Anti-fracking protesters have hit out at energy secretary Amber Rudd after she hinted the Government may force through fracking applications.
She has said in her blog on the Department for Energy and Climate Change website that she will be writing to local authorities to tell them there is a need to explore for shale gas.
Her words come after Lancashire County Council rejected energy company Cuadrilla’s two bids to test frack on the Fylde and after the Government pushed through a plan to create a giant underground gas storage facility at Over Wyre despite huge opposition from residents and three planning rejections.
Local campaigners have said Amber Rudd’s intervention was another bid to subvert local democracy and they vowed to continue the fight against fracking.
Ms Rudd said gas was vital for the UK’s energy security as other energy systems aged and that the shale industry could create 60,000 new jobs and generate billions for the economy but planning battles which delay the process must not be allowed to stand in its way.
She said: “We can’t continue with a system that sees applications dragged out for months, or even years on end, which doesn’t give certainty to industry and which could spell the end of a potentially vital national industry.
“We need a system that delivers timely planning decisions.
“As part of this work the Government will be writing to planning authorities this week to make clear that there is a national need to explore shale in a safe, sustainable and timely way. Getting shale exploration up and running is a key part of our long-term plan to build a stronger, more competitive economy, create jobs by backing the industries of the future and take our country forward.”
Alan Tootill of the Preston New Road Action Group said: “May I remind Ms Rudd that it was Cuadrilla themselves who prolonged the decision process by constantly amending their application and providing new or amended information throughout autumn and winter.
“They themselves forced Lancashire County Council to defer in January 2015 when the recommendation was for refusal, effectively threatening legal action if the Council did not postpone the decision (eventually taken in June) in order to provide information on new noise and highways mitigation measures, which were of course eventually rejected by the council on valid planning grounds.”
Elizabeth Warner from the Roseacre Awareness Group said: “After the decisions in June, the Prime Minister stated again that these decisions were for Local Authorities, based on specific local issues.
“In a staggering U-turn his Secretary of State appears to suggest that whatever the circumstances fracking can and should be permitted. It makes a mockery of planning, in principle and in practice and is a very dangerous precedent to set.
“People will be seriously worried about anything which requires rules to be bent, broken or ignored. If the strength of the case for fracking cannot be made, then it is the case, not the process which is flawed.”