Lancashire County Council defers fracking decision

Photo Neil Cross'Bez at the anti-fracking protest at County Hall, Preston
Photo Neil Cross'Bez at the anti-fracking protest at County Hall, Preston

A decision on whether to give fracking the go ahead in Lancashire has been deferred for at least eight weeks.

Lancashire County Councillors voted to adjourn a decision after fracking company Cuadrilla, which has applied to carry out fracking at two sites between Preston and Blackpool, put forward new proposals.

This week, businesses in Lancaster joined hundreds of other firms from across the county in saying no to fracking, and many attended a demonstration outside County Hall in Preston on Wednesday, January 28, as councillors discussed the proposals.

A letter written to Lancashire County Councillors, organised by the Frack Free Lancashire alliance and signed by city businesses, highlights evidence of the harmful effects of fracking on the environment and health, and “myths” that shale gas will reduce energy prices and create many jobs.

It also calls for a positive vision for Lancashire providing opportunities for young people, job creation and tackling climate change through renewable energy and energy conservation.

At the same time, members of the industry-backed North West Energy Task Force have spoken out in support of shale gas exploration at a meeting in Preston.

Friends of the Earth’s North West campaigner Helen Rimmer said: “We are disappointed that Councillors have granted a deferral when Cuadrilla have had several months to present their case, which Lancashire’s planning officers have found to be unacceptable.

“While a further delay is another setback for Cuadrilla – its manipulation of the planning system has created more uncertainty for communities whose health and environment are at risk from controversial fracking.

“Lancashire council must resist Cuadrilla’s ploys to push fracking through and listen to the tens of thousands of voices of opposition and reject these plans. Failure to do so will leave Lancashire as the UK’s guinea pig for this unnecessary and polluting technology.”

Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw and South Lakeland MP Tim Farron both voted for a moratorium on fracking in the House of Commons on Monday, which was defeated by 308 votes to 52.

The vote was on whether to amend the Government’s Infrastructure Bill, and was seeking to suspend all shale projects for upto 30 months.

Mr Ollerenshaw said: “I voted for this amendment because I think people here in Lancaster and Fleetwood have the right to be consulted on all fracking projects.

“The amendment would have suspended fracking for upto 30 months to give local residents the opportunity to have their voices heard and for all of the necessary enquiries to take place.

“When other major projects that will affect the lives of local residents are proposed there is usually breathing space in which residents can talk to their MP to voice their objection and I don’t see why fracking should be any different.”

Labour abstained from the vote.

Lakes MP Tim Farron also voted in favour of a moratorium.

He said: “I have been sceptical about fracking ever since I started to read the evidence on it. My biggest concern is that it is another source of fossil fuel at a time when we should be stepping down our usage of them. I believe that we should be harnessing green energy, like hydro and tidal power, which has major potential in Cumbria.”