Civil engineering contractors have backed the Government’s landmark decision to grant permission for a shale gas extraction site in Lancashire, which overturned the county council’s refusal.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid has upheld an appeal by Cuadrilla against Lancashire CC’s decision to refuse permission for exploration at its site at Little Plumpton in the county but delayed a decision on another site.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a technique designed to extract gas and oil from shale rock. Although it is widely used in the United States, Mr Javid’s decision means that horizontal fracking will go ahead in the UK for the first time.
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) said the decision will enable the technology to ‘play its part in providing the mixed portfolio of energy that the UK needs’.
Marie-Claude Hemming, CECA head of external affairs, said: ‘The UK needs to plan for a future that will see output of oil and gas from the North Sea fall. This will mean looking at new nuclear and renewables for generation. But we anticipate a continuing demand for oil and gas, both to generate electricity and to support demand from UK industry.
‘While we can import from overseas to meet this demand, this means that security of supply could be jeopardized by changing global politics. Given the apparent evidence that the UK could be extracting its own hydrocarbons rather than importing them, the case for shale gas seems strong.
‘But people have justified concerns about the impact on the environment. It is vital that we now work to show that shale gas can become a clean and safe part of the UK energy mix.’
Friends of the Earth (FoE) said it would be ‘looking closely’ at the decision, which it called ‘undemocratic’, and would ‘continue to support the community in their campaign to make sure all of Lancashire stays frack free’.
FoE north-west campaigner Helen Rimmer said: ‘This is bad news for Lancashire – the community have been fighting fracking for more than five years. This fight continues until this unproven and unpopular industry disappear for good.
‘Instead of shoving us down a dangerous path that inevitably leads to climate change, the Government should invest in renewables and energy efficiency, an emerging industry that could create 24,000 jobs in the north west alone.’
Mr Javid delayed a decision on a site at Roseacre Wood, also in Lancashire, to give Cuadrilla and other parties 'the opportunity to provide any further evidence on highway safety'.
Cllr Judith Blake, Local Government Association environment spokesperson, said: 'It should be up to local communities to decide, through their locally democratic planning systems, whether or not to host fracking operations in their areas. Ensuring communities feel safe is important.
'Any company that applies for a fracking licence must assure residents through their council that environment and safety concerns can and will be adequately addressed before planning permission is considered.
'People living near fracking sites - who are most affected by them - have a right to be heard. Local planning procedure exists for a reason, to ensure a thorough and detailed consultation with those communities.'