My opinion on shale gas counts

Recently, in a live radio interview, I was asked if the fact that my business could be a beneficiary of shale gas here in Lancashire should in some way disqualify my views and opinions on the topic.

By Lee Petts, Remsol.

In a very nice way, I think he was suggesting that I might be biased. I'm not. But it raises an interesting point.

The very fact that my business has been supporting Cuadrilla Resources for several years is exactly why my opinion counts so much: I've seen behind the curtain and have had a glimpse of what the future might hold for other Lancashire businesses that could benefit from supply chain contracts if shale gas gets going.

I'm also a Lancashire resident. I live here with my family, we holiday in Lancashire and, as a result, I have just as much right as any other resident to express my views on its future - in which I'd like to see a vibrant local economy that creates career opportunities for young people.

As a constituent of Lancashire County Council, I hope my views and opinions will be given due weight and consideration next week when councillors on the Development Control Committee meet to consider the two planning applications before them for shale gas exploration at sites in Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood.

I certainly expect my opinions to count more than those people from outside the county that have submitted written objections or signed national online petitions - and a lot more than those of the people expected to descend on County Hall in Preston from far and wide to protest outside.

Because these decisions are about Lancashire. They should be made by and for the people and businesses of Lancashire and not influenced by celebrity personalities and politicians from outside the region seeking to take advantage of the publicity it generates.

In recommending the refusal of plans at Roseacre Wood, planning officers have already demonstrated that they're taking account of traffic concerns raised by local people, proving the democratic value of the planning process and public consultation that it allows for.

Our elected representatives at Lancashire County Council now have a chance to show that the authority is capable of making complex, difficult decisions for the long-term good of Lancashire and its citizens - even if those decisions prove unpopular with some.

If it gets this wrong, we might well see central government seize responsibility for shale gas planning in the future, taking the decisions out of local hands and limiting the opportunity for local people to influence those decisions. That's the last thing anybody wants, which is why I'm calling on our elected representatives to reach sensible conclusions next week for the benefit of Lancashire and its people. After all, Lancashire is a place where everyone matters, including me.