Decision expected on Lancashire fracking schemes

The Government is expected to announce whether it will give the green light for two controversial fracking schemes in Lancashire.

The county council turned down planning applications for fracking for shale gas at two locations in Fylde, even though its officials had recommended the go-ahead for one of the schemes.

But Cuadrilla, the company behind the plans for the schemes at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood, appealed against the decision and it went to a public inquiry which was heard earlier this year.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to make the final ruling on the schemes by today.

  • 'Temporary development'

Cuadrilla say the impact on the environment will be minimal. Credit: ITV News

Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla, told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "The fact is that this is a temporary development. There is traffic, obviously, you can't do this without it, but we're talking about 25 trucks a day at peak.

"That's for a maximum of six weeks spread out over a two year period.

"But the country needs gas. The country is running out of gas, and without some form of energy development, we're going to end up importing all of our fuel from overseas, and we've seen that just last week with the ridiculous situation where Scotland is importing shale gas from America, which frankly is crazy."

The plans have sparked protests across the county by locals, who are concerned about the impact on the environment and the economy.

Heather Speak, from Fylde Borough Council, told Good Morning Britain: "It's not just the environment and concerns over the water, it's the traffic, it's the stress, it's our health, it's our property values, it's the dark nights ... we'll be polluted with lights and high fences, and the noise and the smell."

She added: "I know, and thousands of people know, that if they find the shale gas, and they go into production, we could end up with a super pad and 30 years of fracking 24/7, and it's unacceptable, and as far as running out of gas, I don't believe that either.

"We should be using renewable energies. We shouldn't be drilling two miles down and splitting the rock open to get gas out. We shouldn't be doing it."

  • What do the politicians say?

As prime minister, David Cameron declared the government was going "all out for shale" to boost the economy, jobs and energy security.

Soon after she took over in the summer, Theresa May launched a consultation which could see home owners receive individual payments for fracking wells drilled nearby.

Locals could receive individual payments following a consultation launched by Theresa May. Credit: PA

But last month, Labour announced at its party conference it would ban fracking if it wins the next general election.

So what exactly is fracking and why is it controversial?

  • What is fracking?

More properly known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking is a process in which liquid is pumped deep underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release gas or oil trapped within it.

The video below is courtesy of the Department of Energy & Climate Change:

  • Why is fracking controversial?

The process has been mired in controversy since it caused two minor earthquakes in Lancashire five years ago, prompting a temporary ban on fracking in the UK.

The ban was later lifted, with controls put in place to prevent tremors, but fracking continues to attract opponents who fear it can also cause water contamination, noise and traffic pollution.

Environmentalists also warn that pursuing new sources of gas - a fossil fuel - is not compatible with efforts to tackle climate change, and that the focus should be on developing cleaner sources of energy such as renewables.

  • What is happening in Lancashire?

Anti-fracking protestors in Blackpool in February. Credit: PA

Lancashire County Council turned down shale gas company Cuadrilla's planning application for exploratory drilling and fracking at two sites in Fylde last June.

The company appealed and the applications went to a public inquiry, which took place earlier this year.

The government is expected to give a final decision by the end of Thursday.

  • Where else has fracking been pursued?

North Yorkshire County Council was the first to give a green light to fracking in the UK.

In 2014, Celtique Energie saw its application to drill a temporary well to test for oil and gas in the South Downs National Park, near the village of Fernhurst, West Sussex, turned down - the first time a council rejected a planning application from a shale firm.

In Scotland, a moratorium is in place against fracking.