A councillor who accused the government of undermining Lancashire’s decisions on fracking is no longer a member of the committee that will vote on Cuadrilla’s applications next week.
Steven Holgate accused people high up in government of “putting their fingers into responsibilities that were not theirs” when Lancashire County Council’s development control committee last voted on fracking in January.
He and another long-standing member of the committee, who have attended every meeting this year, were replaced after last month’s meeting.
The committee that meets on Tuesday wil include three stand-ins and two new members. Less than half the councillors expected to attend were part of the committee that last considered the fracking applications six months ago.
The committee will take four days to consider Cuadrilla’s plans to frack at Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood in the Fylde. Last week, Lancashire planning officers recommended approval of the scheme for Preston New Road but recommended refusal on traffic grounds of the application for Roseacre Wood.
This is the second time the committee has voted on the applications. In January this year, planning officers recommended refusal of both applications. Cuadrilla submitted new information just before the meeting and asked for a deferral, which the committee granted.
Cllr Holgate refused to support the deferral. To applause from the public gallery, he said the committee had been undermined and accused the government of interfering in decisions.
“Some people have heavy hearts. Some people have been frustrated. I am just downright angry. And when I’m angry it’s usually best that I shut up”, he said.
“On this occasion, I’m not going to. Because I feel that we, as the planning committee, are being undermined to an extent, and I feel [Applause] that there are too many people are putting their fingers into responsibilities that are not theirs.
“This goes right to the top, unfortunately. I have a document here in front of me that is addressed to economic affairs committee members of parliament from George Osborne, and he is saying simply we need to implement the development of three to four exemplary drilling sites to prove the concept of shale gas. That, as far as I can recall, is for us to determine [Applause].
Three other councillors who attended the January meeting will not be voting on the application this time. They are the Conservative Peter Buckley, who is also no longer a member of the committee. Another Conservative, Michael Devaney, and Labour’s Richard Newman-Thompson will not be attending either.
Who will vote on Cuadrilla’s decision?
A further four councillors, who did not attend the January meeting, are due to vote this time. This means that of the 15 members of the committee next week, only seven were at the meeting in January. They are: Labour’s Terry Aldridge, Munsif Dad and Niki Penny; Conservatives John Sedgewick and Barry Yates; Fylde West Independent Paul Hayhurst; and Lib Dem David Howarth.
Next week’s committee comprises three women and 12 men. Seven members are Labour councillors and six are Conservative. There is also one Independent and one Lib Dem.
The chair is Labour’s Munsif Dad, who has held the post since May2014. He chaired the January meeting which deferred the decision on the fracking applications. He was also the chair for the February meeting where members rejected the recommendation of officers to approve Cuadrilla’s plans for seismic monitoring and pressure testing at its site at Singleton.
Three of the 15 councillors expected to attend next week are standing in for full members. Two stand-ins are Conservative (Malcolm Barron replacing Cllr Paul Rigby, the councillor for Fylde South, and Anne Cheetham replacing Michael Devaney). The other is Labour’s Chris Henig replacing Kim Snape.
Three councillors on the list for next week’s meetings wil be attending their first development control meeting this year. They are the stand-in Cllr Cheetham, and new committee members Bernard Dawson and Alan Schofield.
Full list of councillors expected to attend
Terry Aldridge, Skelmersdale Central, Labour
Malcolm Barron, West Lancashire North, Conservative (stand-in)
Anne Cheetham, Rossendale South, Conservative (stand-in)
Munsif Dad, Accrington West, Labour (chair)
Bernard Dawson, Accrington South, Labour
Kevin Ellard, Preston East, Labour (deputy chair)
Michael Green, Leyland South West, Conservative
Paul Hayhurst, Fylde West, Independent
Chris Henig, Lancaster South East, Labour (stand-in)
David Howarth, Penwortham North, Lib DemP
Marcus Johnstone, Padham and Burnley West, Labour
Niki Penney, Skerton, Labour
Alan Schofield, Ribble Valley South West, Conservative
John Sedgewick, Preston North East , Conservative
Barrie Yates, Ribble Rural East, Conservative