THE battle lines have been drawn as 2017 gets set to usher in an era of shale gas exploration in Lancashire.
On one side stands gas exploration firm Cuadrilla, which has been given the go-ahead by the Government to “frack” at a site in Preston New Road, Little Plumpton.
On the other are local residents and anti-fracking protestors who fear that the industry could ruin the Fylde and Lancashire.
Neither side is prepared to back down - and each side is totally convinced of its own arguments.
Cuadrilla, headed by Francis Egan, has pledged to put Lancashire first when it comes to getting the benefits from a shale gas industry.
Early site clearing and preparation work could start as early as January. And local firms are queuing up to be part of the supply chain, which industry bosses say shows there will be economic benefits to Lancashire.
But opponents fear only a handful of jobs will be created, and their villages and environment could be tainted by fracking, earth tremors, water pollution fears and traffic problems. They are also angry that the Government stepped in to grant Cuadrilla’s appeal even though county councillors had rejected the plans. Demonstrations by protesters at fracking sites are inevitable, bringing major policing problems.
Cuadrilla has vowed it will publish details of how many jobs are created, where the work is going, and how much money is invested in the local community on an independently audited tracker online.
And it says that says that by moving its HQ to Lancashire, it has created 14 full-time jobs and nearly £700,000 has directly gone into the Lancashire economy.
But Hannah Martin, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “With public support for fracking at an all-time low, and hundreds of campaign groups like Frack Free Lancashire all across the UK, the Government and fracking companies shouldn’t underestimate the strength of feeling on this issue. The people of Lancashire have been fighting for their communities for more than five years. It’s clear their calls for local democracy and prioritisation of clean energy will continue in 2017.”