In the teeth of massive pressure from Cuadrilla and Westminster, Lancashire's brave county councillors have voted to protect their citizens and the local environment - the winners today are democracy and the people of Lancashire.
Councillors have rejected Cuadrilla's application in a decisive 9:3 vote this morning, with two abstentions.
This was a huge rejection of the advice of their own officers, who had warned that a rejection would be 'unreasonable' in planning terms, putting the Council at risk of financial penalties, and even received the backing of David Manley QC in their view.
But yesterday two independent legal opinions from senior barristers were published which gave the opposite viewpoint, as reported on The Ecologist. And this advice appears to have been decisive in the refusal.
The Conservative councillor Michael Green, who abstained last week, said before the vote that following the new legal advice "we are in a position where if we so wish we can take the decision [to refuse] knowing it isn't unreasonable for us to do so ... I have come to the conclusion this morning I will be voting in support of refusal."
According to John Williams, a consultant at Poyry Management Consulting, "Many expected the decision to be reluctantly approved by Councillors, following the legal advice that had previously been received. New advice received this morning seems to have given the Councillors the justification they needed to reject the proposals.
"Where does this leave us? The expectation must be that Cuadrilla will appeal this decision - they have nothing to lose from doing so. However, this decision is a serious setback for shale gas in the UK and many must be wondering if it can ever reach production phase."
A victory for democracy and common sense
Reacting to today's decision by Lancashire councillors to reject a planning application to frack at Preston New Road in Little Plumpton, between Preston and Blackpool, Friends of the Earth north west campaigner Furqan Naeem, said:
"People in Lancashire and across the UK who have been tirelessly campaigning against fracking will breathe a sigh of relief today - safe in the knowledge that this dirty industry that risks health, quality of life and the climate, has been stopped in its tracks once again.
"In the teeth of massive pressure from Cuadrilla and Westminster, Lancashire's brave county councillors have voted to protect their citizens and the local environment - the winners today are democracy and the people of Lancashire.
"Both Cuadrilla and the Government must respect Lancashire's decision and not try to force unpopular fracking on these communities. Many polls show that the public wants renewable energy, not fracking - and the clean energy and long term jobs it provides.
"The stakes for local people, for democracy and for the environment could not be higher. Though all three emerge as victors today, the fight against fracking and dirty energy is far from over."
But Cuadrilla expressed itself "surprised and disappointed" at the decision, adding: "We remain committed to the responsible exploration of the huge quantity of natural gas locked up in the shale rock deep underneath Lancashire.
"We will now take time to consider our options regarding an appeal for Preston New Road, along with also considering appeals for the planning applications recently turned down, against Officer advice, for monitoring and site restoration at Grange Hill, and last week's decision to refuse the Roseacre Wood application."
We must not underestimate the importance of this decision
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, who was herself arrested at Balcombe in August 2013 while protesting against an exploratory fracking operation, said the decision was a "fantastic victory for the people of Lancashire, and the campaigners who have fought so hard to increase awareness of the dangers of fracking.
"Today's decision proves that, in spite of all the Government's efforts to force through fracking, local communities can prevent it from going ahead.
"Lancashire County Councillors have today set a strong example of how democracy should work - with elected politicians listening to the concerns of the people they represent. I hope the refusal of this application will open the government's eyes to the huge opposition to fracking in this country, and help to persuade them that clean, renewable energy is where we must invest.
"The Green Party will keep campaigning until fracking is banned in the UK, and the Government commits to taking real action to tackle climate change."
It's also a depressing day for the strongly pro-fracking Government and its energy secretary Amber Rudd. Making it all the more galling, Conservative councillors on Lancashire's Development Control Committee voted 3:1 to reject the application, in line with their Labour colleagues who voted 5:2.
That's a powerful warning, if there ever was one, that Conservative controlled local authorities up and down the country will be no ally to the government when it comes to fracking on their turf.
Also on The Ecologist: 'Lancashire councillors have every right to refuse fracking application'.
Event: Ecologist editor Oliver Tickell and writers Paul Mobbs and Julian Rose will be speaking at Resurgence summer camp: 30 July - 2 August, at Green and Away, near Worcester. See here for programme details and bookings.