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Fracking could go ahead despite opposition from local councils, Liz Truss reveals

Prime minister says she will not rule out fracking in Lancashire, where the council is opposed

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Thursday 29 September 2022 09:15 BST
Liz Truss
Liz Truss

Fracking for gas could go ahead in Lancashire despite opposition the local county council, Liz Truss has suggested.

Speaking on Thursday the prime minister said she would not rule out drilling in the county, where the council is opposed, along with most members of parliament.

Ms Truss's first act in office was to lift the moratorium on the controversial gas extraction process – which has been blamed for causing earthquakes in nearby towns.

She has stressed that "local consent" will be required before any extraction goes ahead, but not said what this will look like or which hurdles would have to be cleared.

"The Energy Secretary will be laying out in more detail exactly what that looks like. But it does mean making sure there is local support for going ahead ... there are various detailed issues to be worked through," she told BBC Radio Lancashire during a tour of BBC local radio stations.

"If there is local consent, we will go ahead. We need to explore where there is local consent, and where there isn't and we're still doing that work. I don't think you should rule out the whole of Lancashire."

In 2016 Lancashire County Council refused planning permission for fracking, but was overruled by then Tory communities secretary Sajid Javid. The government then moved to make fracking "permitted development", taking the decision of whether it should proceed out of the hands of councils.

But under political pressure, in part from Lancashire, in 2019 the government imposed a moratorium on new fracking – which Ms Truss is now seeking to reverse.

In her interview it was put to Ms Truss was fracking in other countries such as the US took place "in the middle of nowhere" rather than in built-up areas.

Asked whether she knew where Preston New Road, the site of previous drilling was, she replied: "I don't think I've been to that site in the past."

And asked whether she should know where the site was, she changed the subject and said only that local consent would be required.

It was pointed out to the prime minister that most local MPs in the county had spoken out against the gas extraction process, including Conservatives.

Ms Truss made her comments during a tour of local radio stations, where she sought to defend her budget and the economic fallout from its unfunded tax cuts.

Responding, Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, Danny Gross, said: “The council and people of Lancashire have been loud and clear that they don’t want fracking, with a 2017 poll showing two thirds of Lancastrians opposing it.

“Yet the prime minister was unable to rule out fracking in the county or explain what she means by ‘local consent.’

“Fracking causes earthquakes, creates more planet warming emissions and will do practically nothing to bring down energy bills. That’s why it’s deeply unpopular with local communities – and why the industry wants to change the planning rules and bypass local democracy.

“Ministers should pull the plug on fracking and prioritise the real solutions to the energy and climate crises: homegrown renewable energy and a comprehensive nationwide home insulation programme.”

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