The decision on whether to move ahead with the controversial Preesall gas storage project in Lancashire will now fall to Lord Bourne following mounting concerns over an assumed conflict of interest involving the Energy Secretary.

Amber Rudd is the sister of PR guru Roland Rudd whose firm has lobbied government to back the development of the project which stalled following concerns over its geological impact. But the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) has denied any conflict, saying the Secretary of State was never in a position to approve or refuse the project.

The 900 million cubic metre gas storage project has faced a protracted 2 year battle to gain consent following its initial refusal by government in April 2013. Since then lobby firm Finsbury has worked with developer Halite Energy to appeal the decision.

Uncertainty over which member of Decc will now take the final decision was quashed by the department via their twitter feed on Friday morning, with confirmation that the decision will be taken by Bourne who has previous interests in planning and legal matters.

Decc branded recent reports in the national media which implied a lack of fairness in the department as “disappointing” because the reports fail to explain that the decision was always one to be taken by a junior department member.

“In April 2013 the Energy Minister Greg Barker refused an application by Halite Energy for development consent for the proposed underground gas storage facility in Preesall. The High Court overturned this decision, forcing Decc to reconsider the application. It is now a decision that will be taken by Lord Bourne.”

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