Ex-chancellor says blocking fracking is ‘deplorable’

Former chancellor Nigel Lawson. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Former chancellor Nigel Lawson. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

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Lancashire’s decision to block fracking in the county was “deplorable” and curbed its ability to exploit its “best possible prospect”, Margaret Thatcher’s former chancellor has said.

Lord Lawson called on Lancashire County Council to allow the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas to develop the “immense” resources it has underground.

The council in June turned down two bids for fracking for shale gas between Blackpool and Preston, a decision which was delayed from January and now faces appeal.

Communities minister Baroness Williams said Lord Lawson had made an “excellent point” and insisted fracking represented a one-off opportunity for Lancashire to become energy self-sufficient.

During questions in the Lords, Lord Lawson said: “Is it not clear that what would be the best possible prospect for the commune of the North West and for Lancashire in particular would be the development of the immense natural gas resources of the Bowland shale?

“And is it not deplorable that the Labour-led Lancashire County Council has prevented this from happening so far?”

Lady Williams replied: “You make an excellent point.

“This is a one-off opportunity for the areas of Lancashire to really maximise their assets and be self-sufficient in how they derive energy so I could not agree more with you.”

The Government has said it is going “all out for shale” and is now allowing bids to be fast-tracked through the planning process under certain circumstances as part of efforts to drive development of the industry in the UK.

Campaigners have reacted furiously to the move, which they have described as undemocratic.

Under the new rules, councils that repeatedly fail to take longer than the statutory 16 weeks to make a decision - unless they have agreed with applicants to extend the time frame - face having shale gas planning decisions made by the Communities Secretary.