City to reject calls to be a ‘frack free’ zone

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Preston looks set to reject calls to be a “frack-free” city, amid fears the process is “like a Pandora’s box”.

The city council’s environment scrutiny panel debated a 28-page document on shale gas extraction and agreed to “cautiously accept” the industry.

The report will now be finalised before it is put before the cabinet and full council, but campaigners have warned against embracing the “dirty fracking industry”.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, in which more than 70 questions were raised by members, the panel agreed that the authority would promote the city as a potential regional or national administrative base for operators within the industry.

Chairman, Coun Nick Pomfret, said: “I don’t understand how we can declare ourselves a frack-free city, knowing the decision will be made for us.”

He added: “We are not going to get an answer to this issue that everybody is happy with. We are trying to come through with a balanced view on it that’s going to try and satisfy the majority. We have ratified the report, we have made some changes that some people weren’t happy about. We also want to investigate still the methane situation.”

The panel also decided to write to the government about investment of revenue in green energy.

But environmental groups expressed “disappointment” with the findings after the meeting.

Dot Kelk from Central Lancashire Friends of the Earth said: “Welcoming the dirty fracking industry would be counter to Preston’s aims to be a green and healthy city.”

Laurence Rankin from Ribble Estuary Against Fracking said: “Residents have genuine concerns about the impacts of fracking and Preston should be taking a cautious approach.”

Liz Stanton from Preston Greenpeace added: “Fracking is a like a Pandora’s box, once it’s started there will be no going back.”

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