The nascent UK fracking industry has suffered a major setback. Lancashire County Council rejected a bid from oil and gas explorer Cuadrilla to begin fracking in four exploratory wells near Blackpool “on the grounds of noise and visual impact”. Cuadrilla will appeal.
However, one of the world’s biggest potash mines will now be dug in the North York Moors National Park after its planning committee narrowly approved the £1.7bn project. Sirius Minerals will develop the site.
What the commentators said
After a burst of enthusiasm over the government’s Northern Powerhouse scheme, scepticism is creeping in, said George Parker in the FT. The fracking refusal follows a delay to improvements to the London-Sheffield route, while the electrification of the Manchester-Leeds Trans-Pennine route has also been postponed. “This is a seismic decision,” said The Guardian’s Damian Carrington.
“Nine county councillors have defied the full-throated backing of David Cameron, well over £100m of spending from… Cuadrilla and their own planning officers.” Local authorities UK-wide will be more inclined to stand up to the “national pressure to back fracking”.
So how did the potash project get approved, wondered Robert Lea in The Times. It seems Sirius Minerals managed a successful local charm offensive, spending “years cajoling householders [and] persuading them the legacy is bigger than just several hundred jobs…If the new politics is about localism, then would-be frackers may need to realise this starts in people’s homes.”
Spare us from localism, said Ross Clark in the same paper. “A planning system where locals are given a veto is one where nothing gets built at all.” At present, “the only feasible form of power left is a donkey… pulling on a yardarm attached to a generator. Even then the animals rights lobby would scotch it.”