UCLan students are celebrating after a landmark victory against fracking in Lancashire.
Campaigners cheered with excitement and relief at the “great news” that a second fracking application by Cuadrilla had been thrown out by county councillors today (Monday).
The application was for a rural site at Little Plumpton, between Preston and Blackpool. But county councillors voted 10-4 to reject it on grounds of ‘unacceptable noise impact’ and ‘adverse urbanising effect on the landscape’.
The decision was announced late morning after days of street protests by anti-frackers outside County Hall on Preston’s Fishergate.
A previous application by energy firm Cuadrilla – to drill at Roseacre Wood, near Kirkham – was also rejected by Lancashire County Council (LCC) on Thursday.
Controversially, today’s decision went against planning officer recommendations. Such recommendations are based on technical and legal aspects of the planning process.
Cuadrilla voiced its ‘surprise and disappointment’ at the decision, telling local media: “We remain committed to the responsible exploration of the huge quantity of natural gas locked up in the shale rock deep beneath Lancashire.”
Fracking – hydraulic fracturing of shale beds in the ground to release gas – is highly controversial. Supporters highlight benefits such as job creation and energy security, but campaigners in the USA and Australia, and now the UK, warn of health risks including poisoned water wells and toxic chemicals being left in the ground.
Cuadrilla said it will now consider its options which may include appealing against the decision. Anti-fracking campaigners also warned that the fight could go on and urged even more students to get involved.
Second year UCLan English Lit student, Andy Brown, told Pluto: “This is really great news that LCC have decided to deny Cuadrilla the ability to test-frack in the two sites at Lancashire. It’s a positive outcome for those that have campaigned for so long.”
But he added: “I’m concerned as to what Cuadrilla will do next. There have been murmurs of a legal case being brought against LCC and with [David]Cameron being so pro-fracking, I’d be ultimately very disappointed, yet not at all shocked, if fracking gets the go-ahead eventually.
“Anti-frackers may have won the battle but they’ve not yet won the war. We can’t rest on our laurels.”
Andy, 26, originally from Blackburn, praised students for their campaigning, and urged more people to get involved. “I think we tend to get so wrapped up in the microcosm of our uni lives that we forget how powerful a collective voice can really be.
“We have approximately 34,000 students at UCLan. Imagine if just a tenth banded together and turned out for something like this – that could be really powerful!
“Specifically with fracking, the government is gambling with our future land and our future lives. We’re receiving a university education; ignorance is not an excuse anymore. How can we just sit back and not do anything?”
First year student Joe Young, 20, also welcomed LCC’s decision, and praised campaigners. He told Pluto: “I think that UCLan students have done a lot to contribute to the campaign, as they’ve been able to provide limitless amounts of passion, energy and enthusiasm which couples well with the experience and knowledge that others may carry, and ultimately caused the campaign to succeed.
“Although it would have brought investment to the area, Lancashire County Council have made the right decision, saving our local environment and keeping us from further dependence on fossil fuels.”
Nationally, Cuadrilla’s bids have been seen by fracking supporters as flagship applications, which if approved would set a precedent for drilling throughout the UK. Today’s decision will set Lancashire on a collision course with central government, which champions fracking as part of its UK energy strategy.
But councillors underlined the decision as a victory for local democracy. County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, said: “This is one of the biggest planning decisions ever put before Lancashire County Council.
“The development control committee has listened very carefully to many hours of evidence both for and against the proposal, and considered the report of the council’s planning officers.
“The decision to refuse this application has been reached by a vote of the committee, which is composed of elected councillors, and each member of the committee has ultimately cast their vote based on the evidence they have heard and whether they think the proposal is acceptable in planning terms, and to the people they represent.”
A related application, for equipment to monitor water quality and seismic activity, was also rejected.