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UK Government overturns Lancashire council fracking veto

06 October 2016

UK Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced on October 6 that he had overturned Lancashire county council’s rejection of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at the Little Plumpton shale gas site at Preston New Road following an appeal by site operator Cuadrilla Resources. The council cited visual impact and noise when it turned down the company’s two planning applications to frack on the Fylde peninsula last year.

A shale prospecting site in the UK countryside - Image: Cuadrilla
A shale prospecting site in the UK countryside - Image: Cuadrilla

Cuadrilla plans to drill four vertical and horizontal wells up to 2.5km deep at Preston New Road next year, the first time US-style drilling and fracking operations will have been permitted to take place in the UK. In May, North Yorkshire County Council approved an application by Third Energy to frack for shale gas in a vertical bore at an existing site near Kirby Misperton in Ryedale.

Javid deferred a decision on the second Lancashire site at Roseacre Wood to give Cuadrilla more time to provide evidence on road traffic issues and to allow other parties to make further representations. But he said he was “minded” to grant planning permission at that site too, which would see a further four wells drilled and fracked.

“Shale gas has the potential to power economic growth, support 64,000 jobs, and provide a new domestic energy source, making us less reliant on imports,” Javid said.

Cuadrilla told The Guardian that April 2017 was the earliest date at which drilling would begin. Legal action by residents’ groups and environmental charities have already delayed operations at a number of sites and could do so at Little Plumpton.

Francis Egan, the company’s CEO, welcomed the government’s decision: “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.”

He added that he was confident the company’s operations would be safe. “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.”

He argued that the UK needed domestically-produced gas as supplies from the North Sea wind down.  “The country is running out of gas, and without some form of energy development, we’re going to end up importing all of our fuel from overseas, and we’ve seen that just last week with the ridiculous situation where Scotland is importing shale gas from America, which frankly is crazy,” he told ITV.

INEOS is importing shale gas from the US into its Grangemouth refinery in Scotland, but has not been allowed to prospect for shale gas there because of the Scottish Government’s opposition to fracking on its soil.

The Welsh Government is also opposed to fracking and seems likely to reject any applications in the Principality, leaving only proposed sites in England able to be given the go-ahead by the UK Government, which supports shale gas development but only has jurisdiction over the non-devolved territories of Great Britain.

Geological surveys have shown that trillions of cubic feet of shale gas may be recoverable from beneath parts of the UK and more than 200 onshore exploration licences have been awarded to energy companies.


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