Blackpool MP joins attack over fast-track fracking

A fracking rig at the Cuadrilla gas site, Preese Hall in Weeton.
A fracking rig at the Cuadrilla gas site, Preese Hall in Weeton.
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The Government has faced fresh criticism over its moves to fast-track fracking.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has said the Government could take over decisions on fracking planning bids if councils take too long.

Today Blackpool South’s Labour MP Gordon Marsden accused the Government of abuse of process over the move.

He said the announcement from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which follows the refusal by Lancashire County Council of two fracking bids by energy company Cuadrilla to test frack on the Fylde, had been smuggled out while Parliament was in recess.

He said MPs had no chance of asking questions about it before the Conservatives made the announcement.

He said: “It is abuse of Parliamentary process in putting this out while the House is in recess. It is also a clear case of double standards when compared to wind farms.

“In those cases people can have their final say but when it comes to shale there is no say at all.

“I think if they are attempting to have two different sets of standards for dealing with planning applications , then others may have a very strong case to challenge them via judicial review.

“They should think very hard about this and it blows out of the water their claims of being champions of localism.”

The Government’s announcement has attracted criticism locally.

Tina Rothery, from Frack Free Lancashire, said: “Our councillors acted according to the evidence presented and the time it took to make the decision was largely a factor of obtaining accurate and thorough information from the fracking company.

“By contrast, in June the government gave greater powers to communities to object to wind farms.”

Jackie Copley, planning manager for the Campaign to Protect Rural England in Lancashire, said: “There must be adequate time for communities to be fully consulted and for planning committee members to digest the information and ask relevant questions to ensure sound decisions result.

“Rushed decisions under pressure from Government intervention won’t make for good decisions and flies in the face of promised localism.”

The Government’s move has been welcomed by Cuadrilla and by many industry groups.

Lee Petts, from the North West Energy Task Force ,said: “The North West Energy Task Force welcomes today’s announcement. It isn’t really about “fast-tracking” fracking, or the government forcing it on communities without their say, it’s about ensuring that local councils make decisions in a timely fashion for the benefit of everyone involved.

“By law, planning applications are supposed to be decided on within 16 weeks where they involve an Environmental Impact Assessment, but it took Lancashire County Council a year to decide on Cuadrilla’s proposals for the Fylde.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “As a strong believer in localism I think the recent decisions by Lancashire County Counci should be upheld and I will oppose any attempt to overturn them at Government level.

“I recently wrote to the Secretary of State to reiterate my stance on these matters and will continue to make those points.

“However, I do agree that these decisions should be made in a more timely fashion to avoid uncertainty.”