Any fracking in Lancashire must have community consent, minister says

Any decision on the role of fracking and onshore wind in the Government’s energy strategy will be made with a “large measure of local consent”, the Business Secretary has said.

Speaking ahead of the expected release of the strategy on Thursday, Kwasi Kwarteng told the Sunday Telegraph that local opposition to either option will be taken into account.

No local councils were keen on either Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road or the Roseacre fracking wells, and huge numbers of protestors, including many based locally, opposed fracking in Lancashire at the time the wells were being developed. The flurry of earth tremors associated with the wells subsequently prompted the Government’s temporary ban on fracking. Cuadrilla had been ordered to seal the wells but were granted a reprieve last week.

Mr Kwarteng said: “The thing with onshore wind and with fracking is that it has to be community consent. We don’t live in a totalitarian country where the Government, the man or woman in Whitehall, can say ‘Right, we’re going to do this’, without some large measure of consent from local communities. And in both of those technologies, frankly, there has been considerable local opposition.

How the fracking site at Preston New Road looked when it was being developed

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“That doesn’t mean to say we’re shutting the door on both, but it does mean that any movement has to have a large measure of local consent.”

He added that, while he would be comfortable living next to a set of wind turbines, that would not overrule any local dissent.

“If there’s a plan in a particular community, it’s what they think that matters. It’s not my aesthetic preference that’s going to determine it.”

A man refuses to come down from the back of a truck on Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, in an anti-fracking protest in 2017

Meanwhile Fylde Conservative MP Mark Menzies said drilling at Preston New Road was not the answer to the current spike in energy bills and concerns of gas supply caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said: “The amount of gas which can be extracted at Preston New Road will not make any difference to prices on the European wholesale market.

“It would take years and dozens of wells across our countryside for fracking to influence prices. During that time we can be ramping up production in the North Sea and developing nuclear power and renewables, the real answer to UK energy security.”

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