The company bidding to frack for shale gas in Lancashire has asked for more time before a decision is made on their planning application.Read the full story ›
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:
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.”
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.
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.
Proposals for "fracking" for shale gas at two sites in Lancashire should be refused, planning officers have recommended.
Lancashire County Council has published reports with recommendations on planning applications from shale company Cuadrilla to develop two new sites to explore for shale gas by drilling, fracking and testing the flow of gas.
The council's development control committee is due to make decisions next week on the planning applications for the two sites, at Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton, and Roseacre Wood, near Roseacre, both between Blackpool and Preston.
Geology experts will carry out independent monitoring of two fracking sites in Lancashire if they are given the green light.Read the full story ›
Blackpool and Fylde College will be a new centre of excellence for fracking.
It'll offer advanced engineering courses for use in the onshore oil and gas industries.
Test drilling in the region has proved controversial with claims it caused earth tremors.
But supporters say it will help meet growing energy needs.
It's being set up by representative body UKOOG to meet the industry’s future skills needs and help the UK to become an international centre of excellence for onshore operations.
The news is being announced by the Business and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock on a visit to the college.
“Crucially, this will drive long term investment in the region, meet the demand for highly skilled labour and secure local jobs. To be named as the hub for one of the National Colleges is a privilege. It is testament to the College’s well established relationships with industry partners and high quality skills training up to and including honours degree programmes.”
The College has been supported in its bid by a number of industry-leading organisations including Centrica Energy and Cuadrilla Resources.
"Several independent studies have shown that the development of a shale gas industry in the region will generate tens of thousands of jobs and this new National College will give the North West region a head start in developing the skills that are needed for a productive shale gas industry.”
Energy firm Cuadrilla is seeking planning permission to drill, hydraulically fracture and test the flow of gas from up to four exploration wells on the sites in the Fylde area.
Councillors at Lancashire County Council were due to make a decision on both applications next month, with drilling likely to start early next year if approved then and fracking to follow several months later.
But now planning officials want the decision deadline to go back to December 31 for the proposed site at Preston New Road in Little Plumpton and to January 31 next year for the similar site at Roseacre Wood in Inskip.
The planners have been working since the applications were received in June to consult with the public and other statutory agencies, and assess the applications, to ensure all the information needed to determine them is put before the Development Control Committee.
The council has now written to Cuadrilla asking for further time to receive, organise, assess, and present all the relevant information for the application to be determined by the committee.
Test drilling was suspended in the Lancashire's Bowland basin in June 2011, following two earthquakes in the area in April and May of that year, one with a magnitude of 2.3 and the other 1.4, with the epicentre thought to be about 500 metres away from a well in Weeton, Lancashire.
An independent report has cleared police of brutality in dealing with anti-fracking protestors at Barton Moss in Salford.
It says Greater Manchester Police must improve the way it handles major demonstrations.
But protestors say the report is a whitewash - their solicitor argues most of the people arrested by officers went on to have all charges dropped against them.
This report from Tim Scott: