Learning from Lancashire: Exploring the contours of the shale gas conflict in England

Michael Bradshaw, Catherine Waite

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the conflict over shale gas exploration in Lancashire where the company Cuadrilla is preparing to horizontally drill and hydraulically fracture the first shale gas wells in England. At present, this is the only location in Europe where new commercial exploration for shale gas is underway, thus the outcome has wider significance. The initial planning applications were refused by Lancashire County Council in June 2015. The decisions were then appealed by Cuadrilla and there was a public enquiry in February and March of 2016. On 6 October 2016, the central Government over-turned the initial decisions at one site and gave Cuadrilla more time to address traffic concerns at the other. The paper uses the public enquiry to map the contours of the shale gas conflict. It is divided into three sections. The first explores public attitudes towards shale gas development in the UK and reveals growing public awareness and increasing opposition. The second presents the conceptual frame for the analysis, which includes both a critical assessment of the social licence to operate (SLO) and an introduction to a social, actuarial, and political risk and licensing model (SAP Model). The third deploys the SAP model to analyse the public enquiry. The model explains how Cuadrilla is able drill despite the absence of both a local political and social licence to operate. It is concluded that unless the industry and the government can address growing public concerns about shale gas development, continuing conflict could constrain commercial development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-36
Number of pages9
JournalGlobal Environmental Change Part A
Early online date2 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Shale gas
  • hydraulic fracturing
  • social licence
  • Lancashire
  • United Kingdom


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