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Fracking update (June 2017)

June 23, 2017 9:59 PM
By Steve Mason

Gas Flares (GreenLibDems.org.uk)

Briefing: Fracking - An attack on local democracy

Though not in the Queen's speech, the changes proposed by the Conservative Party to the planning laws surrounding the development of onshore oil and gas exploration, plus the further commitment to develop the shale gas industry (fracking) are alarming.

The result of the election could lead to the fundamental planning powers of local government being considerably diminished. In fact, the Conservative's manifesto pledge completely disregards local democracy.

Communities and residents currently have the right to oppose major developments through the existing planning structure. It now seems this avenue will be closed. The Conservatives plan to change the rules, probably through secondary legislation, removing the rights of communities to oppose any Oil and Gas drilling at local planning authority level.

The Conservatives want to fulfil their pledge and commit the UK Government to a fossil fuel future for decades to come.

The Conservative Manifesto states: "We will legislate to change planning law for shale applications. Non-fracking drilling will be treated as permitted development, expert planning functions will be established to support local councils, and when necessary, major shale planning decisions will be made the responsibility of the National Planning Regime."

This statement alone should have alarm bells ringing for all who believe in democracy.

Not only will major shale gas development be taken out of the hands of locally elected councillors, but also fracking could take place without recourse to planning permission at all. Armed with a definition of fracking in the Infrastructure Act, which would have precluded 43% of all fracked wells in the USA, the Conservative Party indicates that 'non-fracked' wells will be regarded as 'permitted development' and will not need planning permission. There are restrictions on permitted development in areas such as National Parks and AONB's, but the ease with which seismic testing was imposed in such areas does not bode well.

Communities must retain the right to outline their concerns, residents and businesses must be able to respond to major development applications in their area. Local councillors, elected by communities, must be allowed to represent residents in such matters.

It is known that the industry want to develop on a huge scale. Tom Crotty of INEOS uses the phrase 'on an industrial scale,' when describing the company's intentions. The use of 'permitted development rights' will encourage the complete industrialisation of rural Britain.

The Liberal Democrat policy is clear: 'Conference calls on the Government to ban fracking in England and to adopt an energy policy based primarily on renewables and energy efficiency, which supports the implementation of the Paris agreement.'

We urge you to raise this issue wherever you can and oppose fracking in the UK and oppose this attack on local democracy to protect the fundamental rights of communities to say NO. Work with us, the Green Liberal Democrats, towards to a fossil fuel free future.

Steve Mason