Councillors in Lancashire have turned down an application for two fracking wells to be drilled near Preston. The decision is notable given that it has been the Conservative government’s stated aim to pursue fracking and shale gas development in the interests of economic growth and energy independence.
The planning application was made by energy firm Cuadrilla, which is so far the only company to have undertaken fracking in the UK. Fracking is viewed by many as a controversial process of extracting gas from underground shale fields by injecting water, sand and other chemicals at high pressure to fracture the rocks.
Nine out of a total of 14 councillors voted against the most recent application on the grounds of unacceptable noise and visual impact, having previously turned down another application on the grounds that it would adversely affect the character of the landscape.
Cuadrilla is likely to appeal the decision. In a statement, the company said, “We will now take time to consider our options regarding an appeal for Preston New Road, along with also considering appeals for the planning applications recently turned down, against officer advice, for monitoring and site restoration at Grange Hill, and last week’s decision to refuse the Roseacre Wood application.” Environmentalists have reacted positively to the decision, which had huge popular support. Liz Hutchens, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, commented, “This is a bigger win than anyone was expecting, it shows the huge strength of feeling here. There was no way councillors could go against feelings of local people. This is a real blow for Cuadrilla and government.”
Labour and Lib Dem shadow ministers have called for a ban on fracking, but Andrea Leadsom, energy minister, expressed her disappointment at the decision. “Shale gas has huge potential in the UK, and is an opportunity to develop a new, homegrown energy source that would displace foreign imports and create tens of thousands of jobs. I’m confident that potential will be realised – and the government will back it.”
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