The long-awaited decision by the Lancashire County Council on whether to allow shale driller Cuadrilla to explore for the gas in the county has dealt a huge blow to the Conservative Government’s commitment to ‘go all out for shale’. Today, the councillors have voted against Cuadrilla’s plans to drill at its Preston New Road site, despite the council officials having previously recommended that drilling at the site be approved.
The rejection – on grounds of visual impact and unacceptable noise – follows last week’s vote to refuse a permit to Cuadrilla to use hydraulic fracturing in the Roseacre Wood site in the region. The members said the work would have “an unacceptable and potentially severe impact” on road infrastructure and traffic.
Cuadrilla issued a statement Monday lunchtime in which it stated it was “surprised and disappointed” at the Council’s decision.
The statement went further on to say: “We remain committed to the responsible exploration of the huge quantity of natural gas locked up in the shale rock deep underneath Lancashire. We will now take time to consider our options regarding an appeal for Preston New Road, along with also considering appeals for the planning applications recently turned down, against officer advice, for monitoring and site restoration at Grange Hill, and last week’s decision to refuse the Roseacre Wood application.
“It is over a year since the application was submitted to the council and the committee’s decision comes after planning officers scrupulously went through the rigorous, 4,000 page Environmental Statement that accompanied our application and conducted widespread public consultation, which led to their positive recommendation.
“We completed the most comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessments ever carried out for operations of this kind. These assessments are the product of thousands of hours of work from independent expert environmental scientists and other engineering specialists and they demonstrate beyond question that the operations can and will be conducted safely and without damage to people’s health or their environment.”
The spokesman for the Prime Minister David Cameron, who is a vocal supporter of shale development in the UK, told Reuters: “We respect the planning process. We will keep looking at how we can continue to develop this industry in the UK.”
The decision was a huge victory for the anti-fracking camp and the environmentalist didn’t hide their joy at the ruling.
Caroline Lucas, an MP for the Green Party said: “This is a fantastic victory for the people of Lancashire, and the campaigners who have fought so hard to increase awareness of the dangers of fracking. Today’s decision proves that, in spite of all the government’s efforts to force through fracking, local communities can prevent it from going ahead.”
Friends of the Earth north west campaigner Furqan Naeem, told the portal ClickGreen: “People in Lancashire and across the UK who have been tirelessly campaigning against fracking will breathe a sigh of relief today – safe in the knowledge that this dirty industry that risks health, quality of life and the climate, has been stopped in its tracks once again.
“In the teeth of massive pressure from Cuadrilla and Westminster, Lancashire’s brave county councillors have voted to protect their citizens and the local environment – the winners today are democracy and the people of Lancashire.
“Both Cuadrilla and the Government must respect Lancashire’s decision and not try to force unpopular fracking on these communities. Many polls show that the public wants renewable energy, not fracking – and the clean energy and long term jobs it provides.
“The stakes for local people, for democracy and for the environment could not be higher. Though all three emerge as victors today, the fight against fracking and dirty energy is far from over.”
Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Daisy Sands added: “This decision is a Waterloo for the fracking industry and a triumph for local democracy. It’s also a huge boost for efforts to kick the UK’s addiction to dangerous fossil fuels. Lancashire councillors deserve huge praise for standing up to the relentless pressure from the fracking lobby and their minister friends.
“Their decision sends a powerful signal to other councils that the fracking juggernaut can indeed be stopped.
“Cuadrilla’s defeat should trigger a reality-check from a government that has staked so much of Britain’s energy future on this controversial industry. In the year where the world is coming together to find a solution to our fossil fuel problem, we should be trying to harness the potential of clean energy and efficiency instead of deploying risky techniques to squeeze more polluting gas from under our feet.”
“This decision is a serious setback for shale gas in the UK and many must be wondering if it can ever reach production phase,” said John Williams, senior principal consultant at Poyry Management Consulting.
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