Government fracking policy faces another legal challenge over plan to accelerate new operations

‘The government’s failure to undertake any environmental assessment... not only dangerously threatens our already warming climate and is, we believe, unlawful, but shows contempt for people and planet’

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Tuesday 18 December 2018 13:38 GMT
Vivienne Westwood joins anti-fracking protest outside Courts of Justice

Environmental campaigners are taking the government to court in the latest legal challenge over fracking policies.

In July ministers told local authorities to “recognise the benefits of onshore oil and gas development” and help facilitate new operations across the country.

There was also a proposal to remove the need for new wells to get planning permission, a move critics say would make it far too easy to establish fracking sites.

Two challenges are being launched by Friends of the Earth and businessman Joe Corre, who is the son of fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood and leader of campaign group Talk Fracking.

Both groups say the new planning guidance is unlawful because it was brought in without a public consultation or an environmental impact assessment.

Across a three-day hearing at the High Court, Mr Justice Dove will listen to arguments from campaigners and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Ahead of proceedings, Will Rundle, head of legal at Friends of the Earth, said: “The government’s national planning framework, which directs development in every single community in England, has never been environmentally assessed.

“This makes a mockery of the government’s green credentials and undermines sustainable development.

“The government’s failure to undertake any environmental assessment of its national planning policy, not only dangerously threatens our already warming climate and is, we believe, unlawful, but shows contempt for people and planet.”

Before the hearing began, Dame Vivienne and Mr Corre staged a protest outside the courts in which they dressed as an angel and a shepherd in an “alternative nativity scene” warning of “climate collapse”.

Mr Corre said: “Fracking is totally and utterly out of step with the times. We are now in a major climate emergency. We must put an end to this total and utter madness and keep it in the ground”.

Many campaigners oppose fracking because they claim it locks the UK into a future of fossil fuel extraction at a time when the nation should be cutting carbon emissions to tackle climate change.

A spokesperson from MHCLG said it was not appropriate to comment on an ongoing legal challenge.

The new challenges are the latest in a series of court cases involving fracking, with Friends of the Earth bringing a case against the Environment Agency over fracking wastewater treatment techniques only last month.

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In October, three jailed anti-fracking protesters were freed after a judge ruled their sentences were “manifestly excessive”.

Previously Lancashire resident Bob Dennett had tried to get an injunction to block Cuadrilla from starting fracking at its controversial Preston New Road site near Blackpool.

The fossil fuel exploration company recently began fracking in the UK for the first time in seven years, but has been forced to halt operations several times due to small earthquakes at the site.

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