Councillor Julian Ware-Lane has joined 805 councillors who have signed an open letter opposing government proposals to allow fracking companies to undertake exploratory drilling without local planning applications.
The letter calls for the withdrawal of proposals that treat exploratory drilling by fracking companies as ‘permitted development’, and to respect the rights of communities to make decisions on shale gas activities through the local planning system.
The government is proposing that exploratory drilling for shale gas should be granted planning permission through a permitted development right. This right means fracking companies don’t need to apply for planning permission from the local authority: it was originally designed to facilitate minor structural changes to homes such as extensions and putting up sheds.
Julian Ware-Lane, Labour Councillor for Milton Ward said: “I believe it is essential that local people should have the final say over exploratory drilling by fracking companies in our community. These proposals by-pass local democracy and risk industrialising large sections of countryside with a hugely unpopular industry that brings noise, pollution and community division. We should not be changing the planning system to facilitate fracking, but instead supporting climate and community friendly energy sources. Local voices should be heard. I have been told that there are no plans for fracking in Southend, but I will oppose any that are put forward and am speaking out now to bring to people’s attention these attempts to allow schemes in other areas without proper consultation with local residents.”
Caroline Jones, Friends of the Earth Campaigner, added: “It’s absurd that planning rules originally designed for minor home improvements, like putting up a garden shed, could now be used for major drilling infrastructure. Our countryside and our climate are at serious risk if the government pushes ahead with these plans. We need to be moving away from fossil fuels, not make it easier for companies to dig up more.”
The government consultation closed on October 25th and has prompted hundreds of Councillors to express concern. The letter – sent to the Secretaries of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, James Brokenshire MP and Greg Clark MP – has also been signed by MPs, Parish Councillors, and London Assembly Members.
40 Councils have also formally opposed the government’s plans, including the Conservative controlled Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Kent County Councils. More than 20 Conservative MPs have threatened to rebel against the government over these proposals.
More than 300,000 people have also signed petitions against the proposals and 20 organisations, including the RSPB and CPRE, have warned that opening the door to fracking companies risks a negative impact on local democracy, the tranquility of the countryside and climate change.
The full text of the open letter is available at https://gofossilfree.org/uk/let-communities-decide-letter/ and the full list of 850 signatories from here.