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Lancashire County Council blocks Cuadrilla fracking application

29 June 2015

An application to start fracking at a site in Lancashire, in the north west of England, was rejected by councillors on June 29. Energy firm Cuadrilla wanted to extract shale gas at the Little Plumpton site between Preston and Blackpool. LCC rejected the bid on the grounds of "unacceptable noise impact" and the "adverse urbanising effect on the landscape".

Protesters at a Cuadrilla drilling site in 2013 - Image: Randi Sokoloff /
Protesters at a Cuadrilla drilling site in 2013 - Image: Randi Sokoloff /

Cuadrilla said it was "surprised and disappointed" and would consider its "options regarding an appeal". A spokesman added: "We remain committed to the responsible exploration of the huge quantity of natural gas locked up in the shale rock deep underneath Lancashire."

The Little Plumpton bid at Preston New Road had been recommended for approval by the county council's planning officials, subject to working hours, noise control and highway matters. But councillors rejected the advice and voted 10-4 to refuse the application.

A legal adviser had said any attempt to block fracking at the site on environmental grounds would be "unreasonable" and costly.

An application to start a fracking operation at the nearby Roseacre Wood was also rejected on June 25.

Fracking - or hydraulic fracturing - was suspended in the UK in 2011 following earth tremors in Blackpool where Cuadrilla previously drilled. It is a technique in which water and chemicals are pumped into shale rock at high pressure to extract gas.

North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Babs Murphy said: “Although it is disappointing that councillors have gone against the recommendation of planning officers, we hope this is not the death knell for this industry in Lancashire.

“In turning down this proposal, councillors appear to have ruled with their hearts, rather than their heads, and ignored the reasoned arguments of those with genuine expertise in this industry.

“Our hope is that this decision will be appealed and that the appeal will be successful, otherwise what is certain is that fracking will go ahead elsewhere in the UK and Lancashire will miss out on thousands of jobs and massive economic benefits.”

Cuadrilla said in a statement: “We are surprised and disappointed that Lancashire County Council’s Development Control Committee has denied planning consent for our application to explore for shale gas at Preston New Road, particularly as their decision follows a positive recommendation by the Council’s Planning Officers. We remain committed to the responsible exploration of the huge quantity of natural gas locked up in the shale rock deep underneath Lancashire.

“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.

“It is over a year since the application was submitted to the Council and the committee’s decision comes after Planning Officer’s scrupulously went through the rigorous, 4,000-page Environmental Statement that accompanied our application and conducted widespread public consultation, which led to their positive recommendation.

“We completed the most comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessments ever carried out for operations of this kind. These Assessments are the product of thousands of hours of work from independent expert environmental scientists and other engineering specialists and they demonstrate beyond question that the operations can and will be conducted safely and without damage to people’s health or their environment.

“The UK and the EU has a strict regulatory framework for governing oil and gas exploration and production and we have had to secure many permissions and permits before work can start.
“If we can unlock this shale gas potential it will help create jobs, generate economic growth, help fuel and heat local businesses and homes and boost local tax revenues for Lancashire.

“It is regrettable that the County Council has decided not to support this application in the face of positive recommendation from all regulators and their own Officers.”

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