Supporters of shale gas exploration have welcomed the launch of the 14th licencing round by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Meanwhile, opponents have vowed to carry on the fight to prevent “fracking” at all costs.
The licences – if granted – provide the first step to starting drilling – but do not give an absolute agreement to drill.
On top of a licence, any further drilling application will then require planning permission and permits.
Lancashire County Council has yet to make a decision on Cuadrilla’s applications to frack at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road on the Fylde. Cuadrilla Resources said it welcomed the new licences but said it remained focused on Lancashire business, where the important developments were taking place.
Bidding for the newest licences to extract shale gas by fracking is beginning with about half the UK open to exploration – but national parks would have some protection.
A Cuadrilla spokesperson said: “We are pleased with the announcement and will be carefully assessing the exploration acreage included in the 14th round, while maintaining our immediate focus on securing planning consents for our proposed shale gas exploration sites in Lancashire.”
Rob Green, Head of Enterprise and Investment for the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Economic Development Company, said today: “We are delighted to see the Government pressing ahead with further exploration licenses.
“The safe and responsible extraction of natural gas from shale in the North West has the potential to generate economic growth, boost local revenues and create thousands of jobs in the energy sector and wider supply chain.”
However, anti-fracking groups, have hit out against the announcements.
Patricia Davies, of The Preston New Road Action Group, said: “The new round of shale licences opening up today is another indication of the Government’s intention to drive this policy through at any cost, at great speed, and without public consent.
“There is widespread opposition to this industry.”