Preston is poised to declare itself a “frack friendly” city following a year-long investigation into the controversial shale gas process.
The authority could also make a bid to site the industry’s administrative headquarters - nationally as well as regionally - after councillors decided to “cautiously accept” fracking.
The city’s environmental scrutiny panel will finalise a 28-page document next Tuesday which will recommend embracing the idea, subject to rigorous safety measures. In a draft of the report, members want to push for better financial incentives for councils which allow drilling in their area.
“It’s a case of cautious acceptance,” said panel chairman Coun Nick Pomfret. “The report is just a draft at the moment and that could change. But as things stand we would welcome Preston being used as a hub for administration.
“As far as fracking itself is concerned, it’s a case of proceed with caution. It’s going to unfold in other areas before anyone wants to do any exploration inside our boundaries. We have a good few years to see how it rolls out elsewhere.”
The panel’s recommendations include: “The Authority does not declare itself a frack-free city.” A number of councils have already made that declaration as the battle lines are drawn for what is shaping up to be a major issue at the polls.
Bob Dennett of the Residents Action of Fylde Fracking, said: “We just hope that the truth comes out and that there is at least a pause for people to have the time to absorb the facts.
“People need time to ensure that they are making the right decisions for the environment and public health and not just based on vague promises and financial bribes.”
Preston MP Mark Hendrick added: “If it is safe and meets environmental concerns and there is money to be made from it for the people of Preston then surely it’s worth looking at.
“I wouldn’t say Preston City Council are embracing fracking as such. But from the discussions I’ve had with members they are not going to oppose it outright. They are taking quite a balanced view.”