The crucial decision of whether to allow fracking to take place at two sites on the Fylde has been put back yet again.
Lancashire County Council has agreed with Cuadrilla to extend the time allowed to decide on the planning applications for shale gas development to April 30 to allow further consultation.
It means planning officers will have more time to consider the energy company’s measures to cut down on noise at the proposed Preston New Road fracking site near Little Plumpton and noise and traffic issues at the Roseacre site.
The county council’s Development Control Committee decided last week to defer decisions on applications by Cuadrilla to drill, frack and test gas flows, plus associated environmental monitoring, after the company asked them to consider new proposals when planning officers recommended refusal of the two applications.
A statement from the county council said: “The council’s planners are currently considering the new information on noise and traffic and will hold a further consultation with regulators and the public before putting their recommendations to the committee.
“Dates for the consultation and the meetings at which the committee will decide the application will be announced in due course.”
A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “We appreciate the confirmation regarding the extension until April 30 of the determination of our planning applications for shale gas exploration at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.
“This will ensure that proper consideration is given to the additional information we have provided on further mitigation measures to fully address the noise and traffic concerns raised by the Planning Officers.
“Importantly, there will now be an opportunity for the public to properly review and comment on this.”
Barbara Richardson, from the Roseacre Awareness group, said: “This is just prolonging the stress and anxiety of the local residents who are already under much duress.
“We went to much time, effort and cost to be ready to present a strong case to county councillors which we believe we did.
“We do not have the millions that Cuadrilla have to keep re-assessing the applications and feel this is a deliberate attempt to wear us down.
“The good news is that this gives us more time to strengthen our own case. ”
Friends of the Earth’s North West campaigner Helen Rimmer said: “This extension is yet another delay for the industry at a time when fracking is becoming increasingly unpopular and politically toxic.
“A recent poll shows twice as many people in the North West oppose fracking as support it, while both the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Government have voted for a moratorium.”
Ebony Eva Johnson, from Residents Action of Fylde Fracking, said: “It’s not a surprise LCC are requesting more time. In the last two weeks Scotland and Wales have imposed a moratorium on fracking. We ask LCC to scrutinise the 400 scientific peer reviewed studies that informed the New York State ban.”
However, shale gas supporters, the North West Energy Task Force spokesman said:“It is important that the new information on noise and traffic is now fully assessed by the Council and the public can have their say on the remaining issues around truck traffic and noise. The NWETF firmly believes the responsible development of natural gas from shale can play a crucial role in the revival of the North West economy.”