Campaigners have welcomed the government’s decision to reject a planning appeal by shale gas firm Cuadrilla to frack at a second site in Lancashire, capping a week of bad news for the industry.
James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, said he was turning down the appeal for planning permission to develop four fracking wells in the Fylde area because of traffic concerns.
The Roseacre Wood site would have a “serious and very significant” impact on road safety because of traffic and the project was not a sustainable development, he said.
Local opponents were jubilant. “We are absolutely delighted that at last the government are listening to the community on this occasion and have realised that this industry is not suitable,” said Barbara Richardson of residents’ group, Roseacre Awareness Group.
The Green party said the decision was a “real win” for Lancashire anti-fracking campaigners, while Cat Smith, the Labour MP for Lancaster, branded it “great news”.
Cuadrilla said it was “naturally disappointed” at the refusal and would be examining the details in full before taking a position.
The firm said it was continuing to focus on its Preston New Road site near Blackpool, which it fracked late last year.
However, the company last week admitted that commercial fracking in the UK was impossible under the government’s seismicity rules, under which work was repeatedly paused at Preston New Road after triggering minor earthquakes. The government has subsequently said it has no plans to review the regulations.
In 2016, Sajid Javid, the then communities secretary, deferred a decision to allow more time to see if concerns about traffic around the site could be addressed.
Brokenshire made clear on Tuesday that those problems still stood. He said: “highway safety issues carry very substantial weight against the proposal … in this case highway safety is a determinative issue.”
The decision comes a week after Britain’s richest person, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, said his company Ineos was being held back from exploiting shale gas by “unworkable” rules on tremors.
The government has been strongly in favour of extracting shale gas but has insisted companies can only proceed if they adhere to robust regulations.
Ministers last year consulted on planning reforms that would remove the need for planning permission to drill exploratory shale wells. But they faced a backlash from Tory MPs over the controversial changes and have yet to announce whether or not they will push ahead with them.