ANTI-FRACKING campaigners lost their High Court action yesterday in a fight to block drilling at a site in Lancashire.
The Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) and campaigner Gayzer Frackman had applied for a judicial review of the government’s decision to approve drilling in the coastal region of Fylde, arguing that it was not lawful.
But the judge, Mr Justice Gove, dismissed the activists’ case which had sought to overturn Communities and Local Government secretary Sajid Javid’s decision made last year giving fracking the go-ahead.
PNRAG chairwoman Patricia Davies said the group were “hugely dismayed and saddened” by the ruling.
At a hearing at Manchester Civil Justice Centre last month, the judge was told that the planning application by developer Cuadrilla was refused by Lancashire County Council in 2015, but later granted following an appeal and a planning inquiry.
Campaigners argued that the government had defied democracy by approving the plans after they had been rejected by the council.
Ms Davies said: “How can it be right, or democratic, to uphold a decision which has been fiercely resisted by both residents and the local planning council for three years?”
In Manchester, David Wolfe QC — representing PNRAG — told the judge the group had been “wrong-footed.”
This is because a planning inspector’s decision to approve the site was based on an argument made after their closing submissions at the inquiry, when the group’s lawyer was not present, Mr Wolfe said.
He added that the inspector’s decision that the site would not have a significant impact on the landscape, because it was only granted permission for a temporary period, was not lawful.
Marc Willers QC, on behalf of Mr Frackman, also pointed out that the site would lead to a “considerable quantity of greenhouse gas emissions.”
WWF’s head of energy and climate Gareth Redmond-King said the court’s decision “clearly flies in the face of the will of local people in Lancashire.
“Their voices have been loud and clear on this issue — that unconventional oil and gas are neither good for people nor the planet — and this view has been woefully ignored.”