The government has overturned Lancashire County Council’s rejection of a fracking application and given Cuadrilla the go-ahead today.
The company is allowed to drill and frack as many as four wells at the Preston Road site, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said in a ruling.
The council previously turned down planning applications at two locations in Flyde – Preston Road and Roseacre Wood – citing visual impact and noise as the reasons even though officials recommended the go-ahead for one of them.
Cuadrilla appealed against the decision and it went to a public inquiry which was heard earlier this year.
A spokesman from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said: “The Communities Secretary has today allowed three planning appeals related to two proposed shale gas exploration and monitoring sites in Lancashire.
“The decisions follow extensive consideration of all the evidence, including an independent planning inspector’s report and evidence submitted during a two-week public inquiry.”
Mr Javid however deferred the decision for the application at Roseacre Wood, giving Cuadrilla more time to provide evidence on road traffic issues and highway conditions.
Cuadrilla said he was “minded” to grant planning permission at that site too, which would see a further four wells drilled and fracked.
The council said its development control committee carefully considered many hours of evidence both for and against the proposal and members cast their vote based on the evidence they heard.
County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services added: “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.”
Cuadrilla welcomed the decision to grant planning consent for its application at Preston New Road.
CEO Francis Egan said: “We are very pleased that we can now move ahead with our shale gas exploration plans which will start to create new economic growth opportunities and jobs for people in Lancashire and the UK.
“We are confident that our operations will be safe and responsible and the comprehensive site monitoring programme planned by regulators and independent academics will in due course conclusively demonstrate this. We hope this will reassure the minority of people who remain sceptical about shale gas exploration. This news has given Lancashire a big vote of confidence in its economic and energy future.”