But environmental campaigners hit back at the decision, accusing ministers of ‘backing the wrong horse’.
Shale gas firm Cuadrilla has been granted the green light to begin fracking in Lancashire.
The decision was made yesterday (July 24) by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy which gave final hydraulic consent for the UK’s first horizontal shale gas exploration well at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site.
Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan said it was ‘a win for Lancashire’, which he said had already directly benefitted from more than £10 million of investment.
The firm is now in the process of preparing to apply for consent to carry out hydraulic fracturing operations for its second horizontal shale gas exploration at the same site.
Environmental campaigners have hit back at the move, accusing ministers of ‘backing the wrong horse’.
Friends of the Earth director of campaigns Liz Hutchins said the go-ahead was given while a legal challenge about regulation at the site was still being considered by the High Court.
She said there was ‘no need’ to force fracking on the community in Lancashire ‘when the alternatives [are] so clear’.
“It has taken the industry seven long years to just get to this point,” Ms Hutchins said.
“In those same seven years, renewable energy has gone from providing a tenth of our electricity to supplying a third of it.
This announcement has been snuck out on the last day of Parliament. In the middle of a global heatwave the Government is kickstarting a new fossil fuel industry. It should hang its head in shame. t.co/3UFBA5uKCx— Jonathan Bartley (@jon_bartley)
“The government backed the wrong horse. Renewables have cleared the finishing line and have taken the cup while fracking is limping along on the first stretch.”
Former Liberal Democrat energy secretary Ed Davey agreed the government had failed ‘a key task of a democratic free society’.
Mr Egan said Cuadrilla had already implemented two onshore horizontal shale exploration wells – the first through the Lower Bowland shale rock at about 2,300m below surface, with the latter, completed earlier this month, drilled through the Upper Bowland shale at about 2,100m below the surface.
He said: “This is a testament to, and underpinned by, our strong track record of running a world class shale exploration site at Preston New Road, in compliance with robust health, safety, environmental and planning regulations.”
Energy minister Claire Perry said she was satisfied the application had met all 13 legislative conditions.
The go-ahead comes only weeks after local farmers surrounding the Cuadrilla fracking site on Preston New Road were granted an extension of its current interim injunction forbidding trespass on the site.
The extension also covers trespass on farmland surrounding the Lancashire site, including ‘lock-ons’ [chaining oneself to an object or another person to deliberately prevent access] and climbing onto, or slow walking in front of, vehicles accessing or leaving the site.
It will run until June 1 2020.
Mr Egan said the firm believed it was an ‘important deterrent to unlawful protest that has significantly disrupted and inconvenienced local commuters and businesses over many months’.
He said: “We have seen a welcome reduction in unlawful behaviour since the interim injunction was granted last month.
“We continue to respect lawful and peaceful protest, but will not hesitate to take legal action against those that breach the injunction with unlawful activity directed against us or our listed suppliers.”
The area covered includes the whole of Preston New Road (A583) between the junction with Peel Hill to the north west and 50-metres to the east of the vehicular entrance to the PNR site.