Fracking campaigner: 'This Government neither listens nor can it be trusted'
Anti-fracking campaigners have blasted the government for overturning three councils' decisions to reject fracking in Fylde.
The Government has given the go-ahead for fracking at one site on the Fylde, but rejected an application for a second.
Pat Davies, chairwoman of Preston New Road Action Group, where fracking will go ahead, said: “This is a sad day as it is clear to all that this Government neither listens nor can it be trusted to do the right thing for local communities.
“It is deplorable that an industry that has been rejected on every level has inflicted itself on Preston New Road.
“Westby Parish Council, Fylde Borough Council and Lancashire County Council planning committee all said no to this application. These reasons were based on facts and knowledge, they rejected the site as unsuitable.
“Dismantling the democratic process to facilitate a dirty fossil fuel industry when only months ago the UK committed to climate change targets in Paris is another example of saying one thing and doing another.”
She vowed the group would challenge the decision.
Communities Minister Sajid Javid announced that gas exploration company Cuadrilla can drill and test frack for gas at a site on farm land off Preston New Road at Little Plumpton near Blackpool.
But he has rejected a sister bid for hydraulic fracturing on land at Roseacre Wood. However, he has left the door open stating that if highway safety considerations can be overcome fracking could go ahead at Roseacre as well.
Lancashire County Council refused permission for the extraction of gas from deep-lying rocks beneath both sites last year on grounds of noise and traffic impact.
That led to an appeal by Cuadrilla and an exhaustive six week planning inquiry at Blackpool Football Ground.
A Planning Inspectorate report was sent by inspector Wendy McKay to the Department for Communities and Local Government on July 4, with Mr Javid being given three months to reach a decision on both sites.
The Inspector recommended that Cuadrilla’s appeals against the county council’s rejection of fracking and the installation of extensive monitoring arrays at Preston New Road be allowed and that Cuadrilla’s objection to strict conditions over monitoring arrays at Roaseacre also be up held.
She recommended that the bid to drill up to four wells at Roaseacre be thrown out due to fears over highway safety relating to large HGVs using narrow rural roads.
The minister has concurred with her recommendations despite a huge campaign from residents who fear the environmental effects they say a shale gas industry might have on their areas.
Gas exploration company Cuadrilla said it welcomed the decision to grant planning consent for its applications to drill, hydraulically fracture and test the flow of gas from up to four exploration wells at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire.
It added: “Regarding a similar application for a proposed site at Roseacre Wood, where the Secretary of State is minded to grant following further consultation on highways conditions, Cuadrilla looks forward to demonstrating that it will meet these requirements.
Francis Egan, chief executive officer of Cuadrilla said immediately after the announcement: “We are very pleased that we can now move ahead with our shale gas exploration plans which will start to create new economic growth opportunities and jobs for people in Lancashire and the UK.
“As a Lancashire business we are proud that the County will play such a vital role in securing vitally needed home sourced energy.
“We are confident that our operations will be safe and responsible and the comprehensive site monitoring programme planned by regulators and independent academics will in due course conclusively demonstrate this.
“We hope this will reassure the minority of people whom remain sceptical about shale gas exploration. This news has given Lancashire a big vote of confidence in its economic and energy future.”
But campaigners have decried the decision. Friends of the Earth north-west campaigner, Helen Rimmer, said: “This is bad news for Lancashire – the community have been fighting fracking for more than five years. This fight continues until this unproven and unpopular industry disappear for good.
“Instead of shoving us down a dangerous path that inevitably leads to climate change, the government should invest in renewables and energy efficiency, an emerging industry that could create 24,000 jobs in the north west alone.”
“Friends of the Earth will be looking closely at this decision and we continue to support the community in their campaign to make sure all of Lancashire stays frack free. Only 19% of people support shale gas compared to 81% support for renewables.”