Cuadrilla bid for first UK fracking in four years debated

Anti-fracking protest
Image caption Protesters outside Lancashire County Hall against fracking on the Fylde Coast

An application to start the first fracking operation in the UK for four years is being considered by a council.

Energy firm Cuadrilla wants to extract shale gas at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood on the Fylde Coast, in Lancashire.

The county council is considering the bid, after fracking was suspended in the UK in 2011.

Protests were held outside the hearing in Preston where 70 people - for and against fracking - will be speaking.

The application for Little Plumpton was recommended for approval last week, subject to working hours, noise control and highway matters, but Roseacre Wood has been recommended for refusal.

A decision on the former is due on Wednesday following two days of hearings.

'Dirty and dangerous industry'

Peter Watson, who lives near the Preston New Road site in Little Plumpton, told councillors if the application was approved "our health, our quality of life and our property will be disastrously affected."

John Tootill, who runs a nearby farm nursery, claimed it would "destroy our business, way of life, four jobs and our home" and the environment would be contaminated.

On Monday, the council was sent a letter on behalf of 850 elected officials in New York State, urging the authority to block Cuadrilla's application and describing fracking as "a dirty and dangerous industry".

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Anti-fracking protests are held outside Lancashire County Hall in Preston

Cuadrilla countered that the officials had no knowledge of its applications and should not interfere "in the democratic process".

A further letter was sent to the council from the Upstate New York Towns Association, encouraging it to allow "responsible, modern shale development".

At the hearings at County Hall in Preston, which are expected to last four days in total there was an increase in police patrols.

Planning officer Stuart Perigo explained why he had recommended the Preston New Road approval.

He said fracking would take place over two years with flow testing to continue for a further two years.

Previously redacted

Mr Perigo said 18,126 representations had been received by the authority by last Friday, with 217 in favour. However, he told the committee that the vast majority of opposition was from "outside the immediate area."

By the end of May, just 3,027 out of 18,022 representations received were from within the Fylde area, he said.

Prior to the application being discussed, councillors voted 12 to three in favour of not deferring the matter until reading a report on the impacts of fracking, which will be published soon, and had previously been redacted.

The document, entitled Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts, had several passages obscured when it was published by Defra last summer.

Last week, the Information Commissioner ordered Defra to publish the document in full by the middle of July after a complaint was received by environmentalists.

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