Liz Truss has refused to give details of how local consent would be given for fracking in a particular area, amid growing evidence that it will be pushed through as a national infrastructure project.
In an interview with BBC Radio Lancashire, the prime minister said she was not familiar with the Preston New Road site in the county and had never visited.
Cuadrilla’s site at Preston New Road is the only place in the UK where fracking has taken place. Drilling was stopped after a series of earthquakes, which led to a moratorium on fracking that Truss’s government lifted last week.
The presenter Graham Liver asked her: “We are the only area of the country that has done it, and it caused earthquakes, people’s houses shook. Why do you think it is safe to continue, because none of the science has changed?”
Truss replied: “What I want to be clear about is we will only press ahead with fracking in areas where there is local community support for that … Fracking is carried out perfectly safely in various parts of the world, and the business secretary will make sure that any fracking that takes place is safe.”
Liver pressed her on how local consent would be given for fracking. He quoted two local MPs – Scott Benton, the Conservative MP for Blackpool South, and Mark Menzies, the Conservative MP for Fylde – who had suggested people in their areas would not support the drilling. Menzies asked in the House of Commons how local communities would give consent.
Discussions have been held within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about pushing through sites without local approval by designating them as nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs).
“What does local consent look like?” Liver asked.
Truss hesitated for several seconds before responding. “The energy secretary will be laying out, er, in more detail exactly what that looks like but it does mean making sure there is local support for going ahead … ”
“It sounds like you don’t know,” Liver said.
“Well, there are various detailed issues to be worked through,” Truss said. “But I can assure Mark Menzies that I will make sure there is local consent if we are to go ahead in any particular area with fracking.”
Liver said: “Your local MPs don’t want it. All Conservative. In the past, the county council have said they didn’t want it. Yet your government overturned that. The science hasn’t changed. Why can’t you tell us this morning there won’t be a return to fracking in Lancashire?”
Truss replied that it was important to understand that the government wanted to pursue fracking to produce more homegrown energy for the UK.