Aurora’s Public Relations Failure

Aurora Energy Resources, the company who want to frack in Great Altcar near to Formby, held a poorly advertised public consultation exercise in Haskayne Village Hall earlier this month. In spite of a remote setting, thanks to publicity by local anti-fracking groups, there was a good turnout of concerned residents seeking answers. Approximately 150 people attended the event to learn more about Aurora’s plans; most went away frustrated.

Aurora

Many of the exhibit boards had been previously displayed in Aurora’s exhibition earlier this year, with some still containing factual errors pointed out at the time. The new displays gave scant detail of the environmental implications of Aurora’s plans. All attempts to elicit further information were met by a promise that it would only be available in the planning application in due course.

Under its licence conditions Aurora should have sought planning permission by the end of September 2018; the application now looks like being delayed until early in the New Year. Aurora will not hold any further public exhibitions once the application is submitted; previous promises of regular newsletters for residents and to establish a community liaison group appear to have been shelved.

ne of the Directors confirmed the land was leased and this was not only Aurora’s most expensive cost but also one of their biggest concerns as the terms of the lease could be altered sometime in the future. New Subsurface AreaAlthough the Managing Director was not very forthcoming when questioned about the direction of the lateral well, information in the exhibition showed this will be directed eastwards, with the ‘area affected rectangle’ now extended in that direction. This means drilling straight through at least one major Faultline close towards the edge of a groundwater protection zone (see the Threats Map). The drilling rig will be 50/60 metres high and very near to an electricity transmission line and pylon. Photoshop impressions implied it would be unobtrusive to local residents.

Several of the Aurora team were asked about the number of wells on the pad; most gave very ‘vague’ replies with one figure of 15 being suggested. Further planning permission would be required for any number of wells above the 2 that have already been highlighted.

Other exhibits unsurprisingly showed the noise footprint limit from the well pad fell just short of most of the properties in Great Altcar village, as night noise affecting local properties has been a factor causing planning consent to be withheld in other locations. Similarly, air quality measuring limits implied that local residents would be unaffected by discharges from the wells.

Access and Traffic

Access to the well pad will require the construction of a new road about 700m long from the Suttons Lane/Broad Lane junction along the southern edge of the field leading to New Cut Drain. The road is expected to be 4 metres in width and is not wide enough for two HGVs to pass. The road was confirmed as being one way, with traffic flow controlled ‘manually’. The the ditches either side of Suttons Lane would not be altered due to the presence of wildlife.

The Director of Aurora confirmed two traffic surveys had been undertaken; when questioned about the figures, which seemed unrealistic, he appeared vague about the results. Aurora claim 350 HGV movements a day westward on the B5195, inferring the survey was taken around the bend in Lord Sefton Way at the start of Suttons Lane. This together with their vehicle movement charts clearly implied that the extra traffic generated by well pad construction and operation was minimal. The exhibitors seemed unaware of the narrowness of the bridge over the River Alt and were completely ignorant of the volume of cars parking daily by the retail park, along the stretch of footpath leading east to the bridge. Nor could Aurora respond to concerns that their activities would exacerbate the current peak time queues of traffic through Ince Blundell woods on the A565.

Other Concerns

  • When asked about investors, one of the Directors initially stated that they were all UK based before reluctantly confirming there was investment from abroad.
  • When questioned about public liability to cover potential/eventual problems only a vague response was provided; no reassurance of funds being available was offered.
  • The Director confirmed there are approximately 60 homes that would receive a proportion of the £100,000 compensation fund with the remainder given to Lancashire Council to spend where they saw fit (Sefton, the council likely to be most affected, would not receive any of this fund). Aurora’s ‘advertising board’ stated 1% compensation would be paid on production revenues (not profits). It was confirmed that this should read 1% of profits.
  • The Managing Director did not deny that Aurora might not complete the final drilling stage and instead sell to a larger company such as Shell or Exxon.

We urge Lancashire County Council to refuse planning consent to Aurora Energy Resources Ltd. for an exploratory wellsite on the Moss near Great Altcar. The online petition is available on the 38 Degrees website here.

Many thanks for your support.