Protesters gather as Lancashire considers fracking application
Lancashire County Council will meet later today (June 23) to consider the first bid for a UK fracking operation in four years, amid protests from green groups and campaigners.
Energy firm Cuadrilla will have its applications to begin test drilling on two sites considered by local officials, with the talks in County Hall in Preston expected to continue for four days.
Hundreds of protesters are expected to gather in Preston over the next few days, ahead of the decision, with green groups calling on councillors to put the concerns of local people above business interests and reject Cuadrilla’s application.
Friends of the Earth has called on the Council to follow the example of Scotland and Wales and halt fracking operations. The organisation's north west campaigner Furqan Naeem said fracking could have a “hugely damaging impact” on residents. “Councillors must put local communities first, follow the example of Scotland and Wales and say no to dirty fracking," he said.
On 20 June, elected officials from New York State - which banned fracking in December - wrote to Lancashire Council, urging them to refuse planning permission.
That letter stated that New York officials had “listened to countless hours of testimony by local residents against fracking, as well as doing our own research into the science, community impacts and threats this industry poses.”
Meanwhile, eight Labour Party MPs from Greater Manchester and the North West have this week joined these calls to halt the drilling. The MPs, including former vice-chairman of Labour’s 2015 general election campaign Lucy Powell, signed a joint statement calling for a halt to the application until health and climate risks of drilling had been better assessed.
In a statement, the MPs said: “We have serious concerns about the risks that fracking poses to people’s health and the environment.” Labour had previously called for a more robust policy on fracking during its 2015 general election campaign.
Lancashire county planning officers earlier recommended approving one of Cuadrilla’s two drilling applications for the site on Preston New Road. The officers gave a negative recommendation to a second site at Roseacre Wood.
Last week, Cuadrilla announced it was pleased the planning officers had recommended one of the testing sites, having originally seen their application deferred on the grounds of night-time noise in January. In a statement Cuadrilla said planning officers were satisfied with all aspects of the applications, including with relation to greenhouse gas emissions, local ecology and water resources.
“We will await the Councillors’ decision on both these applications at the end of June,” the firm said.
Some campaigners have also called on the council to go ahead with the drilling applications to support jobs and growth in the North of England, with the North West Energy Task Force and Students for Shale supporting fracking.
Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, has been associated with environmental and health risks of water pollution and damage to wildlife.
Last week, the Department for Energy & Climate Change dismissed claims it intended to “fast-track fracking without public consent”. David Cameron has previously said the government would be “going all out” for shale in the UK.
Earlier this week, the chemicals charity CHEM Trust issued a new report recommending greater regulation and transparency in all fracking proposals.
CHEM Trust executive director Dr Michael Warhurst said: “We know from experience in the USA that fracking wells can leak and accidents can happen, and this has led to significant pollution and damage to wildlife.
“We don’t want to look back in the future to realise that we have damaged our precious countryside in a headlong rush to extract fossil fuels.”