Heat turned up in gas fracking debate

Cuadrilla's site in Singleton.
Cuadrilla's site in Singleton.
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THE regulators of controversial fracking on the Fylde came under fire at a public meeting in St Annes.

Representatives from the Department of Energy and Climate (DEC), the Environment Agency, Lancashire County Council and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) were bombarded by questions from members of the public, who, last night, crammed into the United Reformed Church Hall on St George’s Road.

Mark Miller, from Cuadrilla Resources – the company behind exploratory shale gas drilling on sites at Singleton, Weeton and Westby – was also on the panel along with Tony Bosworth, from Friends of the Earth, local engineer Mike Hill and MP for Fylde, Mark Menzies who had arranged the meeting.

Around 260 people filled the hall to hear the debate, while others were disappointed to find themselves turned away due to the venue being too small.

Questions were raised about whether fracking is regulated properly, the effect the process has on local residents’ health, the environment and housing.

Mike Hill, an independent advisor for Fylde Council, said: “The industry is self-regulatory, it’s absurd. We need some implementation in terms of inspection.

“We are drilling a few hundred metres from people’s homes, not off shore. We need to do specific shale gas extraction regulation.”

But Steve Walker, from the HSE, argued: “There is regulation and it’s quite sophisticated.

“Every week we have clear details of what is going on, what is being done, what pressure tests are being done.

“The work we are doing is to ensure good regulation.”

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Campaign groups want a moratorium on all fracking until more studies are done on the process.

Fracking is currently suspended after earthquakes hit Poulton last year.

Cuadrilla hope to be given the go-ahead to resume exploratory drilling in Singleton in the coming months.

Simon Toole, from DEC, said: “With the earthquakes, that was an effect we hadn’t expected. We have done work to put in a system – it is regulated well and will be regulated if it goes ahead.”

Mr Menzies also came under attack from some residents who were concerned people’s worries were not being taken seriously.

He replied: “If I feel this will be detrimental economically or environmentally I will not support it.

“First and foremost, I want to make sure this is a democratic process and I will make sure you will be represented to the best of my ability.”

Stuart Perigo, from Lancashire County Council, was keen to stress decisions about fracking were far from signed and sealed.

He said: “We are at very early stages in the process.”

Mark Miller, from Cuadrilla, said: “I know people think this is done and dusted but we don’t know how many wells we are going to drill. We won’t know until probably mid-next year.”

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