UK Elections: Fracking decision delayed while politicians break rank on shale

Fracking protest in UK
Source: Wikicommons

The UK Lancashire County Council has further delayed its decision on applications by energy firm Cuadrilla to drill and test-frack for shale gas at Roseacre and off Preston New Road.

This delay, which postpones the final decision until after the general election will have taken place, comes on the day when around 200 Labour, Lib Dem, and Conservative politicians broke their party ranks and pledged to oppose shale exploration in the UK.

After the County Council’s planning officer recommended that the permission for fracking on the two sites be refused on the grounds of noise pollution and increased traffic in January, Cuadrilla asked for a deferral for another consultation to take place.

More time was to be allowed to consider new submissions from protesters, review the feedback from the consultation period, and the details supplied by Cuadrilla, before preparing reports for a further meeting of the committee. The final decision was to be taken on April 30th and a further consultation period began on March 20.

Yesterday, however, the decision of the committee was postponed to 30 June, well after the May general election.

A council spokesman said: “Lancashire County Council has agreed with Cuadrilla to extend the time period to make decisions on planning applications for shale gas development at two new sites to June 30 June.

“The extension follows a request by Cuadrilla to consider additional information about the applications. Cuadrilla’s request resulted in the deferral of a meeting of the Development Control Committee in January 2015 at which councillors had been due to make a decision on each application.”

A spokesman for Cuadrilla said: “We have accepted the request from Lancashire County Council regarding the extension until June 30 of the determination of our planning applications for shale gas exploration at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.

“We understand this extra time will ensure that proper consideration is given to the public consultation undertaken by the Council on the additional information we provided, as requested by the Planning Officers, regarding further mitigation measures to fully address the noise and traffic concerns they had raised.”

Shale gas exploration in the UK is a topic that everybody – with the exception of the Green Party and nationalist parties like SNP and Plaid Cymru – is eager to avoid. There is a worrying disconnect between the support for fracking expressed by all of the three major parties (as well as UKIP), and the predominantly negative or undecided stance of the British public. It is the electoral hot potato that no party wanted to tackle head on for fear of losing local votes.

However, the topic is so contentious that – it seems – it has managed to sow discord within the parties themselves. Two environmental organisations – Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace – announced yesterday that 1,000 prospective political candidates have signed a “Frack Free Promise”, which states: “If my constituency is at risk of fracking, I will oppose it. If my constituency is not at risk, I will oppose fracking nationwide.”

Among the signatories there were 153 Labour and 143 Lib Dem candidates, as well as three Conservatives, who all have broken the party line which states support for shale exploration in the country.

“For the first time hundreds of candidates from all the main parties are saying a clear no to fracking rigs, trucks, and gas flaring turning up in their constituencies,” said Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Sam Pearse in a statement. “This unprecedented display of opposition against fracking from our politicians is a sign that the tide is turning on this controversial industry.”

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