“HYPOCRITICAL” ministers revealed yesterday that Tory central government will make the final decision on fracking in Lancashire — bypassing local councillors who have already rejected the controversial drilling practice.
The council’s democratic conclusion would be overruled by Communities Secretary Greg Clark because fracking is “of more than local significance,” according to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Two applications by energy multinational Cuadrilla to frack, which involves smashing shale rock with high-pressure sand, chemicals and water to release gas, and test the flows on two sites between Blackpool and Preston were refused in June.
The company’s planning appeal had been scheduled for February but DCLG butted in saying that Mr Clark will make the final decision instead, as ministers are keen to fast-track the shale gas industry.
Greens MP Caroline Lucas tweeted that the measure was “shameless.”
The government has said it is going “all out for shale,” but energy firms have repeatedly come up against strong local opposition from residents and environmental activists concerned that fracking would pollute the area and that intense underground drilling would damage homes.
Earthquake tremors had been felt in Blackpool, which led to the nationwide suspension of fracking in 2011.
Campaign group Frack Off said that “the community fightback continues” as anti-fracking groups are “the only thing standing in the way of government attempts to force Cuadrilla’s plans through.”
Shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy said: “It’s hypocritical for ministers to support devolution and local democracy for decision-making over wind farms, only to then trample over the views of local communities when it comes to fracking.
“The government has completely failed to win public support for these drilling projects, which is not surprising as they abandoned important environmental safeguards.
“By seeking to impose fracking, public concern is only likely to deepen.”
The government is “making a mockery” of their so-called “commitment to local democracy” and their decision to intervene after councillors voted against fracking is like “giving a slap in the face to the people of Lancashire,” said Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Hannah Martin.
Ms Martin added: “Months of public debate, campaigning, and deliberations could be nullified by a stroke of the minister’s pen.
“Lancashire residents have peacefully and successfully fought to stop fracking before — there are good reasons to believe they will do so again.”