Plans to drill at the Preston New Road site were refused by the Council after it voted last week to turn down Cuadrilla’s bid to drill at another site at Roseacre Wood.

The rejection came in spite of planning officers offering a positive recommendation on plans for the site.

Environmental campaigners are celebrating the Council’s decision to put a stop to the fracking plan. Friends of the Earth’s north west campaigner Furqan Naeem said: “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.”

Cuadrilla’s application was the first fracking decision in the UK in four years. The Government has previously stated it supported fracking plans with David Cameron saying the UK would go “all out” for shale.

Naeem added: “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.”

Only three councillors voted to approve the planning application, with nine voting against it.

Powerful signal

More than 64,000 people had signed a Greenpeace petition since last week, calling on councillors to repeat their rejection of Cuadrilla’s first application by refusing the plans for Preston New Road. Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Daisy Sands called the decision a “Waterloo” moment, adding that the Council’s decision “sends a powerful signal to other councils that the fracking juggernaut can indeed be stopped”.

Sands added: “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.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas added her support to the environmental campaigners, calling the decision a “fantastic victory”.

“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,” Lucas said. “Lancashire County Councillors have today set a strong example of how democracy should work – with elected politicians listening to the concerns of the people they represent.

“I hope the refusal of this application will open the Government’s eyes to the huge opposition to fracking in this country, and help to persuade them that clean, renewable energy is where we must invest.”

Lancashire County Council had previously recieved written legal advice, suggesting that a refusal of the bid would lead to an appeal from Cuadrilla. The letter, from David Manley QC, stated: “While a refusal which is not back by substantial objective evidence cannot be described as unlawful, it nonetheless can readily be described as unreasonable.”

Regrettable decision

In a statement, Cuadrilla said the company was “surprised and disappointed” at the Council’s decision. The oil and gas firm is understood to be considering its right to appeal.

Cuadrilla stated: “We remain committed to the responsible exploration of the huge quantity of natural gas locked up in the 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.”

The firm added: “We completed the most comprehensive Environmentla 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 scientiasts 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 of their environment.”

Matt Field

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