Anti-fracking protesters have reacted with horror after the Government announced it would make the final decision over whether fracking will be allowed in Lancashire.
Energy firm Cuadrilla is appealing against councillors’ decision to refuse its bids to drill and test frack at sites at Little Plumpton near Blackpool and Roseacre, near Elswick.
A public inquiry will still take place next year.
Now Lancashire County Council has been told that Secretary of State for Local Government Greg Clark is getting involved because of the decision’s “major importance”.
Donna Hume, senior energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “The fact that Lancashire County Council’s rejection of fracking could now be overturned by central Government is a slap in the face to local democracy and the thousands of people in the county who strongly opposed it.
“If Cuadrilla is given permission to frack in Lancashire, it will be against the wishes of its residents, and its council, both of which have made their views against this risky process very clear.”
Fylde MP Mark Menzies said today: “While I am sure there will be claims that this is some kind of Government conspiracy, it is actually more democratic in that the decision will be taken by an elected representative of the UK Government, rather than an unelected civil servant with no democratic oversight.”
County council leader Coun Jennifer Mein said: “I’m extremely disappointed. These decisions are of great interest and importance to many people in Lancashire and ultimately this letter means those decisions will now be made by a lone politician in London.
“The county council went to great lengths to thoroughly consider these applications and councillors made their decisions based on a huge amount of evidence both for and against each application.
“When the appeals were lodged it already meant that the decisions would be taken out of the hands out of elected representatives here in Lancashire.
“The difference now is that, rather than being determined by an impartial planning inspector, they will be determined by a minister in a Government which has already made its views on shale gas very clear.
“I would urge the Secretary of State to properly consider the information put before him and demonstrate that he has listened to people’s views whether they are for or against.”