|Demonstrators protesting today's decision|
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid today allowed Cuadrilla's appeal against the county council's decision to refuse permission for fracking at the Preston New Road site, subject to conditions. Local councils and community groups united in condemning the decision.
Although tens of thousands of Lancastrians objected to Cuadrilla's proposals, the decision comes as no surprise as a leaked 2014 letter from George Osborne set out in detail the Conservative's strategy to smooth the path for the fracking companies by setting aside any democratic structures or legislation that might inconvenience them.
County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, said: "This was one of the biggest planning applications ever put before any council – literally tens of thousands of people responded to the consultation processes, and the applications involved substantial levels of technical detail.
"Our development control committee carefully considered many hours of evidence both for and against the proposal, and the committee members ultimately cast their vote based on the evidence they heard and whether they thought the proposal was acceptable in planning terms.
"A local council, made up of councillors democratically elected by local people, and charged with serving their interests, is exactly the right body to make decisions on local matters. It is clear that the government supports the development of a shale gas industry, but I would ask them to do more to address the concerns of local communities and the councillors who represent them by supporting the best environmental controls.
"The Secretary of State's decision to allow more time to consider issues related to highway safety around the Roseacre site reflects the committee's concerns on this issue. We will now await information from the applicant on the details required to fulfil the planning conditions set out for the Preston New Road site."
Lancaster & Fleetwood MP Cat Smith issued the following statement:
“Today's announcement is an affront to local democracy. For a government that talks the talk about devolution and localism, it certainly fails when held up to any scrutiny.
"Lancashire County Council, our locally elected democratic representatives, took the decision to turn down the two applications for Preston New Road and Roseacre based on right and proper planning issues. For the Secretary of State, who represents a leafy Worcestershire seat, to force fracking upon the people of Lancashire is a slap in the face to democracy and any pretense of devolution to the north.
"A future Labour government would ban fracking. It is increasingly obvious that we cannot ignore that the global transition to a 100% clean energy economy is rapidly accelerating. At the heart of the historic Paris climate agreement reached last year between 196 governments is a commitment to reaching zero emissions global economy in the second half of the century. An agreement signed up to by this Tory government.
"Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, warned last month that to minimise financial stability risks from this transformation of the global economy, the transition away from high carbon industries should begin early and follow a predictable path, helping markets to anticipate the transition to a net zero economy. To provide regulatory certainty about the direction of travel the Government should support Labour's call for an outright ban on fracking.”
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Green County Councillor Gina Dowding highlighted the Conservative government's cutting of support for sustainable energy initiatives and its heavy subsidising of fossil fuel sources, despite the increasing dangers posed by climate change.
Referring to Theresa May's mantra of 'Brexit means Brexit', she said that the Prime Minister needed to learn that when the people of Lancashire say 'No Fracking' it means 'No Fracking.'