Tories’ fracking U-turn treated with caution by community campaigners

Fracking rally at the site of a exploratory drilling site at Tinker Lane near Worksop.
Fracking rally at the site of a exploratory drilling site at Tinker Lane near Worksop.

The Government’s ‘u-turn’ over fracking has been greeted with caution by campaigners opposed to the industry, amid doubts the pause will last beyond the General Election.

The Conservatives announced a moratorium on new fracking sites on Saturday, November 2, until “compelling new evidence is provided” that drilling and exploration activities can be conducted safely.

The decision will raise questions in Bassetlaw and neighbouring communities in South Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Lincolnshire.

Each has seen heated opposition to fracking operations from residents and campaigners concerned about the climate crisis, who are still committed to fighting for a total, permanent ban.

At Woodsetts, a long-running battle over planning permission for an application by energy firm INEOS is still to be decided by the national Planning Inspectorate.

Resident Richard Scholey, a member of Woodsetts Against Fracking, said: “The planning inspector has asked all parties to submit their comments in relation to the change of Government position to her by November 12.

“We will then be clear on the position of Ineos. It is possible they may wish to continue the appeal based on the fact that they have always claimed this is not a fracking application and they wish to advance the science that will be required to overturn the moratorium.”

The announcement of the moratorium has been accompanied by scant detail of how it would work, or which parts of the industry would be affected.

When questioned on the BBc Radio 4 Today programme, Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom said that the government had stopped short of a permanent ban because, “This is a huge opportunity for the United Kingdom.”

IGas, which has drilled at Tinker Lane near Blyth and at Springs Road near Misson, has already announced that its business will be unaffected by the moratorium.

An announcement had been expected on whether the company would apply to pursue fracking at Misson.

Chief executive Stephen Bowler said: “We have confirmed a world-class resource at our site in North Nottinghamshire and remain committed to working with regulators to demonstrate that we can operate safely and environmentally responsibly as we have done for decades.

“Given the learnings from the wells that have been drilled recently by the industry, not least the well drilled in our acreage at Springs Road, we know that UK shale has the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the UK’s energy requirements.”

The ban was prompted in part by tremors near Cuadrilla’s fracking site at Preston New Road site in Lancashire.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose party is promising an outright ban if it wins the election on December 12, said: “The Conservatives’ pause of fracking is an election stunt to try and win a few votes.

“Boris Johnson described fracking as ‘glorious news for humanity’. We cannot trust him.”