whereas both fracking sites would only employ 11 people each. So you do start to wonder.

“All that’s up for offer with the current application is 11 jobs on both sites, what’s at risk are hundreds of jobs within tourism.

“It could have an effect on farming as well, do people want to by milk from farms close to a fracking site?

“We’ve got a beautiful county here and that’s why people come to it. We’ve got issues but we’ve got to find a different way.

“That doesn’t come into planning law, but we’re councillors at the end of the day, and we’ve got to bring the democratic process into the decision.

In the end it wasn’t the Friends of the Earth evidence that was so compelling to me, but the evidence of a very good London barrister who cited case law.

This was a democratic voice.”

Cuadrilla are now considering whether to appeal the decisions.