FRACKING LATEST: Cuadrilla hearings deferred

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Councillors today agreed to defer a controversial decision on fracking in Lancashire for at least eight weeks.

Members of Lancashire County Council’s development control committee were told after taking legal advice that they had “no choice” but to postpone a decision.

Photo Neil Cross'Bez at the anti-fracking protest at County Hall, Preston

Photo Neil Cross'Bez at the anti-fracking protest at County Hall, Preston

Gas exploration firm Cuadrilla successfully argued that the three-day hearing should be postponed.

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, asked the county council’s development control committee for more time to prepare their case.

Chief executive Francis Egan said last week they had made changes to their applications in the light of the recommendations.

The committee went into private session this morning to consider Cuadrilla’s request. The committee was told that there was a legal obligation that “substantial” new information on an application should be considered and consulted on.

And after legal advice the committee agreed to defer the hearing.

Up to 100 speakers had applied to address the hearing, some of those with lawyers in tow, and hordes of protesters had gathered 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.