Energy firm Cuadrilla is close to getting a go-ahead for fracking in Lancashire

Cuadrilla's Lancashire fracking proposal approved by planners

Planning officers in Lancashire have approved the application from energy firm Cuadrilla to test-drill for shale gas in the county.

The test will employ the controversial hydraulic fracturing - fracking - technique, fiercely criticised by environmental groups for its potential to pollute water supplies and cause earthquakes.

Out of two applications submitted by Cuadrilla to frack in the region, only the one concerning the Preston New Road site between Preston and Blackpool was recommended for approval. The application concerning a site at Roseacre Wood was recommended to be turned down due to the increase of heavy traffic that would put a strain on roads.

For the Preston New Road site, the planning officers of the Lancashire County Council listed a large number of conditions that should be met by Cuadrilla.

The final decision is to be made next week by the council’s development control committee.

Originally, the planning officers recommended that both applications be rejected, but Cuadrilla reacted in January by submitting revised plans designed to mitigate the planners’ objections.

The planning officers were mostly concerned about noise level increase and traffic disruption around the sites. The conditions to be met by Cuadrilla involve controlling time limits, hours of working, control of noise and highway matters.

If the application is approved, Cuadrilla will drill up to four exploration wells at Preston New Road.

In a report on the Preston New Road site, the planning officers acknowledged there would be some impact, including on air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and possible seismic activity.

"Such impacts would be low and could be mitigated and controlled by condition to an acceptable level and would also be controlled by other regulatory regimes and which the county council could assume and be satisfied that such controls would be enforced by the respective bodies," the report stated.

It said that predicted noise levels would fall below national guidance after Cuadrilla put in new measures including 'limiting the height of the drilling rig and enclosing the site and particular pieces of plant and equipment'.

The report concluded: "The proposal complies with national guidance regarding the exploration and appraisal for shale gas. Whilst there would be some negative impacts, most particularly for those living in closest proximity to the site, they would be for a temporary period and could be made acceptable by planning condition."

The report rejected the concerns that fracking would have a negative effect on tourism, culture, agriculture and local employment opportunities.

The Government is pushing for the development of a shale gas industry in the UK, claiming it would create jobs and growth, reduce energy prices and cut the country's reliance on gas imports.

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