Fracking gets the go-ahead

The practice had been suspended after Cuadrilla’s exploratory work had caused two small earthquakes at the seaside resort. However, there were hints that fracking was likely to resume when chancellor George Osborne used his Autumn Statement last week to announce the creation of the new Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil, which will regulate the process.

Protestors had argues that the chemicals used may seep into the water table, and that more inland earthquakes were likely.

However, energy secretary Ed Davey said: “Is it not better that we produce gas in this country than gas shipped half way across the world?

“We are still in the very early stages of shale gas exploration in the UK and it is likely to develop slowly. It is essential that its development should not come at the expense of local communities or the environment. Fracking must be safe and the public must be confident that it is safe.”

Darrell Matthews, regional director of the Institute of Directors in the North West, said: “It is excellent news that shale exploration can now go ahead in the UK. Shale gas has great potential to create new engineering jobs, reduce our reliance on dirty fuels like coal and cut down on costly foreign imports.

“If we are even half as successful as the shale gas revolution in the US, then this will be a great boost to Britain. In America, energy prices have fallen so much that manufacturing is on the rise again with companies bringing production back from the Far East – we should seek a share of that success and create jobs in the North West.”

It was also announced earlier this week that the shale gas reserves in the North Sea are a lot larger than had previously been anticipated.

The British Geological Survey is to publish a report in the New Year estimating that the 1,000 square kilometres covered by the Bowland Basin to the east of Blackpool contains 300 trillion cubic feet of gas, equivalent to 17 times the remaining known reserves in the North Sea.

That figure is some 100 trillion cubic feet more than drilling company Cuadrilla had first estimated.