Ministers accused of hypocrisy as fracking schemes called in


Ministers have been accused of hypocrisy after it was revealed the Government would make the decision on whether to allow two fracking schemes in Lancashire.

Shale company Cuadrilla saw an application to frack and test the flow of gas from up to four exploration wells at each of two sites between Blackpool and Preston refused earlier this year by Lancashire County Council.

The firm has appealed against the planning decision, made after officials for the council recommended a scheme at Roseacre Wood should be turned down on traffic impact grounds, but a site at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton should get the go-ahead.

The appeal is due to be heard by a planning inspector at a public inquiry next February, but the Government has decided Communities Secretary Greg Clark will make the decision because the proposals are "of more than local significance".

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "Ministers have decided to recover Cuadrilla's appeals for shale exploration in Lancashire.

"They consider these proposals are of more than local significance and raise important issues of planning development control."

The Government's intention to take over decision-making from local councils on planning applications for fracking was first announced in the summer, as ministers try to get the UK shale industry off the ground.

The Government has said it is going "all out for shale", but oil and gas companies keen to exploit the resource have come up against local opposition, with councils turning down applications in potential shale areas including Lancashire and Sussex.

Mr Clark's decision to call in the planning application is in contrast to its stance on onshore wind farms, where local people have been given the final say on developments in their areas.

Shadow energy secretary Lisa Nandy said: "It's hypocritical for ministers to support devolution and local democracy for decision-making over wind farms, only to then trample over the views of local communities when it comes to fracking.

"The Government has completely failed to win public support for these drilling projects, which is not surprising as they abandoned important environmental safeguards. By seeking to impose fracking, public concern is only likely to deepen."

Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Hannah Martin said: "With this move the Government is making a mockery of their commitment to local democracy and giving a slap in the face to the people of Lancashire.

"The same minister who told local councils they should be 'masters of their own destiny' could now overthrow one of the most important and difficult decisions Lancashire councillors have ever made.

"Months of public debate, campaigning, and deliberations could be nullified by a stroke of the minister's pen. Lancashire residents have peacefully and successfully fought to stop fracking before - there are good reasons to believe they will do so again."