Fracking on its way to Pendle?

Fracking rigs like this one are a common site in America.
Fracking rigs like this one are a common site in America.

The latest episode of the fracking drama could be coming to Pendle after the Government released new licences allowing companies to explore for shale gas.

Ministers announced this week they have awarded 27 new exploration licenses, as well as consulting on plans to award a further 132.

If these sites got the go ahead, campaigners will be out there barricading themselves to the sites

David Penney, Keep East Lancashire Frack Free

Areas of Pendle, including Brierfield and Colne, are some of the locations where the licence is currently being held back while further consultation takes place.

This means the area will be offered to shale gas exploration companies unless a pressing environmental or natural habitat objection is discovered.

The consultation period is due to end late next month.

The news comes less than a week after the Government confirmed they will now be able to fast-track fracking applications if local councils take longer than 16 weeks to make a decision.

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, who has previously come out in favour of fracking, said: “These are not licences to frack.

“It’s just exclusivity over a patch of land. This means companies must make further applications to start any activity and stringent criteria would have to be met.

“All four of the major UK political parties believe fracking can make a contribution to our energy mix and reduce our dependence on imports.”

Pendle Council Corporate Director Philip Mousdale is confident it would be “several years” before any potential fracking comes to the area.

He said: “It’s not likely to happen in these parts for a number of years, if it does at all.

“We’re going to have to look at it and digest everything and see what it means for Pendle. This news only came out a couple of days ago, so we haven’t had chance to really look at it yet.

“We know there will be a lot of negativity towards fracking if it comes here due to the environmental concerns, but there’s also benefits to it as well.”

Fracking is a process where water, sand and chemicals are blasted at shale rocks to try to release the gas trapped within, but it has proved unpopular with many members of the public.

This is due to concerns over earth tremors, water contamination and disruption to rural communities.

However, the industry insists many of these fears are blown out of proportion and fracking can be carried out safely under the right regulations.

Earlier this year, Lancashire County Council, who would make the decision regarding fracking in Pendle, rejected an application by drilling firm Cuadrilla to frack at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, near Blackpool.

Despite this, David Penney, of Keep East Lancashire Frack Free, says the area is entering a “fracking nightmare”. He said: “Due to the Government’s persistence we need to embark on a period of peaceful demonstration.

“We feel we’ve got a real battle on our hands – we don’t want to suffer the same issues they have done over in America.

“If these sites got the go ahead, campaigners will be out there barricading themselves to the sites.

“If the Government goes ahead with this they’ll certainly be a big backlash from the electorate. There was a poll conducted not so long ago and nearly 80% of the country said they were against it.

“As of now, Keep East Lancashire Frack Free are going to be quite heavily involved with it all, but first we need to look at the consultation before anything else.”

However not everybody in the area is against the idea of fracking coming to Pendle.

Retired oil rig worker Anthony Shaw, said: “I don’t see what all the fuss is about. They’ve been doing similar things at Wytch Farm in Dorset for years and there’s been no issues and nobody’s complained.”

Here’s more on the fracking furore:

HOLD THE CHAMPAGNE: Cuadrilla consider appeal against fracking verdict

Fracking would destroy our way of life say objectors

Lancashire businesses speak out on fracking

Burnley town centre fracking protest