Government plans to roll out fracking across Britain face delays of up to two years following a surprise decision to reject exploration for shale gas in Lancashire.
Ministers are concerned by the implications of the decision by Lancashire County Council last month to reject planning applications from the shale gas company Cuadrilla to drill eight wells at two sites on the Fylde coastal plain.
The Government had been expecting councilors to give their go-ahead to exploratory drilling on sites. But instead they turned down Cuadrilla’s application on the grounds that it would have an unacceptable visual impact and create too much noise.
Cuadrilla has now appealed but that process, regardless of the outcome, is likely to take 16 months.
The Cuadrilla shale fracking facility in Preston The Cuadrilla shale fracking facility in Preston (Getty)
Senior Government sources said they feared other companieswere now unlikely to submit further fracking applications – that were not already underway – until they saw the outcome in Lancashire.
A Government source said: “It is incredibly frustrating. These are temporary exploratory wells so how on earth Lancashire County Council can turn them down on the basis of visual impact makes no sense at all.
“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 source added that getting fracking underway was one of the key objectives of the Government now the Conservatives were no longer in coalition with the Lib-Dems. “It is now a real priority for the Department for Energy and Climate Change,” they said.