THE UK Government’s hopes of establishing a fracking industry in Britain received a devastating blow yesterday when Lancashire County Council acted on the advice of two Scottish experts and refused planning permission for shale gas drilling under the village of Little Plumpton.

Energy company Cuadrilla had been seeking permission to frack underground and extract shale gas in a test project, but the application that would effectively have restarted the fracking industry in Lancashire – it has been in abeyance since drilling near Blackpool caused earth tremors – was turned down by the development control committee on a 9-3 vote.

Prime Minister David Cameron has made the extension of fracking a personal cause, but the Scottish Government has introduced a moratorium on such projects to allow further research.

Professors David Smythe and Stuart Haszeldine, of Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities respectivel,y strongly advised Lancashire’s councillors not to proceed with planning permission, despite the council’s planning officials saying it should go ahead.

The National has learned that the intervention by way of written submissions helped “turn the tide” as one anti-fracking campaigner put it.

Both men modestly played down their role in the county council’s deliberations, but Haszeldine’s call for Scotland’s moratorium on fracking to be extended across the UK was said to be particularly persuasive.

He said: “It is a good result and a bold and brave decision by the councillors. They did what elected representatives should do.

“They took their decision based on the noise levels and the fact that it was a development on a green field site rather than on underground uncertainties such as the possibility of groundwater contamination.

“Nevertheless it was good to be able to give them some confidence that not everybody out there agrees with the packages of information they were fed by Cuadrilla and the Environment Agency.”

Cuadrilla were last night reportedly preparing to appeal to the Secretary of State or seek a judicial review in the courts against the decision.

Francis Egan, Cuadrilla chief executive said: “It’s beyond me why they would vote against it. It’s clearly not a positive step but it’s not the end of the shale gas industry. It will happen – it’s too important not to.”

Haszeldine said: “If it goes to appeal then it could be that there will be a wider spread of information brought out, in which case the issue of possible contamination could be up for proper examination.”

Smythe, emeritus professor of geophysics at Glasgow University, commented: “This is the fifth time I have got involved in advising on such applications and once again we have the right decision.

“The council can’t say that they didn’t have all the information because we gave them it, and that will make it harder for any appeal against the decision to be won.”

Though not naming any firm, Smythe said: “In the past I have worked as a consultant for some of these drilling companies and some of them are just cowboys who do not do good technical work, while their calculations are often full of errors.”

The real problem, according to Smythe, is that no one in Britain has yet done enough research into what fracking does underground.

He said: “Instead of spending hundreds of thousands on PR to convince people everything is fine, the Government and these companies should pay for someone like my former colleague Stuart Haszeldine and his team at Edinburgh University to carry out extensive computer modelling of the actual geology on these sites to see if there is any possibility of contamination.”

David Cameron’s official spokesman said: “The Government has been clear that we think shale has got huge potential and presents us with an opportunity to develop a new energy resource and create jobs. We will continue to look at how we can develop this industry in the UK.”

Daisy Sands, Greenpeace UK energy and climate campaigner, said: “This decision is a Waterloo for the fracking industry and a triumph for local democracy. It’s also a huge boost for efforts to kick the UK’s addiction to dangerous fossil fuels.

“Lancashire councillors deserve huge praise for standing up to the relentless pressure from the fracking lobby and their minister friends. Their decision sends a powerful signal to other councils that the fracking juggernaut can indeed be stopped.”

Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, led by climate change sceptic Lord Nigel Lawson, said: “Shale exploration is clearly in the national interest and nimbyism should not stand in the way of Britain’s energy security.”

Ken Cronin, chief executive of the UK Onshore Operators Group, the fracking trade body said: “The Government needs to take a strategic review of how to ensure these planning decisions are made in the prescribed timescales – this one has taken 15 months as opposed to a guideline of 16 weeks.”