The fracking company, Cuadrilla, has announced it will not appeal against the refusal of planning permission for a second shale gas site in Lancashire.
Local campaigners said they could “breathe a sigh of relief” that the company would not pursue plans for Roseacre Wood, near Blackpool.
This afternoon’s announcement brings to an end a five-year planning dispute between Cuadrilla and local residents.
Last month, the local government secretary, James Brokenshire, turned down the scheme to drill, frack and test up to four shale gas wells on road safety grounds.
His decision follows opposition to the scheme from all levels of local government in the area since 2014 and two inspectors at planning inquiries in 2016 and 2018.
In a statement, Cuadrilla said it acknowledged the findings of the planning process and decided it would not appeal against the decision.
Laura Hughes, Commercial and Projects Director at Cuadrilla, said:
“We have been pursuing planning permission at Roseacre Wood for some time and it was naturally disappointing to hear it had been refused on traffic grounds by the Government last month.
“We had worked hard on the application and we believed the site provided an excellent opportunity to explore for natural gas in Lancashire. However, we acknowledge the findings of the lengthy review process and will not be appealing against the decision.”
Roseacre Awareness Group, which has opposed the scheme since 2014, said in a statement:
“We are delighted to hear this news. We have been saying for years that the traffic issues, relating to the Roseacre Wood site are insurmountable, a fact recognised by LCC and two independent Planning Inspectors and ultimately by the Secretary of State.
“However we should have never have had to go through this stressful process. We have spent thousands of unpaid man hours, and tens of thousands of pounds, producing evidence to support our case which now all seems worthwhile but it has cost us much stress and anxiety.
“At last we can breathe a sigh of relief and know that our community is safe and no longer under threat from this insidious industry.
“We would like to thank everyone for all their hard work and support including those at Lancashire County Council and all seven town and parish councils, who worked with us.
“We will continue to raise awareness as there are many more communities still under threat most especially our friends at Preston New Road.”
Friends of the Earth said:
“Cuadrilla throwing in the towel at Roseacre is yet another sign that fracking is a dying industry. Fracking can’t be done without triggering earthquakes, it’s not wanted by the public and it’s high time that the government drops it altogether.”
Cuadrilla said it would focus on work at its Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton, also near Blackpool.
Ms Hughes said:
“We continue operations at Preston New Road where we have had high quality, natural gas back to the surface following hydraulic fracturing between October and November last year. Our first results were encouraging and our central focus remains there.”
Cuadrilla has drilled two wells at Preston New Road and carried out the UK’s first frack of a horizontal shale gas well there in October-December 2018.
But the fracking operation caused 56 earth tremors and only 5% of the well was fracked as planned. The company blamed regulations on induced seismicity, saying they threatened its commercial viability. It has called for a relaxation of the rules.
Earlier this week, one of Cuadrilla’s major investors, the Australian mining group, AJ Lucas, said further fracking and drilling at Preston New Road depended on whether the government reviewed the regulations.
It said a workover was planned on the fracked well to prepare it for further hydraulic fracturing. Cuadrilla has applied to the Environment Agency to change its environmental permit so that it can frack wells more than once.
The planning permission allows Cuadrilla to frack the second Preston New Road well and drill and frack two more. But under current conditions, this work must be completed by the end of November 2019.
The company can apply to Lancashire County Council to extend this deadline. But the council said it had not received an application or had any pre-application discussions. Any application would require a public consultation and was likely to go before the council’s planning committee, a spokesperson said.