The decision over whether fracking will be allowed to take place in Lancashire will be made by the secretary of state after the Government stepped in.
Energy firm Cuadrilla is appealing against councillors’ decision to refuse bids to drill and test frack at sites at Little Plumpton off Preston New Road and at Roseacre.
An inquiry was due to take place next year to determine four linked appeals relating to the company's planned operations in Lancashire but it has today emerged the secretary of state has 'recovered' the appeal - meaning he will have the final say.
A letter to Lancashire County Council, dated November 26, said secretary of state for communities and local government Greg Clark is getting involved because of the decision's 'major importance'.
Cuadrilla is also appealing the refusal of a planning application to install monitoring stations around the Preston New Road site.
Permission was granted to install monitoring equipment around the Roseacre Wood site but Cuadrilla is also appealing against conditions associated with this permission.
The letter, signed on behalf of Mr Clark, states: "The secretary of state hereby directs that he shall determine these appeals instead of an inspector.
"This means that instead of writing a decision, the inspector will prepare a report and recommendation, which will be forwarded to the secretary of state.
"The reason for this direction is because the drilling appeals involve proposals for exploring and developing shale gas which amount to proposals for development of major importance having more than local significance and proposals which raise important or novel issues of development control, and/or legal difficulties.
"The monitoring appeals are being considered at the same time as the drilling appeals and will be most efficiently and effectively determined by the secretary of state.
"These two appeals are therefore being recovered because of the particular circumstances."