High Court ruling ‘could keep town fracking free’

Anti-fracking campaigners

Anti-fracking campaigners

The High Court overturning a decision to permit fracking in Lancashire would help protect areas like Wigan, according to the town’s Green Party.

Anti-fracking campaigners are currently having an appeal case heard which has called the permission notice for the site in Fylde “not fair or lawful”.

Lancashire County Council had initially rejected an application from energy giants Cuadrilla that was subsequently overturned by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

Wigan borough’s Green Party chairman Will Patterson told the Wigan Post: “Like many others, I’m waiting for the verdict and hoping that the High Court will find in Lancashire residents’ favour.

“Local planning authorities were very thorough in their duties when considering the Cuadrilla planning application, and the UK Government is not impartial in this case: it supports Cuadrilla’s dash for gas.

“I believe, as many others do, that the Communities Secretary abused his powers to drive through an unpopular policy against the wishes of local residents and Councillors, and I hope that the High Court will come to the same view.

“If it does, it will protect councils like ours in Wigan from Government bullying on this issue, and might even encourage our local councillors to make their views on fracking public.”

Wigan is covered by energy licences allowing exclusive rights to energy firms but planning bids would have to be submitted to the town hall.

However, the Government’s intervention in Fylde has campaigners fearing a precedent has been set.

Wigan Council has not to date received any applications.

The High Court hearing for the Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) is expected to finish today.

David Wolfe QC, on behalf of PNRAG, said the action group was “wrong footed” because the planning inspector’s decision to approve the site was based on an argument made after their closing submissions at the planning inquiry, when the group’s advocate was not present.

He said the inspector’s decision that the site would not have a significant impact on the landscape because it was only granted permission for a temporary period was not lawful and breached the council’s development plan.

Speaking before the case began on Wednesday, a spokesman for PNRAG said: “Democracy died in Lancashire after last October’s decision. We hope it can be resurrected by the High Court in Manchester finding this decision to allow fracking unlawful and one which must be revoked immediately.”

Rowan Smith, of law firm Leigh Day, representing the group, said: “Our clients believe that the Government has made significant legal errors in overturning the Council’s refusal of planning permission to allow fracking on the site.”