Lancashire County Council has rejected a planning application by energy firm Cuadrilla to use hydraulic fracturing to explore shale gas at a site near Preston and has yet to reach a decision regarding a second application.
The rejected application concerns the Roseacre Wood site between Preston and Blackpool, which was recommended to be turned down by the council’s planning officers on the grounds that the venture would cause an unacceptable increase of traffic in the area.
The council voted unanimously, to the delight of environmental campaigners who had been concerned about the project’s impact on the environment.
"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,” said Marcus Johnstone, a member of the council’s development control committee.
"The decision to refuse this application has been reached by a vote of the committee 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."
Friends of the Earth's North-west campaigner Furqan Naeem welcomed the decision, saying it was ‘a tremendous victory for local people’.
However, he urged the Lancashire council to take a similar stance in the case of the second application regarding a site on Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, which has been deferred to Monday.
Unlike the Roseacre site, the Little Plumpton application was approved by the planning officers, provided that a list of measures is put in place to mitigate the impact on residents including noise, pollution and increased traffic.
Cuadrilla expressed disappointment about the rejection and said it would consider an appeal.
"We are disappointed but not surprised that Lancashire County Council's development control committee has denied planning consent for our application at Roseacre Wood, as their decision follows a negative recommendation by the council's planning officers,” the firm said in a statement.
"We are committed to the responsible exploration and development of the huge quantity of natural gas locked up in the shale rock deep underneath Lancashire.
Cuadrilla said it was confident that its proposed route, road improvements and traffic management plan were safe and suitable for the modest level of HGV journeys associated with the Roseacre Wood site and met all necessary guidelines.
The Preston New Road planning application remains the focus of hot dispute, with legal advice published earlier this week warning that rejecting the application for fracking because of its visual and landscape impacts would be "unreasonable" in planning terms.
Councillors have been under pressure in making the final ruling on the controversial process of releasing gas, which is supported by the UK government's belief that it would create jobs, stimulate economic growth, reduce energy prices and cut the country's reliance on gas imports.
Hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into the ground to fracture shale rock and release the gas trapped in it.
The technique has been criticised for its potential to cause earthquakes, pollute water resources and damage the countryside, potentially severely affecting house prices.