Fracking roll-out in UK faces 16-month delay
Lancashire council's verdict could set national precedent, with fears investors will be deterred
Plans to roll out fracking across Britain face possible delays of up to two years because of a surprise decision by Lancashire County Council.
The local authority has rejected planning applications from the shale gas company Cuadrilla to drill eight wells at two sites on the Fylde coastal plain.
Councillors ruled exploratory drilling would have an unacceptable visual impact and create too much noise.
Cuadrilla has appealed but the process may take up to 16 months to resolve and the Government fears similar companies are unlikely to submit further applications until the Lancashire appeal is concluded, reports The Independent.
"It is incredibly frustrating," a Government source told the newspaper. "Cuadrilla has already spent millions on the process, and will now have to spend millions more on the appeal.
"But the real problem is that until the industry knows what the outcome is in Lancashire, there is going to be a real reluctance to invest in other areas."
The development was not entirely unexpected in Whitehall circles. A letter leaked to The Guardian shows that in November 2014 Chancellor George Osborne asked ministers in the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, to prepare for the possibility Lancashire might turn down Cuadrilla's application.
Environmental campaigners say the Lancashire delay will be used to galvanise further support against fracking, which they believe is dangerous.
Last month a report from the industry-funded UK shale gas taskforce concluded it was too early to say whether fracking was good for the UK.
Fracking: censored report highlights house price threat
The full text of a heavily redacted government report, published after a long Freedom of Information battle, has set out several risks associated with 'fracking'. These include the suggestion that house prices in affected areas could fall by up to 7 per cent.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released the report late on Wednesday following a ruling from the Information Commissioner's Office. According to The Times a version of the study had been published last year with more than 60 sections redacted.
The Guardian points to evidence in the report based on experiences in Texas that homeowners in UK regions within a mile of a well could see the price of their house fall by up to 7 per cent. Those within five miles could also face additional insurance costs due to the heightened risk of damage related to explosions or tremors.
More speculative findings suggest that waste fluid leakage could pollute water supplies and contaminate agricultural products. BBC News Online highlights a separate section that states there could be an indirect increase in greenhouse gas emissions related to fracking.
The Government is a keen advocate of expanding fracking as it hopes to replicate an energy boom experienced in the US. The report highlights figures from the Department for Energy and Climate Change and Institute of Directors that claim fracking could bring investment of £3.7bn to the UK and create between 16,000 and 74,000 jobs.
Defra sought to pour water on the negative findings, stating in a 'covering note' that the report simply gathers together information from other published sources, is incomplete and contains "no new evidence". A spokesperson told Sky News that "many of the conclusions amount to unsubstantiated conjecture".
Earlier this week New York State firmed up its ban on fracking activities, while in California new rules were introduced requiring greater monitoring of the effects of offshore drilling on water supplies. This, though, did not prevent the state from issuing nine new drilling permits last month.