Councillors reject fracking

The Fracking meeting at County Hall in Preston
The Fracking meeting at County Hall in Preston
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County councillors have rejected plans for fracking in Fylde.

Councillors reconvened to discuss the application for the Preston New Road site – earmarked for approval – after councillors deferred the decision last week, amid huge legal rows over reasons for refusal.

This is disappointing news for job creation and investment in Lancashire.

John Kersey, chairman of the Lancashire branch of the Institute of Directors

They were told reasons put forward for rejection would not stand up in an appeal.

But councillors today threw out the plans for an exploratory frack site, which Cuadrilla would have used to measure the amount of gas in Bowland shale.

Councillors rejected the advice of their officers and rejected the plans, after rejecting a site in Roseacre last week.

NWLCC chief executive Babs Murphy said: “Although it is disappointing that councillors have gone against the recommendation of planning officers, we hope this is not the death knell for this industry in Lancashire.

“In turning down this proposal, councillors appear to have ruled with their hearts, rather than their heads, and ignored the reasoned arguments of those with genuine expertise in this industry.

“Our hope is that this decision will be appealed and that the appeal will be successful, otherwise what is certain is that fracking will go ahead elsewhere in the UK and Lancashire will miss out on thousands of jobs and massive economic benefits.”

The North West Energy Task Force said it was disappointed by the decision.

John Kersey, chairman of the Lancashire branch of the Institute of Directors, said: “This is disappointing news for job creation and investment in Lancashire. Today’s announcement increases the chance that the benefits Lancashire would have derived from becoming a hub for the industry will go elsewhere.

“The rejection is particularly unsatisfactory since it came after an exhaustive process, which found no sustainable reasons for rejecting the application.”

Claire Smith, President of Stay Blackpool, said: “The rejection of the application is a real missed opportunity for the region. Blackpool is in major need of regeneration. Approval of the application would have brought fresh investment and created highly skilled jobs in the region. The decision increases the possibility we will miss this chance.”

Cuadrilla said in a statement: “We are surprised and disappointed that Lancashire County Council’s Development Control Committee has denied planning consent for our application to explore for shale gas at Preston New Road, particularly as their decision follows a positive recommendation by the Council’s Planning Officers. We remain committed to the responsible exploration of the huge quantity of natural gas locked up in the shale rock deep underneath Lancashire.

“We will now take time to consider our options regarding an appeal for Preston New Road, along with also considering appeals for the planning applications recently turned down, against Officer advice, for monitoring and site restoration at Grange Hill, and last week’s decision to refuse the Roseacre Wood application.

“It is over a year since the application was submitted to the Council and the committee’s decision comes after Planning Officer’s scrupulously went through the rigorous, 4,000-page Environmental Statement that accompanied our application and conducted widespread public consultation, which led to their positive recommendation.

“We completed the most comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessments ever carried out for operations of this kind. These Assessments are the product of thousands of hours of work from independent expert environmental scientists and other engineering specialists and they demonstrate beyond question that the operations can and will be conducted safely and without damage to people’s health or their environment.

“The UK and the EU has a strict regulatory framework for governing oil and gas exploration and production and we have had to secure many permissions and permits before work can start.

“If we can unlock this shale gas potential it will help create jobs, generate economic growth, help fuel and heat local businesses and homes and boost local tax revenues for Lancashire.

“It is regrettable that the County Council has decided not to support this application in the face of positive recommendation from all regulators and their own Officers.”

Following the outcome, Friends of the Earth North West campaigner Furqan Naeem said: “People in Lancashire and across the UK who have been tirelessly campaigning against fracking will breathe a sigh of relief - safe in the knowledge that this dirty industry that risks health, quality of life and the climate has been stopped in its tracks once again.

“In the teeth of massive pressure from Cuadrilla and Westminster, Lancashire’s brave county councillors have voted to protect their citizens and the local environment - the winners today are democracy and the people of Lancashire.

“Both Cuadrilla and the Government must respect Lancashire’s decision and not try to force unpopular fracking on these communities. Many polls show that the public wants renewable energy, not fracking - and the clean energy and long-term jobs it provides.

“The stakes for local people, for democracy and for the environment could not be higher. Though all three emerge as victors today, the fight against fracking and dirty energy is far from over.”

Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Daisy Sands said: “This decision is a Waterloo for the fracking industry and a triumph for local democracy. It’s also a huge boost for efforts to kick the UK’s addiction to dangerous fossil fuels.

“Lancashire councillors deserve huge praise for standing up to the relentless pressure from the fracking lobby and their minister friends. Their decision sends a powerful signal to other councils that the fracking juggernaut can indeed be stopped.

“Cuadrilla’s defeat should trigger a reality check from a Government that has staked so much of Britain’s energy future on this controversial industry. In the year where the world is coming together to find a solution to our fossil fuel problem, we should be trying to harness the potential of clean energy and efficiency instead of deploying risky techniques to squeeze more polluting gas from under our feet.”

Anti-fracking campaigners reacted with delight as the decision filtered to them outside County Hall.

Bottles of champagne were uncorked as chants of “Frack Free Lancashire” sounded out, while one protester shouted: “Frack off Cuadrilla.”