Local campaigners hit out at Government fracking rule

Shale fracking rig. (s)
Shale fracking rig. (s)
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Fracking is set to take place after the Government over-ruled local councillors and approved plans to explore for shale gas in Lancashire.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has given the agree light for fracking at Cuadrilla’s site at Little Plumpton in Lancashire.

Environmentalists and local campaign groups in the Ribble Valley have reacted angrily, saying it was a “denial of local democracy”. They fear fracking could now be carried out beneath homes in Whalley, Billington, Ribchester, Simonstone, Hurst Green and Longridge under possible plans for exploratory work.

Local resident and campaigner, Katy Marshall, said: “I was very dismayed to hear the decision. I and friends went to the Preston New Road demonstration on Saturday. It was a big demonstration lining the road next to the intended fracking site, with a wide range of people from all over Lancashire and further afield who had come to support local residents. There has been a far greater outcry on social media. There is much frustration at the lack of democracy.

“The UK government hasn’t proceeded in the Tory heartland of the South East where there is shale gas, but let it happen in Lancashire, calling it a ‘desolate place’. This is too important to be brushed aside as political. Everyone should be worried about this.”

Meanwhile, County Coun. Marcus Johnstone, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, said: “This was one of the biggest planning applications ever put before any council – literally tens of thousands of people responded to the consultation processes, and the applications involved substantial levels of technical detail.

“Our development control committee carefully considered many hours of evidence both for and against the proposal, and the committee members ultimately cast their vote based on the evidence they heard and whether they thought the proposal was acceptable in planning terms.

“A local council, made up of councillors democratically elected by local people is exactly the right body to make decisions on local matters. It is clear that the government supports the development of a shale gas industry, but I would ask them to do more to address the concerns of local communities and the councillors who represent them by supporting the best environmental controls.

“The Secretary of State’s decision to allow more time to consider issues related to highway safety around the Roseacre site reflects the committee’s concerns on this issue. We will now await information from the applicant on the details required to fulfil the planning conditions set out for Preston New Road.”

But fracking has been welcomed by UKIP North West MEP Paul Nuttall who said: “I congratulate Sajid Javid on approving Caudrilla’s plans as I believe that fracking has the potential to make a huge difference to our energy problems.

“Shale gas offers a much better energy source than ugly wind farms and solar panels and as the drilling takes place underground it does not create massive industrial blight such as oil refineries.

“It is anticipated that energy prices, which can be crippling for the elderly and jobless, may well be halved and that must surely we welcomed by all.

“The Caudrilla plans for the two Fylde sites at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood involve horizontal drilling rather than vertical drilling which is believed to have led to minor earthquakes near Blackpool.

“This method should avoid that possibility but I do understand concerns of local people about the affect on their environment. Reaching decisions on such important planning issues is very much a balancing exercise and I believe that the Communities Secretary has got it right.

“The fact that the decision on the second site has been delayed shows just how carefully the concerns of local people are being considered.”