The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is to decide Cuadrilla’s appeals against the refusal of planning permission for fracking at two sites near Blackpool.
The news came in letters today to the company and Lancashire County Council. They said the Secretary of State, Greg Clark, would rule on the appeals, instead of a planning inspector, as had been planned.
The letter said this was because the proposals were for shale gas and were regarded as “development of major importance”. They had “more than local significance”.
The letter, signed by Mark Boulton on behalf of Mr Clark, said the appeals raised “important or novel issues of development control and/or legal difficulties”.
In June Lancashire County Council turned down Cuadrilla’s applications to frack up to four wells each at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road. It also refused Cuadrilla’s application for a monitoring scheme at Preston New Road.
Cuadrilla appealed against the refusals of planning permission and against conditions imposed on the permission granted for a monitoring scheme at Roseacre Wood.
A public inquiry, lasting 12 days, is scheduled to start in Blackpool on 9th February 2016. There is nothing in the letter to suggest it will now not go ahead. But the letter explained that the decision would be made differently. The letter said:
“This means that instead of writing a decision, the Inspector will prepare a report and recommendation, which will be forwarded to the Secretary of State”.
It confirmed that the decision affected both the fracking appeals at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road and the appeals over the monitoring applications.
The letter continued:
“The reason for this direction is because the drilling appeals (3134385 and 3134386) involve proposals for exploring and developing shale gas which amount to proposals for development of major importance having more than local significance and proposals which raise important or novel issues of development control, and/or legal difficulties.
“The monitoring appeals (3130923 and 3130924) are being considered at the same time as the drilling appeals and will be most efficiently and effectively determined by the Secretary of State. These two appeals are therefore being recovered because of the particular circumstances.”
The power of the Secretary of State to decide an appeal comes in the Town and Country Planning Action 1990.
The decision has been sent to the Inspector, Cuadrilla and the local planning authority, the letter said.