Fracking: Industry suffers blow after having first application since government changes rejected

Local government officials recommended that fracking should not be allowed to take place at two sites in Lancashire because of concerns that they would create unacceptably high levels of noise and traffic

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The Independent Online

The fledgling fracking industry has suffered a major blow after Lancashire planning officials rejected plans for the first application to frack since the government lifted the moratorium on the controversial technique.

Local government officials recommended that fracking should not be allowed to take place at two sites in Lancashire because of concerns that they would create unacceptably high levels of noise and traffic.

Their recommendation comes ahead of a vote by local councillors next week on whether to approve the applications and, although not binding, the council said it follows the planners advice in the “vast majority” of cases.

“It has not been satisfactorily demonstrated that noise impacts would be reduced to acceptable levels,” according to a spokesman for Lancashire’s planning department.

Cuadrilla, the fracking company chaired by former BP chairman Lord Browne that is behind the proposal, said it was disappointed at the decision.  But Francis Egan, the group’s chief executive, insisted “It is going to happen”.

“We disagree with the recommendation of the planning officer on the noise issue. We hope that the committee will vote for these [projects]. If they don’t we have grounds for appeal, we believe, under the planning system,” he said.

Campaigners said yesterday’s rejection threw the future of the UK’s entire fracking industry into doubt. They said huge numbers of people still oppose the controversial technique which was temporarily banned by the government after the UK’s first and only fracking site so far – also in Lancashire - suffered a series of earth tremors in 2011.

“We are delighted that the planning officers have recognised the serious effects that these developments would have on neighbouring residents. Councillors must now act on this and the objections they have received and reject Cuadrilla’s fracking applications next week,” said Friends of the Earth campaigner Helen Rimmer.

Fracking releases oil and gas from the shale by blasting a mixture of sand, water and chemicals into the rock and has been linked to air and water pollution as well as earth quakes.

However, the UK government has reviewed the process and concluded that it is safe as long as properly supervised. It is pushing the industry hard.

The Lancashire council agreed that the impact on issues such as public health, air and water pollution, subsidence and earthquake risk “would be low or could be mitigated” concluding that “the principle of exploration for shale gas would be acceptable”.

A spokesman for the fracking industry association, UKOOG, said: “It is disappointing that officials at Lancashire County Council have come to this recommendation. The grounds for refusal are local planning matters specific to these sites rather than any issues that would have an obvious impact on other shale gas applications.”

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