Council urged to reject frack bids
Campaigners have called for permission for two new fracking sites in Lancashire to be refused, ahead of a meeting by county councillors to consider the plans.
Shale company Cuadrilla has applied for permission to explore for shale gas at two sites between Preston and Blackpool, in Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton, and Roseacre Wood, near Roseacre.
But the firm last week asked for the decision on whether to give the go-ahead to be deferred, as it submitted new information after planning officers for Lancashire County Council recommended the sites be refused planning permission due to noise and traffic.
The council's development control committee will meet today, and could agree to the deferral or push ahead with deciding whether to grant planning permission for the two sites, where drilling and fracking for gas would take place.
Ahead of the meeting, campaign organisation Avaaz said it had gathered more than 43,000 signatures from across the country in less than 24 hours on a petition calling for Lancashire County Council to refuse permission for the two sites.
The meeting in Lancashire comes after the Government made concessions in the Infrastructure Bill on fracking, agreeing to ban it in national parks and other protected areas, and accepting a Labour amendment setting "necessary conditions" for the controversial process to take place.
But efforts by a group of MPs to force a moratorium on fracking failed, while a leaked letter emerged showing the Chancellor George Osborne's efforts to push the shale industry in the UK, calling on Cabinet colleagues to make it a "personal priority".
He called for progress on developing three or four "exemplar drilling sites" to prove the concept of safe shale gas exploration, contingency plans if Lancashire County Council turns down planning applications and a strategy to push fracking to the public.
Bert Wander, senior campaigner at Avaaz said ahead of the county council meeting: "George Osborne wants to transform Lancashire into Texas, covering Britain's green and pleasant with gas wells across our hills and valleys.
"There is a long list of things that are wrong with this plan and people everywhere are calling on the council to listen to them, not the fossil fuel lobby, and reject this proposal."
Friends of the Earth's North West campaigner Helen Rimmer said: "Lancashire County Council must not allow itself to be manipulated by Cuadrilla and should reject its request to defer these planning decisions."
And she said: " Councillors should listen to the tens of thousands who have opposed fracking here in Lancashire and not allow the county to be used as a guinea pig for this controversial technology."