Public pressure forces Lancashire Council to block shale gas drilling
JUBILANT campaigners celebrated a landmark environmental victory yesterday after Lancashire councillors refused permission to resume the controversial practice of fracking.
After deferring their decision last week, councillors rejected the plans to extract shale gas after days of drawn-out deliberation and consulting lawyers for advice on grounds of “unacceptable noise” and the “adverse urbanising effect on the landscape.”
Energy firm Cuadrilla had planned to undertake exploratory drilling and fracking as little as 230 metres away from people’s homes at a site in Little Plumpton, between Preston and Blackpool.
Opponents of the scheme stood up and applauded the committee when a majority rejected the bid, preventing up to 80 per cent of the scenic Fylde coast from being covered with drilling wells.
Outside the meeting campaigners cheered and danced, praising the councillors for putting residents’ wellbeing, public health and environmental concerns before big business.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Furqan Naeem said: “The winners today are democracy and the people of Lancashire.”
Activists argued that fracking damages house prices and causes extensive environmental damage — including earthquakes.
Tremors had been felt in Blackpool, which led to the suspension of fracking in 2011.
Mr Naeem said: “People in Lancashire and across the UK are safe in the knowledge that this dirty industry that risks health, quality of life and the climate has been stopped in its tracks once again.”
Cuadrilla said yesterday that it was “surprised and disappointed” by the council’s conclusion and would consider appealing all refused applications.
Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom echoed Cuadrilla, saying that the decision was “disappointing” and that “the government will back” the quest for shale gas.
Campaigners hope that the decision has put the brakes on the government’s push towards going “all out for shale” after it made claims that it would create jobs, stimulate economic growth, reduce energy prices and cut the country’s reliance on gas imports.
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said that the decision was testament to the people’s power in the face of Westminster’s support of fracking.
She said: “Lancashire county councillors have set a strong example of how democracy should work — with elected politicians listening to the concerns of the people they represent.
“I hope the refusal of this application will open the government’s eyes to the huge opposition to fracking in this country and help to persuade them that clean renewable energy is where we must invest.”
On Wednesday scores of campaigners and residents led by Green leader Natalie Bennett rallied and linked arms around County Hall in Preston, preceding Thursday’s rejection of an application to start a fracking operation at nearby Roseacre Wood.