Fracking to start in UK after High Court rejects legal bid to block energy firm Cuadrilla

Work can begin at site in Lancashire after campaigner’s legal bid fails

Interview with CEO of Cuadrilla, Francis Egan, at the first fracking site in the UK near Preston in Lancashire

Fracking can go ahead in the UK for the first time since 2011 after a High Court bid to block energy firm Cuadrilla from beginning work was rejected.

Mr Justice Supperstone said there was “no evidence” to support campaigner Bob Dennett’s argument that work at the site in Lancashire posed more than a “medium risk”. It follows assessments made by the Health and Safety Executive.

Dismissing the environmentalist’s application for an interim injunction to prevent Cuadrilla fracking at the site, he said: “The claimant first has to establish that there is a serious issue to be tried. I am satisfied that the claimant falls at the first hurdle.”

Anti-fracking groups and activists reacted with dismay to the High Court decision on Friday.

“We remain defiant,” said Mr Dennett. “This started in Lancashire and we are going to finish this in Lancashire. “We didn’t get the result we were looking for, but we will fight on.”

Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, described the ruling as “bitterly disappointing”.

He added: “A new fossil fuel frontier has been opened in Britain. Fracking is a dirty, dangerous industry and I stand shoulder to shoulder with the brave residents standing up for the safety of their community today.”

Jamie Peters, of Friends of the Earth, said: “Today’s court ruling is sad news for local residents who’ve long fought against this dirty industry and the risks it poses to their environment and the climate.

“You can have fracking or you can deal with climate change – you can’t do both.”

Mr Dennett had claimed Lancashire County Council’s emergency response procedures at the site were inadequate.

His lawyer Marc Willers QC argued the local authority failed “to take account of relevant material considerations” in its assessment of the alleged environmental and health and safety risks.

But the judge also refused permission for a judicial review of Lancashire County Council’s emergency planning procedures at the site.

In a statement after the ruling, Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said: “We are delighted to be starting our hydraulic fracturing operations as planned.”

Nathalie Lieven QC, acting for Cuadrilla, claimed it had cost the company £94,000 a day to keep equipment on site while it awaited the decision.

In 2011 a series of small earthquakes at a separate site in Lancashire were linked to fracking. A report by the British Geological Survey found it was “highly probable” the test drilling had triggered the tremors.

Earlier this week trade union leaders and nearly 200 union members condemned the decision to convict four anti-fracking activists for causing a public nuisance. Three of the activists, who blocked a convoy of lorries at the shale drilling site in Lancashire, were given jail sentences.

In an open letter, the unionists called for a judicial review of the “absurdly harsh” sentence and warned it set a “dangerous precedent”.

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