At least eight weeks before fracking decision

Lancashire County Council meeting on fracking Credit: PA Images

County councillors have agreed to delay a decision on proposals for two new fracking sites in Lancashire.

Shale company Cuadrilla has applied for permission to explore for shale gas at two sites between Preston and Blackpool, in Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton, and Roseacre Wood, near Roseacre.

But the firm last week asked for the decision on whether to give the go-ahead to be deferred, as it submitted new information after planning officers for Lancashire County Council recommended the sites be refused planning permission due to noise and traffic.

After taking legal advice in private session at County Hall in Preston, planning committee members voted to defer any decision to a later date.It will be a minimum of eight weeks before the committee can reconvene to consider the applications.

Ian Young, chief legal adviser to the council, told the hearing that he had recommended to committee members that to reject the deferral request would be unlawful.

He said: "If the committee were not to accept my advice, then in my view the applicant would have clear grounds for a legal challenge ... and that the legal challenge would inevitably be successful, leading to both further delay and cost consequences."

Ahead of the decision by the council, its planning officers recommended that both sites should be turned down because of concerns over noise impacts which would "unnecessarily and unacceptably" affect neighbouring properties.

The proposed developments, which would have 24-hour drilling operations running for months at a time, would lead to "significant increase in night-time background noise levels", a report from the officials said.

At the Roseacre Wood site, the report also 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.