Council backs call to open fracking files


Lancashire councillors have backed a motion asking the Government to release a full report on shale gas exploration.

The Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts report considers the economic and social effects of opening up large parts of rural Britain to shale exploration.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was forced to publish the report last spring after a Freedom of Information request on behalf of Greenpeace, but it was heavily redacted, with more than 60 passages blacked out, including passages about the effect on house prices of fracking.

Lancashire councillors will vote by the end of April on whether to approve plans by energy firm Cuadrilla Resources to frack at two sites in Little Plumpton and Roseacre.

And at a full council meeting, yesterday, councillors backed a notice of motion put forward by County Coun Marcus Johnstone and seconded by County Coun Gina Dowding.

It said: “Lancashire County Council calls on the Government to release a full version of the report ‘Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts’ which was published by Defra in July 2014.”

County Coun Johnstone said: “Many people have concerns about the potential development of a shale gas industry, including the availability of relevant information about how the industry might affect the community they live in.

“This report could be a valuable source of information but it was heavily redacted when it was published and the Government has so far been unwilling to release the full document.

“The Notice of Motion means the council will now formally ask the Government to release the report in full, 
in the interests of transparency.”

County Coun Dowding added: “It’s very clear from what you can see of this report that a large amount of information has been left out of the published version, and it appears the omissions include some significant details.

“The support given by all county councillors to the Notice of Motion reflects a belief the public should be entitled to see that information, to contribute to a full and open debate.”

The council’s chief executive Jo Turton will now write to Defra on behalf of the county council, asking for the 
complete report to be published.

Greenpeace energy campaigner Sam Pearse said: “With Lancashire’s councillors set to vote on whether their county will be a guinea-pig for fracking in the UK, it’s absolutely correct they should stand up to the Government and demand to see all the evidence.

“How can the councillors make an informed, sensible decision for Lancashire with Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition censoring 
crucial facts about how fracking could affect their community?

“The Government is like a judge hiding evidence from the jury while also bullying them to reach a certain verdict.”

Shale gas exploration involves firing a mixture of water and chemicals underground at high speed to ‘crack’ or fracture shale rock.

Cuadrilla bosses say the process is safe, but anti-fracking campaigners have raised concerns over potential environmental impacts and the over industrialisation of rural areas.