Fylde communities are to get their say after the company which aims to carry out fracking appointed consultants to start environmental impact assessments.
Cuadrilla, which will this summer continue exploration drilling for gas trapped in deep-lying layers of shale rock, has brought in Arup to carry out the related environmental work and consultation with the public and local councils.
Arup are international engineers and consultants who have worked on projects such as the Beijing Olympic pool, Heathrow’s terminal 2 and the consultation process for the High Speed 2 rail link.
The assessments will start this summer, and are expected to run into the first quarter of 2014. They will include environment risk assessment, public and stakeholder consultation and planning application support.
Cuadrilla’s chief executive Francis Egan said: “These EIAs are being carried out as part of a robust process of developing informed consent for the ongoing exploration of the very significant natural gas resources in Lancashire’s Bowland shale.
“Arup’s experience in technical and public consultation was perfectly suited to the issues and opportunities in Lancashire, where there is a mix of technical and public issues.”
Des Correia, Arup project director, said his company was going to take an independent and critical approach and that they wanted to hear what the communities had to say. Public consultation sessions and drop-in centres were planned.
He said: “Shale gas exploration is an emerging area in the UK and Arup understands the environmental issues. Shale gas exploration is a process which necessitates that communities have confidence that all material risks have been properly identified and assessed, and the appropriate control steps agreed.
“We will be working closely with Lancashire County Council, a range of technical experts, and local communities to provide the necessary analysis and consultation.
“There will be a number of opportunities for communities to be part of the process.”
But Helen Rimmer, North West campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “We should be focusing on the huge potential for clean energy from wind, waves and sun – not fossil fuels and fracking.”