Cuadrilla's fracking operation

Cuadrilla’s Lancashire fracking site approved by government

Image credit: PA

Fracking company Cuadrilla has finally been given the go-ahead to start extraction at a site in Lancashire after years of protests and legal wrangling.

Energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry granted the company consent to construct a horizontal well at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire, subject to certain conditions being met.

“The government has been clear it is committed to ensuring [that] a meticulous approach, rooted in rigorous evidence, is taken when reviewing applications to explore for shale gas,” the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said.

Cuadrilla began preparing the site for the controversial project at the beginning of 2017, but has been delayed by protests from local and environmental groups, as well as dithering over regulatory approval.

Six protestors were arrested at the Lancashire site yesterday after locking themselves together in an act of defiance against the project.

Perry said the company had met all the necessary environmental and health and safety measures in order to give it the go-ahead.

Certain conditions had to be met, including supplying her department with the latest accounts for co-investor Spirit Energy, or a deposit in support of any potential liabilities for decommissioning costs.

Perry said shale gas had the potential to be a new domestic energy source “further enhancing our energy security and helping us with our continued transition to a lower-carbon economy”.

She said: “It also has the capacity to deliver substantial economic benefits, both nationally and locally, as well as through the creation of well-paid, high-quality jobs.

“We already have an excellent, long-standing reputation for safe oil and gas exploration.

“Our world-class regulations will ensure that shale exploration will maintain robust environmental standards and meet the expectations of local communities.”

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said: “We are very pleased to be the first operator in the UK to have been awarded final consent to hydraulically fracture the UK’s first onshore horizontal shale exploration well.

“This is a testament to, and underpinned by, our strong track record of running a world-class shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road, in compliance with robust health, safety, environmental and planning regulations.”

He said the move was a “win” for Lancashire, which has already benefited from more than £10m of investment as a result of exploration work at the site, and the company would be submitting a consent application for the second well at Preston New Road.

Liz Hutchins, Friends of the Earth director of campaigns, said it had taken seven years for the industry to get to this point, during which time renewables had gone from supplying a tenth of the UK’s electricity to a third.

“There is no need to force fracking on this community in Lancashire when the alternatives are so clear,” she said.

“The government backed the wrong horse. Renewables have cleared the finishing line and have taken the cup while fracking is limping along on the first stretch.”

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