All eyes on Preston for great fracking debate

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A MEETING to decide on whether fracking can take place in Lancashire is set to start at 10am.

Protestors - coming from across the country - are making their way to Preston to send their message to county councillors who will decide on the application from shale gas exploration firm Cuadrilla.

But the objectors and the nation’s media risk having little to focus on at County Hall after a plea from Cuadrilla to have the three-day hearing postponed before it gets going.

The company’s bosses, fighting a recommendation from Lancashire’s top planning officer that two applications to drill at Roseacre and Little Plumpton should be rejected on noise and traffic grounds, are expected to ask the county council’s development control committee for more time to prepare their case.

This request is expected to be heard at the start of the meeting, with Cuadrilla likely to produce legal argument to support their case to extend the consultation period. Chief executive Francis Egan said they had made changes in the light of last week’s recommendation.

He said: “Under planning law that additional information should be consulted on. Therefore the planning committee should be delayed until that has been considered.”

Up to 100 speakers have applied to address the hearing, some of those with lawyers in tow. Postponement is therefore likely to be highly unpopular, not least with hundreds of protesters expected outside County Hall.

The anti-fracking lobby has been very vocal leading up to the hearing, with more than 240 local businesses, community groups and trade unions signing a letter calling for the applications to be thrown out. Another group of business people in favour of fracking held a meeting in the city yesterday to show their support.