Council takes frack protest to Prime Minister

Location of the sites  in Roseacre and Little Plumpton on the Fylde

Location of the sites in Roseacre and Little Plumpton on the Fylde

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Lancashire County Council has told the Government to back off when it comes to deciding the outcome of planning applications for fracking in the county.

The rebuff came as a full meeting of the county council debated the Government’s recent announcement that it would make the final decision on the current planning appeals by shale gas firm Cuadrilla.

The council refused Cuadrilla’s planning applications for two fracking exploration sites at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood in Fylde last June. An appeal will be heard in the new year, but the inspector will now make a recommendation to the Government with Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, having the final say. The minister says this is because the development is of “major importance”, has more than local significance and raises important or novel issues of development control a nd/or legal difficulties”.

Councillors agreed, by 45 votes to one with 18 abstentions, to instruct Chief Executive Jo Turton to write to the Prime Minister and Minister to voice their concerns and ask that the minister takes no part in the final determination of the appeals.

A motion, proposed by County Coun Steve Holgate, argued: “The Secretary of State is a member of a cabinet with a clear policy in favour of fracking and he has made statements in favour of fracking. It is therefore inappropriate for him to determine the planning appeals ...because of clear evidence of predetermination.”

He noted the council and its members had spent significant time and resources ensuring that the process of determining such applications was “open, transparent and well informed.” While the Government was entitled to determine national energy policy, the council was best able to consider local issues.

Tory opposition leader County Coun Geoff Driver said: “The appeal now has nothing to do with the county council at all...They’re just going to say it’s Lancashire again, they’re barm-pots up there.”