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The Northern Lights - as seen from Lancashire

The Northern Lights Credit: Picture: Stephen Cheatley

Photographer Stephen Cheatley of Blackpool said: ''We had an amazing aurora display in the UK last night. I had to get away from the bright lights of Blackpool though to get a good chance of seeing them, so I went to Oakenclough near Scorton, in the Forest of Bowland Lancashire.

''I did not see anything at all straight away, but soon the whole northern sky lit up. I thought it would be a good idea to take a selfie with a stunning aurora as a backdrop!''

Stephen's selfie against a spectacular backdrop Credit: Picture: Stephen Cheatley

Watch water birds 'courtship dance' in Lancashire

A Wildlife Trust volunteer has captured the 'courtship dance' of great crested grebes at Brockholes nature reserve in Lancashire.

André Bisson produced this video after four hours of filming and said: "This is an extremely rare act and I feel very fortunate to have witnessed it."

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Video courtesy of André Bisson and Marcelo Fernandez

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What lies beneath the lock

A major overhaul of locks along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Wigan is underway. The Canal & River Trust is in the middle of a huge maintenance programme across England and Wales. Members of the public are invited to come and take a behind-the-scenes look at the work that's being carried out.

£100,000 is being spent on vital repairs to the lock Credit: Canal River Trust

To walk along the bed of the lock and see all the craftsmanship that went into building these locks around 200 years ago is a real privilege. Lock gate making and fitting is an extremely skilled and traditional trade and one that remains essential to the waterways.

– Chantelle Seaborn, Canal & River Trust

Drivers warned about motorway closure at airport

Credit: pa

Drivers heading for Manchester Airport are being urged to leave extra time for journeys when the M56 is closed for the whole weekend at the end of February. The Highways Agency says a new bridge is being installed between junction 6 at Hale and junction 5 at Manchester Airport. It means the total closure of the motorway in both directions between these junctions between 10pm on Friday 27 February and 5am on Monday 2 March.

“It is vital for everyone to understand you should only be using this part of the M56 over this particular weekend if you are travelling to the airport – and you should leave extra time to get to the airport to make your flight.

– Mark Mosley, Highways Agency

Fracking 'funeral march' in Lancashire

Cuardrilla wants to drill for shale gas Credit: PA

Anti-fracking campaigners are staging a 'funeral march' for Lancashire saying that a go ahead for the controversial procedure would amount to death for the Fylde countryside.

The fracking firm Cuadrilla has applied to explore two sites at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood for shale gas.

Councillors are due to make a final decision on the planning application but a report earlier this week by Lancashire County Council recommended rejecting it.

Organisers say the march will be from the stocks in the centre of Poulton Le Fylde at 10am walking to Blackpool.

Cuadrilla has said any issues raised in the report can be resolved.

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  1. Amy Welch, ITV News

Council officials say Lancashire should reject plans for fracking

There's been a setback to hopes of a fracking industry in Lancashire, after a key council report said it should not go ahead at two sites between Blackpool and Preston. Cuadrilla was seeking permission to use the controversial method of extracting shale gas in tests at Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton, and Roseacre Wood, near Roseacre.

But planning officials have recommended the applications be rejected over concerns of noise and traffic pollution.

Our correspondent Amy Welch reports:

Cuadrilla 'disappointed' over Lancs officials' fracking view - read the company's statement in full

Cuadrilla still hopes it's application will go through. Credit: Press Association.

In a statement, Shale Gas firm Cuadrilla said it was disappointed with the recommendation made by Lancashire County Council's planning officers.

But the firm said it hopes concerns about noise and traffic pollution could be resolved ahead of the Council's crucial vote on the matter next week.

We are very disappointed that Lancashire County Council’s Planning Officers have recommended that the Councils’ Development Control Committee refuse planning consent for both our applications.

"Officers have recommended refusal at Preston New Road only on grounds of night-time noise and at Roseacre Road on noise and traffic concerns.

"We note that the Planning Officer’s report is satisfied with all other aspects of the planning applications.

"Our applications are to drill, hydraulically fracture and test the flow of gas from up to four exploration wells at each of our proposed sites at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood.

“After an extraordinarily lengthy period of consultation and review of around seven months we are surprised that, at this late point, the Planning team at Lancashire County Council has raised objections about background noise for both sites. "We believe, supported by independent experts Arup, that we have come forward with measures that would mitigate the noise of drilling and fracturing and the proposed noise levels are within the limits set out in government guidance.

“For our application at Roseacre Wood we had already supplied within the last week extra information regarding traffic routes which we and our expert advisers believe addresses all the new issues which have recently been raised.

"We believe these issues should have been more widely discussed. In the end the Councillors on the Development Control Committee will have to weigh the relatively minor impacts which affect only a small number of households and for which we have proposed adequate proposals for mitigation against the wider local and national economic and energy security benefits.

“We will await the Councillors’ decisions on both these applications and we believe that all of the limited issues that have been raised can be resolved.”

– Cuadrilla

Greenpeace says Lancashire councillors 'in the spotlight'

Greenpeace said it "applauds" the recommendation council officers published today and urged councillors to follow the advice.

The council now faces a clear choice: They can listen to the planners, and the Lancashire residents that elected them - almost two-thirds of whom want a moratorium on fracking.

Or they can kowtow to the corporate and political interests keen to force through fracking at almost any cost.

The whole country is looking to Lancashire to protect its communities from the unnecessary risks that fracking plays with our futures.

– Simon Clydesdale, Greenpeace

Fracking would result in 'unacceptable impact' on residents, Lancs officials say

Energy firm Cuadrilla is seeking planning permission for sites in the Flyde area Credit: Press Association.

The report recommended that the application for the site at Preston New Road should be turned down because of concerns over noise impacts which would "unnecessarily and unacceptably" affect neighbouring properties with noise pollution.

At the Roseacre Wood site, the report said there would be an increase in traffic, particularly heavy goods vehicles, which would result in "an unacceptable impact" on rural roads and reduce road safety.

If the council's development control committee take the advice of their planning officers and turn down the applications, it will be seen as a major blow to efforts to get the UK's shale gas and oil industry off the ground.

The Government is pushing for the development of a shale gas industry in the UK, claiming it would create jobs and growth, reduce energy prices and cut the country's reliance on gas imports.

However, opponents have raised fears that the process causes earthquakes, can pollute water supplies, and could lead to inappropriate development in the countryside and damage house prices.

Hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure underground to fracture shale rock and release the gas trapped in it.

Hundreds of protesters attended a six-day Reclaim The Power camp last August near the proposed Little Plumpton site to campaign against shale gas extraction in the region by fracking.

Local authorities in West Sussex have also turned down applications from shale companies to explore for oil and gas in their areas.

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