Fracking: We could be next, says MP

Cat Smith - Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood
Cat Smith - Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood

A green light for fracking could open the floodgates for applications in Lancaster and Morecambe, the city’s MP has warned.

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, said it was “crunch time” as Lancashire county councillors prepared to vote next week on whether to approve shale gas drilling applications for Roseacre Wood, near Blackpool, and Preston New Road, Little Plumpton.

David Morris MP

David Morris MP

More than 1,000 people have co-signed Ms Smith’s letter to the county council opposing the applications.

On Monday, council officers announced they were rejecting plans for hydraulic fracturing at Roseacre Wood but supported plans at Preston New Road.

The plans - proposed by oil and gas company Cuadrilla – seek permission to develop two new sites to explore for shale gas by drilling, hydraulically fracturing (fracking), and testing the flow of gas.

Separate applications have also been received for a series of boreholes to monitor for seismic movement and water quality.

The application for Preston New Road will be heard on June 23 at 10am, and for Roseacre Wood on June 25 at 10am, at County Hall in Preston.

Ms Smith said: “I’m against it for environmental reasons, but unfortunately it’s not for councillors to say there should be more renewables and less fracking. It’s not a planning consideration.

“If it goes ahead at Preston New Road, there’s no reason why it can’t go ahead in Lancaster and Morecambe.”

The idea of hydraulically fracturing the ground to release gas has divided opinion in the county.

Small earthquakes caused by fracking company Cuadrilla’s activity in 2011 saw a moratorium put in place.

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris said he was “pro-fracking”, and that the UK had the most stringent licensing and regulation in the world.

He said: “Most people want to see energy bills come down, and see the energy coast be successful.

“There’s been a site at Elswick for 20 years, and this has caused no concerns.

“It’s not going to cause any environmental damage.

“In the end it’s up to the people to decide.”

See pages 6 and 7 in this week’s Lancaster Guardian for more on fracking.