Anti-fracking campaigners lose High Court challenge against drilling in Lancashire

'Lancashire said no to fracking from the start but the Government overruled local people and the local council'

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The Independent Online

Campaigners fighting a Government decision to approve a fracking site in Lancashire have lost a High Court action.

The Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) and campaigner Gayzer Frackman had urged a judge to find that the decision to grant a planning application for the site in Fylde was not fair or lawful.

But Mr Justice Dove, announcing his decision at the High Court in London on Wednesday, dismissed their judicial review actions.

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.

The scheme was given the go-ahead in October by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

At the hearing in Manchester, David Wolfe QC, on behalf of PNRAG, told the judge the group had been "wrong-footed" 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 advocate was not present.

He said 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 and breached the council's development plan.

Marc Willers QC, on behalf of Mr Frackman, said the site would lead to a "considerable quantity of greenhouse gas emissions".

He said the commercial gas produced at the fracking site would go directly to homes and industry.

Mr Willers told the court: "There will be no assessment of these greenhouse gas emissions arising from the gas being pumped through the gas grid to homes and industry."

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and developer Cuadrilla were represented at the hearing, but the court was told Lancashire County Council was not taking part.

Mr Justice Dove, giving his ruling on the PNRAG case, said none of the grounds argued "have been made out in substance".

Turning to Mr Frackman he said one of the grounds was arguable, but added: "It is not made out in substance."

Elisabeth Whitebread, a Greenpeace UK energy campaigner, said: "Lancashire said no to fracking from the start but the Government overruled local people and the local council. In this legal challenge Preston New Road Action Group has represented thousands of people. Ordinary members of the community have been peacefully opposing fracking for six years and they won't stop now. 

Lancashire needs clean, reliable energy, innovation and job creation, not disruptive drilling, noise, air and light pollution. Our government should listen to the public, stop prioritising fracking, and instead support cutting edge renewables and battery storage, which can meet our energy needs."