Click here to read the open letter and see who signed. Press release below:


Embargoed: 00.01, Thursday 22th November

Contact: [email protected] and 07908 819 691. Issued by Friends of the Earth and 350.org.

COUNCILLOR REBELLION AS HUNDREDS SIGN LETTER OPPOSING GOVERNMENT FRACKING PLANS

Over 800 councillors have signed an open letter opposing government proposals to allow fracking companies to undertake exploratory drilling without local planning applications.

Westminster, UK – 805 Councillors, including 71 Conservatives, have signed an open letter calling 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 [1].

The government is proposing that exploratory drilling for shale gas should be granted planning permission through a permitted development right [2]. This right means fracking companies don’t need to apply for planning permission from the local authority. Permitted development is a category of planning originally designed to facilitate minor structural changes to homes such as extensions and putting up sheds [3].

The government consultation closed on October 25th and has prompted hundreds of Councillors to express concern that the proposals are an affront to local democracy and risk industrialising the countryside. 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 [4]. More than 20 Conservative MPs have threatened to rebel against the government over these proposals [5].

Ben Bradley, Conservative MP for Mansfield, said:

“It’s vital that residents can have a say in the development of their communities, and particularly regarding fracking where there is simply not the public trust at this time to justify driving through decisions without consultation.”

Tim Hall, Conservative Councillor and Chairman of the Planning and Regulatory Committee for Surrey County Council, said:

“The current planning framework works reasonably, the centralisation of planning is anti-democratic and will lead to more problems with controversial sites in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or other protected sites.”

Paul Doughty, Conservative Councillor for City of York Council, said:   

“I categorically believe that whatever the arguments might be against or for fracking, residents should have the say on what happens in their local communities. I strongly oppose any attempts to remove local decision making that might allow fracking by permitted development.”

The open letter has also been signed by Councillors from Lancashire County Council, whose majority decision to refuse planning application to fracking company Cuadrilla was overturned by central government in October 2016 [6], prompting mass protest and hundreds of arrests at Cuadrilla’s fracking site on Preston New Road, near Blackpool [7].

Lizzi Collinge, Labour Councillor for Lancashire County Council, said:

“The proper place to make local planning decisions is in the local council. Only local representatives can assess the local conditions and suitability of any site for fracking. Overruling local decisions, as happened in Lancashire, breeds distrust and contempt for the planning process.”

Maureen Mills, Labour Councillor and Planning Committee Chairman, West Lancashire Borough Council, said:

“Local decisions must be decided locally and the potential for adverse effects on the environment and those effects we have ourselves witnessed on local communities of even the preparations for exploratory drilling for shale gas could never have been envisaged in the category of permitted development.”

Sian Berry, Green Party Co-Leader, Councillor and London Assembly Member, said:

“The new planning rules announced by Government to treat exploratory drilling as permitted development is a clumsy and undemocratic attempt to bypass local councils and people they represent, as is designating fracking sites as ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects’ to take major planning decisions out of the hands of local people.”

More than 300,000 people have also signed petitions against the proposals [8] and 20 environmental organisations, including the RSPB and CPRE, have warned that opening the door to fracking companies risks negatively impacting on local democracy, the tranquility of the countryside and climate change [9].

A series of minor earth tremors have been detected at the Preston New Road site, prompting Cuadrilla to temporarily cease operations on multiple occasions [10].

ENDS

Notes to editors:

[1] Text of the open letter available here

Full list of 850 signatories is available here including 805 Councillors, 11 MPs and 34 Other (Parish Councillors and Assembly Members). Notable signatories include:

  • Alex Dale, Chairman of North Derbyshire Conservative Association, Derbyshire County Council
  • Andy Sorton, Chair, Planning and Highways Regulation Committee, Stockport MBC (Labour)
  • David Rudd, Planning Committee Member, East Riding of Yorkshire Council (Conservative)
  • Dr Catherine Preston, Chair of Planning Control Committee, Bury MBC (Labour)
  • Gerald Dakin, Planning Committee Member, Shropshire County Council (Conservative)
  • Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of the Council, Blackpool Council (Labour)
  • Henry Nicholson, Planning Committee Member, Derbyshire County Council (Labour)
  • Jillian Reeves, Chair of Scrutiny Committee, Essex County Council (Conservative)
  • Jonathan Owen, Deputy Leader of the Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council (Conservative)
  • Julie Cattell, Chair of Planning Committee, Brighton and Hove City Council (Labour)
  • Keith House, Leader of the Council, Eastleigh Borough Council (Liberal Democrats)
  • Maureen Mills, Chair of Planning Committee, West Lancashire Borough Council (Labour)
  • Sian Berry, Green Party Co-Leader and London Assembly Member
  • Stewart Young, Leader of the Council, Cumbria County Council (Labour)
  • Tim Hall, Chairman of Planning and Regulatory Committee, Surrey County Council (Conservative)

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/permitted-development-for-shale-gas-exploration

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/permitted-development-rights-for-householders-technical-guidance

[4] https://www.kentonline.co.uk/kent/news/we-should-decide-if-theres-fracking-in-kent-191909/

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/01/tories-turning-against-fracking-says-mp-lee-rowley

[6] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/10/06/fracking-by-cuadrilla-approved-at-one-lancashire-site-overruling/

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/15/fracking-protesters-blockade-cuadrilla-site-where-uk-work-due-to-restart

[8] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/fracking-petition-sign-tremors-shale-gas-drilling-environment-uk-government-a8600686.html

[9] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2018/10/07/lettersireland-used-eu-keep-britain-thumb/

[10] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/29/strongest-tremor-yet-halts-fracking-at-cuadrilla-site-near-blackpool

 

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