A LEAKED letter has revealed the government’s behind-the-scenes efforts to get fracking off the ground in Lancashire.

The letter from chancellor George Osborne, written last year, called on cabinet colleagues to ‘make it a personal priority’ to implement measures to help boost the shale industry.


He called for rapid progress on developing three or four ‘exemplar drilling sites’ to prove the concept of safe shale gas exploration, contingency plans if Lancashire County Council turns down planning applications and a strategy to push fracking to the public.

A decision is also due this week in Lancashire, one of the areas where shale is thought to be most abundant, on planning applications from shale company Cuadrilla for two new fracking exploration sites between Blackpool and Preston.

But Cuadrilla requested last week that the decision be deferred as it submitted additional information, after planning officers for the county council recommended the applications be turned down on noise pollution and traffic grounds.

The letter from the chancellor revealed that he wanted colleagues to ‘respond to the asks from Cuadrilla’ to reduce risks and delays to drilling the first well, and to fast-track planning appeals if the applications for shale exploration in Lancashire are refused.

Friends of the Earth Energy Campaigner Tony Bosworth, who obtained the leaked letter, said: “This letter shows government and industry working hand-in-glove to try anything to make fracking happen.

“Fracking isn’t the answer to our energy problems - it won’t help us tackle climate change and it brings big risks for health and the local environment.”

Lancashire County Council’s Development Control Committee will decide today whether to grant Cuadrilla’s request that a decision on whether to give the go-ahead for two new fracking sites be deferred.

The decision will come just days after the government was forced into a u-turn, announcing that fracking will be banned in national parks and red tape imposed on gas companies.

Ministers accepted Labour proposals for tougher regulation but blocked calls for a suspension of shale gas extraction.

Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner Simon Clydesdale said: “These concessions are a sign that the monolithic consensus of fracking is finally crumbling under the weight of mounting evidence that this industry is bad for the environment and for the climate.

“Banning fracking from national parks and sensitive water protection areas, though basic common sense, is a clear step forward in recognising the risks of this industry.

“Now that ministers have implicitly recognised that shale drilling is too risky for our nature reserves, they’ll have a tough job trying to explain why that isn’t the case across the country.”