Digging in for a lengthy battle to stop fracking

Entrance to the field where anti-fracking protesters are setting up camp near Little Plumpton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 14, 2014. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Fracking. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Entrance to the field where anti-fracking protesters are setting up camp near Little Plumpton. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 14, 2014. See PA story ENVIRONMENT Fracking. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

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Frackers could face a lengthy fight to get the go ahead for drilling under Lancashire’s green and pleasant countryside.

Protestors from across the UK, who see the farmland between Preston and Blackpool as a key battleground for shale gas, look set to mount a vigorous challenge in the coming months to block exploration - possibly taking their case as far as the High Court.

The first of two planning applications by Cuadrilla reached the end of its consultation period on Friday, with a colossal 11,000 responses having flooded in - the vast majority opposed to the controversial process at Preston New Road in Little Plumpton near Kirkham.

A similar number are expected to challenge a second application in Roseacre Wood near Elswick before consultation closes on that one in 11 days time.

The petitions and templated letters will then go before Lancashire County Council’s development control committee when the applications take their next tentative steps through the minefield of planning legislation.

And with the council already having agreed with Cuadrilla to delay consideration of the applications until November 5 and 18 at the earliest, it looks likely to be next year before the process nears the decision stage.

Add to that the possibility of a legal challenge, as has happened in other parts of the UK, and fracking in Lancashire could still be a long way off.

Protestors from across the country headed for the Fylde last month to voice their concern about the plans to extract gas from beneath the west of the county. A camp set up in a farmer’s field was disbanded on the day landowners in the area, backed by Cuadrilla, went to court in Manchester to block any future invasion of demonstrators.

After Friday’s first deadline a county council spokesman said: “We’d encourage people to submit their views within the (second) deadline so that we can take full account of their comments. We’re continuing to work to make sure we have all the information in place for our development control committee.”

A Cuadrilla spokesperson said: “We support public involvement in the decisions being made on our proposed exploration sites.”