The Conservatives have made big gains in the county council elections in areas in the frontline of fracking for shale gas.
They took control of Lancashire and Derbyshire, increased their seats in North Yorkshire and replaced Labour in Nottinghamshire as the largest party.
The Conservatives also did well in areas where companies are applying to drill for oil, increasing their hold on West Sussex and Surrey and gaining Lincolnshire.
The council which turned down applications by Cuadrilla for two sites near Blackpool saw a big swing to the Conservatives.
The party now holds 46 seats, up 11 on the last election. Labour is on 30, down nine. The Lib Dems lost two seats.
In Fylde, the area where Cuadrilla is now preparing its site at Preston New Road, remained Independent. The sitting councillors, Paul Hayhurst and Liz Oades, who both opposed Cuadrilla’s applications, held their seats. Gina Dowding, the Green Party councillor, who also opposes fracking, was also re-elected.
Michael Green, a Conservative on the planning committee who voted against the Preston New Road application, was returned to the council, as was Labour’s Kevin Ellard, who also voted against.
Labour’s Marcus Johnstone, the cabinet member for environment who voted for Preston New Road, narrowly lost his Padiham and Burnley West seat to UKIP, now the party’s only county council seat.
In North Yorkshire, where Third Energy has permission to frack its KM8 shale gas well at Kirby Misperton, the Conservatives kept control of the council with an increased number of seats.
But independent Lindsay Burr, who opposed the KM8 application held her Malton seat, which includes Kirby Misperton, almost doubling her share of the vote. And in the district around the KM8 site three anti-fracking candidates came second.
The Conservatives held Kirbymoorside, followed in second place by the Liberal Democrats standing on an anti-fracking ticket and the Green Party Stop Fracking Now candidate in third.
The Conservatives held Hovingham and Sheriff Hutton with a majority of 817. Here, the Liberal Democrat, Chris Pickles, standing on anti-fracking platform, came second but the Liberal Party candidate, Mike Potter, who has also opposed fracking, received only 85 votes.
The Conservatives took Norton from the Lib Dems with a majority of 884 votes. The former GP and anti-fracking campaigner, Tim Thornton, standing for the Liberal Party, came third with 429.
In Pickering, the Liberal Party’s John Clark, who had raised concerns about fracking regulation, lost by two votes to the Conservative, Greg White.
The Conservatives also held Thornton Dale and The Wolds, where the Green Party Stop Fracking Now candidate, Sandra Bell, came second with 450 votes, ahead of Mick Johnston for Labour.
An independent, John Blackie, who voted against Third Energy’s application for Kirby Misperton, was re-elected in Upper Dales and the Lib Dem, Bill Hoult, who also voted against the application, held his seat in Knaresborough. Anti-fracking Lib Dem candidates came second in Seamer and Derwent.
Steve Mason, who stood for the Lib Dems in Kirkbymoorside, said:
“Coming a strong second in the seats we fought in Thirsk and Malton gives us a great platform going forward in our fight to stop fracking. I think people need to get used to the idea of the Lib Dem policy to ban fracking.”
In Nottinghamshire, where IGas has permission for shale gas wells at two sites, the Conservatives replaced Labour was the party with the most seats – but not enough for an overall majority.
The Conservatives now have 31 seats, up from 23 at the last election. Labour are on 23, down from 31. Independent parties gained three extra seats to give them 11 seats, while the Lib Dems saw a big loss, down from eight to one.
The Conservative, Cllr Sue Saddington, kept her Farndon seat. She voted against IGas’s Tinker Lane application but for the plans at Springs Road in Misson.
Jason Zadrozny (Ashfield Independents), who was critical of Tinker Lane application, was returned to his Ashfields seat. Another Ashfield Independent, Rachel Madden, who voted against Springs Road, Misson application, was also re-elected in Kirkby South. Labour’s Yvonne Woodhead, who also voted against Springs Road, Misson, was returned for Blidworth.
In the county where INEOS is set to apply for a vertical shale gas well at Marsh Lane, there was a big swing to the Conservatives at the expense of Labour.
The Conservatives now hold 37 seats, up 19. Labour was down 19 at 24. But Labour held on to Eckington and Killamarsh, which includes Marsh Lane. The Lib Dems were unchanged on three.
The Conservatives increased their hold over West Sussex, where UKOG has just withdrawn its application to drill and produce oil at Markwells Wood but has permission for a site at Broadford Bridge near Billingshurst. The county also saw prolonged anti-fracking protests in 2013 at Cuadrilla’s site at Balcombe, where planning permission for flow testing and restoration expired this week.
The council is now made up of 56 Conservatives (up from 43 at the last election), nine Lib Dems (up from seven) and five Labour (down from six). The big loser was UKIP, which lost all its seats, including that of the group leader, Sandra James. She had supported opponents of oil drilling at Markwells Wood and had called for a ban on acidisation in national parks to be included in the West Sussex minerals plan.
The Conservatives gained three more seats in Surrey, where campaigners have opposed Europa’s permission to drill for oil in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Angus Energy’s production site at Brockham.
The Conservatives also gained Lincolnshire from no overall control. Large parts of the the county was licensed for oil and gas exploration last year. There was no election in North Lincolnshire, where Egdon Resources is appealing against refusal of planning permission and submitting a new application for its site at Wressle.