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Lee Petts is the managing director of Preston-based Remsol, a growth-focused sustainability, CSR and environmental consultancy. He has been directly involved in the nascent onshore shale gas sector in Lancashire since 2012, working extensively with Cuadrilla Resources and it’s joint venture partners at Centrica. He is the current Chairman of the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Lancashire and the chief executive of the Onshore Energy Services Group, a trade association formed to advance the interests of British SMEs in the supply chain that supports onshore oil and gas.
Lancashire For Shale reflect on the Lancashire fracking decision
5 years is a long time coming for something that’s regularly described as a “dash for gas” but at least we now have a clear signal that shale gas exploration can resume as a result of the Lancashire fracking decision.
As Lancashire residents, that live here with our families, we have a vested interest in making sure that it has a strong economy, provides opportunities for our young people, and is a place to enjoy.
Shale gas can be part of that.
There’s no reason to believe that tourism will be badly impacted by a shale gas industry here. In fact, a study by Oxford Economics shows that tourism spend in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, actually increased by over 60% after fracking boomed there from 2009 onwards.
We don’t believe Lancashire’s agricultural sector will suffer either. There are already countless examples of industrial processes co-existing happily next to farms all over Lancashire, like the Springfields nuclear fuel plant at Clifton on the edge of the Fylde and not that far from one of the exploration sites.
What we do believe is that a shale gas industry will create a host of skilled jobs and opportunities for Lancashire businesses to participate in the supply chain, and that it can be done sensitively and in a manner that won’t ruin our lovely countryside.
The Lancashire fracking decision announced by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government won’t be welcomed by everyone; we know some residents living nearby will be unhappy with the outcome and may challenge it. We respect their views.
But we say to them: it’s time to give it a chance.
Not everyone wants to live near a wind farm, but we still build them. Not everyone wants to live near a major road or railway, but we build those too. And practically nobody wants to live near a waste or recycling facility, but we still build them because we need them.
When you do live near these and other examples of infrastructure that the whole of society benefit from, you find that they’re actually not that bad after all.
It will be the same with shale gas sites in Lancashire. The short term disruption and visual impacts will quickly be replaced by unobtrusive, well screened sites that are hard to spot. It will be no different to having a small electrical sub-station nearby or even one of the thousands of gas pressure reduction stations that are a critical part of the UK gas distribution network – like the one close to homes in rural North Preston.
Given the amount of public interest in it, shale gas exploration in Lancashire will undoubtedly be carried out under intense regulator scrutiny. And local residents should also feel empowered to keep a watchful eye on developments, and be kept directly informed about progress.
But progress it must now we’ve had the Lancashire fracking decision.
Every aspect of it has been studied by experts that all conclude it can be done safely in the UK, and that it can be compatible with our climate goals too because it is a cleaner burning alternative to coal and less carbon intensive than imports of Liquefied Natural Gas. Regulations, that were already among the best in the world, have been further strengthened, including restrictions on fracking under drinking water aquifers and at depths of less than 1,000 feet.
There is no reason not to go ahead, and every reason to now let Cuadrilla get on with its exploration plans so that we can finally get a clearer picture of the contribution that Lancashire’s shale gas could one day make to a lower carbon, prosperous economy while showing that it can be done safely.
Lee Petts MCIWM, MIoD