UKOOG legal advice: breaking news


BREAKING NEWS: UKOOG legal advice confirms the view given to Lancashire Councillors by David Manley QC


As efforts intensify on both sides ahead of tomorrow’s crucial vote on plans for shale gas exploration in Lancashire, the latest legal advice to be circulated confirms that given to Lancashire Councillors last week.

David Manley QC, who was called to the Bar over 30 years ago and has been a Silk for over ten years, is a leading expert in planning law.  He told councillors that there were no reasonable grounds for refusing Cuadrilla’s application to drill, frack and test the flow of gas at a site just outside Blackpool.

He also warned the Development Control Committee that any refusal would likely be overturned on appeal, and that Lancashire County Council could find itself on the hook for substantial costs.

Local residents groups subsequently published their own advice obtained from Ashley Bowes of Guildford Chambers.  Dr Bowes, who earned his doctorate in Employment Law and was called to the Bar in 2013, asserted that Councillors have sufficient cause to refuse the application on noise and landscape grounds and that, even if the applicant proved successful on appeal, the risk of an award of costs against the council was low.

Today, the industry body UKOOG has published independent legal advice acquired from another leading planning expert, Nathalie Lieven QC.

It confirms the advice provided by David Manley QC and questions the assertions of Dr Bowes.   In her advice, Nathalie says: “Where Members depart from the recommendation of officers, they must do so reasonably and on the basis of robust evidence.  Ashley Bowes does not provide reasons why a refusal and departure from officer’s recommendations would be reasonable.”

Commenting on the latest developments, Lee Petts, chief executive at the Onshore Energy Services Group and managing director at Lancashire-based environmental consultants Remsol, said: “Councillors on the Development Control Committee have a difficult decision facing them tomorrow, when they have to balance the needs and opportunities for Lancashire’s wider community with the concerns of their local constituents.

“But it seems that the legal case is clear cut: planning officers at Lancashire County Council have been unequivocal in their recommendation that plans at Preston New Road be approved.  Not only has the council taken legal advice from one of Britain’s leading experts in planning law that confirms there are no sustainable grounds for refusal of the application, we now have another independent opinion from the very experienced Nathalie Lieven QC that echoes that of Mr Manley.

“On balance, it would be wise for Councillors to accept the advice of their own legal counsel in this matter and vote to approve the plans before them.”