New government plans to push fracking on unwilling communities

UPDATE 19 July: The consultation on making shale gas exploration 'permitted development' has now been published. You can tell them your views on this in their public consultation here. Watch this space for further updates (deadline 25 October)

Friends of the Earth have a petition out to stop the government from forcing fracking on communities, read more about it and add your signature here

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Fracking is deeply unpopular, but the government seems determined that minor details like local democracy cannot be an obstacle to the industry. Today's ministerial statement by Greg Clark,Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government makes that clear.

Two consultations have been announced:

1. 'On the principle of whether non-hydraulic fracturing shale exploration development should be treated as permitted development, and in particular on the circumstances in which this might be appropriate'.

2. 'On the criteria required to trigger the inclusion of shale production projects into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime.' [i.e. decided by central government alone]

What is 'non-hydraulic fracturing shale exploration development', which the government believes should be waved through, with no more planning oversight than required for a new conservatory? It would include all exploratory drilling - but it might also include any oil and gas extraction from shale that falls outside the government's strangely restrictive definition of fracking (based on the volume of fluid used). 

There are promises to get tough with local authorities that do not decide applications within 16 weeks: the Secretary of State will actively consider calling in shale applications particularly where statutory deadlines have been exceeded. Authorities who repeatedly exceed deadlines can have their decision-making powers taken away. Appeals against any refusal of planning permission for exploring and developing shale gas will be 'a priority for urgent determination'.

Compare and contrast:

The government's love affair with fracking stands in stark contrast to the almost complete ban on new onshore wind. Below are two extracts from the draft National Planning Policy framework. A recent report from the Environmental Audit Committee found funding for renewable energy had 'collapsed'. 

"A proposed wind energy development involving one or more wind turbines should not be considered acceptable unless it is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in the development plan; and, following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing"

"Minerals planning authorities should recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons, for the security of energy supplies and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy; and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction."

More about the new fracking announcement on Drill or Drop