BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 14 Oct '18

Environmental heavyweights call on the government to drop plans to fast-track fracking

An open letter from charities including the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, RSPB and the WWF label fracking proposals a ‘perversion of local democracy’

The letter, which was published in the Daily Telegraph, was signed by a total of 20 environmental charities and campaigning groups, demanding that the government drops its plans to ‘fast-track fracking’. It says the plans would ‘remove decision making powers from local councils and strip the requirement for fracking companies to apply for planning permission for shale gas exploration’.

Industrialising the countryside

Earlier this year, the government announced two proposals that the coalition of environmental groups have spoken out against. The first would treat non-hydraulic shale gas exploration as ‘permitted development’ – meaning that fracking companies would no longer be required to apply for planning permission to begin exploratory drilling.

The second is to classify fracking as part of the ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects’ regime – this would take local councils out of the decision making process for fracking proposals and the decision for which would be handed over to national government.

Crispin Truman, chief executive officer at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the government policy is ‘full of contradictions’.

‘It makes ‘commitments’ to cut carbon emissions, to conserve and enhance the beauty of our natural environment and also to champion localism’, Crispin added. ‘Yet they attempt to impose on us a new industry that extracts carbon-emitting fossil fuels, that will industrialise the countryside against the wishes of local communities and deny those same communities the opportunity to reject any subsequent fracking proposals.’

‘To fast-track fracking through the planning system, as these proposals aim to do, is a ruthless subversion of local democracy. It is imperative that the government heeds the warnings from this coalition of environmental groups, as well as those MPs pushing back against the plans from all political parties. The proposals are quite simply unacceptable and must be dropped immediately.’

CRISPIN TRUMAN
Chief executive officer at the Campaign to Protect Rural England

Fracking has been widely opposed since it was introduced in the UK and progress has been slow due to objections, protests and legal challenges from all quarters.

These plans are the government’s attempt to speed the process up and bypass potential blockages. But in doing so, the plans would fail to scrutinise properly an industry that poses huge risks to both the countryside and environment.

CPRE, along with the 19 other signatories to the letter, is urging the government to ‘drop its proposals that risk opening the door to fracking on an industrial scale’.

The open letter

‘We write to you as a matter of urgency, regarding the Government’s proposals to fast-track fracking. These plans would disregard the wishes of local communities, remove decision making powers from local councils and strip the requirement for fracking companies to apply for planning permission for shale gas exploration. If approved, these proposals would be as shocking as they would be harmful.

‘Local councils are elected by local people, for local people, to make decisions on issues that affect their local area. Simplifying the planning process for non-hydraulic exploration so that communities’ views are not considered – and have to hand over powers to have the final say on shale production to a Minister – is a complete perversion of local democracy, and will undermine the fundamental principles of our planning system.

‘The risks posed by injecting chemicals into the earth in order to remove carbon emitting fossil fuels are well known, and could have a disastrous effect on our countryside, landscapes and environment. There has been wide-spread public opposition to fracking –everywhere it has been proposed it has been vehemently opposed. Now we, the voice of the environmental sector, are calling on the Government to drop its proposals that risk opening the door to fracking on an industrial scale, and threaten the health and tranquillity of our green and pleasant land. Far from removing local people’s voices from the discussion, it is imperative that they are given the opportunity to have their say.’