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Is it time to Frack on?

The Conservative Party made large gains in the recent local council elections, particularly situated in key hotspots for so-called ‘fracking’ and shale gas. Lancashire County Council, which currently hosts the heavily contested horizontal fracturing site, Preston New Road, saw an 11-seat gain, granting them with 46 seats on the Council and full control. The Fylde division containing Cuadrillas’ site at Preston New Road, remained Independent, with the sitting councillors Paul Hayhurst and Liz Oades opposing the unconventional technique. The Green Party, whose stance around the Fylde was to try to ban the process, achieved on average 5% of the vote in Lytham, St Annes and the Wyre.

Public support

This comes at a time when the gap between public support and opposition is narrowing. The most recent wave of the BEIS Public Attitudes tracker puts the gap between support and opposition at -11%, a continuing fall since the biggest difference of -16% in autumn 2016. The survey saw rises in the proportion of people who said there was a need to use all available energy sources and that fracking would be good for local jobs. It is fair to say that Britain’s infrastructure is in sharp focus socially, environmentally and as a General Election issue, and so it will be the task of the operators to win the support of politicians and communities to fend off professionally-mobilised lobbying by green groups. With the Conservatives now in full control of Lancashire County Council, it may appear to be easier for the Minister of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, to lobby the newly elected cabinet and development control committee (planning). In turn, the support and recommendations made by the Environmental Agency and Health and Safety Executive may prove to carry more weight when the committee sits to decide upon present and future applications.

A lobbying strategy 

However, and even despite Conservative gains, many Tory councillors have been actively campaigning against the process, making life invariably difficult for the Conservatives to pursue their manifesto promise of a ‘fracked’ future. Michael Green, a Conservative on the Planning Committee for example, and who voted against the Preston New Road application, was returned to the council, as was Labour’s Kevin Ellard, who also voted against. Transparency and building trust with the public will be integral to kick-starting the industrialisation of fracking in the North. Cuadrilla recently opened its site up to public viewings as a means of doing this, with a 18x12m platform allowing residents to observe work on the site and conduct peaceful and lawful protest. This has previously proved to be successful with the UK oil industry. Igas, a producer of 3,000 barrels per day of oil at 105 UK sites mostly in the Weald Basin in Hampshire and West Sussex, Lincolnshire and the North-West, has been able to allay some of the concerns by taking politicians, journalists and residents to see existing sites

Ultimately…

Acquiring new sources of cheap energy is one of the most important issues facing Britain today, not only to fuel millions of homes, but because it is needed to spur on investment in manufacturing. Jim Ratcliffe, Chief Executive of INEOS in an exclusive interview with The Times said recently that “If you go back 20 years, manufacturing in the UK was the same as Germany, at about 23 to 24% of GDP. Germany today is the same level, but the UK is at 9.2%. We’re at the bottom of the list among the major economies. The decline in manufacturing has most severely affected the North of England, where I come from.” Conservative gains in Lancashire and North Yorkshire should therefore give future cabinets and planning committees leverage to improve the North’s manufacturing base with practices such as fracking possibly becoming commonplace in the near future. It will be the task of Sajid Javid now to lobby the newly elected councils firmly in order to fulfil their manifesto promise.

For more information on the fracking industry, energy policy and future applications, contact Remarkable Group at lewis.leach@remarkablegroup.co.uk

Your Comments

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Meanwhile, we are kept in ignorance about the chemicals used to lubricate the drill bits used in fracking. Until these are made public, anxieties about the pollution of water supplies will continue and active non-violent dissent continue. Police officers involved should interest themselves in this question. Are Patent lawyers the real villains?

By Christopher John Green

Germany, you say? Germany is one of c.30 countries banning fracking.
It is proven in the USA to have caused earthquakes and water contamination (no room in our squeezed-in agricultural lands for that).
In the UK home owners will struggle to get insurance for structural damage caused by the industry – it is an ‘Excluded Peril’. Those affected by the Fylde earthquakes (caused by Cuadrilla) were not compensated.
And the cheap gas is required by INEOS for its chemical operations.
The Guardian recently showed a decreasing 19% in favour of shale compared to an increasing 81% in favour of renewables which are being hit hard by Tory taxes/restrictions despite their growth in ROW including China. There is no cleanup cost to the taxpayer, no long term lingering risk, no protest associated with solar arrays.
Local fracking jobs are temporary, as wells deplete & are totally abandoned within a few years, and the seismic survey teams are being recruited from non-local ex military on self employed low wages.
These, Mr Leach, are facts.
It is time to look beyond the fossil fuel bubble at ROW countries who are thriving with sustainable, alternative and renewable technologies (including non-oil based plastics & car fuels), and stop building fossil fuel dependent red brick housing that is rooted in archaic tradition & that perpetuates the myth that anyone ‘needs’ fossil fuels. And on this matter, German house design & manufacturing is leading the way.

By H.Wright

In the 19th Century the North west was dug up for the whole country to warm their hands on our coal and our towns were scarred and then left to rot, when no longer required. Why are we being dug up again? There are vast amounts of this shale gas in Sussex and Dorset ,but there is never a mention about this,just Lancashire and Yorkshire. This is history repeating itself. If this goes ahead the money should be used for infrastructure in the North West and not filtered down South for vanity projects,which is what happened to our vast resources in the past. This is why I agree wholeheartedly in Federalism. We do not want a repeat of Scotland’s oil, where the South East benefited more from it than Glasgow.

By Elephant

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