British fracking bid should be rejected, report says

Security fencing is seen around an exploratory drilling site operated by British energy firm Cuadrilla in the village of Balcombe, southern England, on August 15, 2013 (AFP Photo/Gareth Fuller) (Pool/AFP/File)

London (AFP) - Plans put forward by a British energy firm to start fracking operations at two sites in Lancashire should be rejected because they would create too much noise, an official report recommended Wednesday.

Round-the-clock drilling by Cuadrilla close to Blackpool would have "a significant adverse effect" on the health and quality of life of local residents, the Lancashire County Council report said.

An increase in traffic, particularly heavy goods vehicles, would also result in "an unacceptable impact" on nearby roads, the report added.

Councillors will take into account the planning officers' recommendations when they make a final decision next week on the application for fracking in the Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood areas.

Rejection of the plans would be a major blow to Britain's fledgling shale gas and oil industry, supported by the government, which says it will create jobs and growth.

Cuadrilla said it was "very disappointed" at the planning officers' recommendations.

"After an extraordinarily lengthy period of consultation and review of around seven months we are surprised that, at this late point, the planning team at Lancashire County Council has raised objections about background noise for both sites," the Staffordshire-based firm said in a statement.

"We believe, supported by independent experts Arup, that we have come forward with measures that would mitigate the noise of drilling and fracturing and the proposed noise levels are within the limits set out in government guidance."

The applications were met with fierce opposition from campaigners who voiced concerns about the potential environmental impact and health implications.

Opponents of fracking, which involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure underground, fear the process can cause earthquakes, pollute water supplies and scar the countryside.

Fracking tests by Cuadrilla near Blackpool were the likely cause of earth tremors in 2011, according to a report commissioned by the firm but it said the conditions that caused the tremors were "unlikely to occur again".

In their report, planning officers said shale gas exploration was in principle "acceptable", and the risk of air pollution, water contamination and seismic movements were low.

However, they said around round-the-clock drilling would lead to a "significant increase in night-time background noise levels" and "unnecessarily and unacceptably" affect residents in the area.

"There would be significant noise associated with the drilling operation on a 24-hour basis for an initial period of five months and then over three further three-month periods that would create most noise disturbance," the report warned.