Shale gas giants Cuadrilla have admitted that routes to the proposed Roseacre Wood fracking site have been designed in part to reduce the impact of protests.
The revelation came at the third day of the public inquiry into the site, which was previously rejected due to issues over road safety.
Representing Lancashire County Council, Alan Evans said that one reason for travel flexibility over three routes “is the likelihood of protester activity on one of the routes”.
READ MORE: Road safety for routes to Roseacre Wood where Cuadrilla hopes to drill for shale gas comes under the microscope
He added: “It’s essentially the same development [as the Preston New Road fracking site].
"There are for better or worse large numbers of people opposed to hydraulic fracturing aren’t there? Of those people there are large numbers willing to commit their energy to protesting outside sites.”
Mr Evans also suggested that the inclusion of out of hours working is designed to enable later deliveries to the site if daytime protests make that difficult.
Technical director for Cuadrilla, Mark Lappin, agreed with Mr Evans on all the points.
As well as this, Coun Richard Nulty for Greenhalgh with Thistleton Parish Council, questioned Cuadrilla’s traffic consultant David Bird over HGV’s travelling at high speeds.
Mr Bird said: “I think that’s something that we hope to address through the education program we have talked about and also through passive enforcement.
"What I mean by that is I think it’s good that local people that are aware of contractors working inappropriately to tell Cuadrilla.”
Government inspector Mel Middleton asked why Cuadrilla have decided to have three transport routes to the site.
Mr Bird said: "I think when I got involved we took a fresh approach and said is it right just to stick with the blue route? Is it correct anyway?
"We concluded that we didn't agree with the reasons for previously not pursuing the green or red routes.
"I think from Caudrilla's POV, while there's a lot of internal debate about it, they saw the benefits of flexibility in routes for example a lot of materials coming from the north off the A585.
"It provides that flexibility if there's an incident on one particular route."
Representing the Roseacre Awareness Group, Ben Du Feu took concern with HGV's swinging out into opposing lanes of traffic, highlighting the turn from Inskip Road to Salwick Road and junctions at the Hand and Dagger Inn, where HGV's will turn left from Station Road onto Treales Road and then a quick right onto Station Road.
Mr Bird said: "This is one of the generic issues. If vehicles are going to make maneuvers at these junctions they are going to have to go into the opposing carriageway. I haven't shied away from that.
"To design or mitigate the network without going in would be with acres of tarmac. That maneuver is not the problem, its whether that maneuver can be done safely."
He added: "HGV drivers proceed with considerable caution. In one sense one's caution is increased by the severity of the bend and visibility.
"You adjust your driving conditions to the road and proceed with caution."