Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 6, 2019

A Presumption Against Fracking?

Apparently Greater Manchester’s town halls are to oppose any bid to start fracking in the conurbation amid safety and environmental fears. Under plans to be unveiled on Monday, all ten local authorities will write into their planning policies a ‘presumption’ against any request to drill for shale gas. While companies could still take any rejection to appeal, leaders hope the latest move will strengthen their legal argument and deter plans from being submitted in the first place.

The policy comes amid ongoing controversy over fracking in Lancashire, where drilling was suspended towards the end of 2018 following a series of earthquakes. In Greater Manchester, a string of government licenses have already been handed to fracking firms, including in Wigan and Salford, and much of the west of the conurbation has been identified as having possible shale gas underground, although so far only test drilling has taken place.

Now the region’s mayor, Andy Burnham, says he wants to send a message to any firms considering entering a full application to frack. “This is quite a radical policy, making quite a big statement,” he said. “It’s a firm position on behalf of the ten boroughs and Greater Manchester as a whole, where we have large numbers of potential sites. I think that’s quite significant when we have the issue with Lancashire”.

Fracking in Lancashire hit the headlines in October after drilling began near Preston , despite fierce local opposition and a series of legal challenges. Lancashire county council had voted to reject a planning application by the firm Cuadrilla, but had been overruled by the government on appeal.

Just 11 days after drilling began, however, activity was suspended following an earth tremor. Fracking had also been suspended near Poulton-le-Fylde in 2011 for similar reasons. While fracking has not yet taken place in Greater Manchester, exploratory drilling has taken place at Barton Moss in Salford prompting widespread protests, and councils now hope to put their opposition on a legal footing, helping strengthen their argument should firms challenge any decision to refuse planning permission.

Mr Burnham said he believed the new policy represented a nationwide first. In his former capacity as MP for Leigh, the mayor said he had had major concerns about government fracking licenses already granted for the area, and feared that as a former mining area, such drilling could prove particularly dangerous. “It’s a strong statement to an industry I think is failing to win public support and prove that it can match all the claims for its processes. I think it’s a step that’s significantly further than anywhere else has done, particularly as a place that has licenses”.

The presumption against fracking is expected to be included in Greater Manchester’s new mineral plan, due to be released on Monday as part of the region’s new long-term development blueprint.

Well, good luck with that. These frackers have deep pockets to fight such presumptions, and they will win, as Lancashire found to its cost. Government policy denied Lancastrians, it will probably deny Manchester too! For example the Lancashire planning officer said “The proposed development would be contrary to Policy DM2 of the JLMWLP and Policy EP27 of the Fylde Borough Local Plan as it has not been satisfactorily demonstrated that noise impacts would be reduced to acceptable levels and would therefore unnecessarily and unacceptably result in harm to the amenity of neighbouring properties by way of noise pollution”.  


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