Tory councillors oppose government's fracking proposals, poll finds

Government must not rob communities of right to block applications for shale gas drilling, local Conservatives say

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Friday 03 August 2018 00:54
The government has proposed dealing with fracking applications at a national level in order to speed up the process
The government has proposed dealing with fracking applications at a national level in order to speed up the process

Theresa May is facing a Tory grassroots revolt over plans to fast-track fracking applications, according to a new poll.

Conservative councillors are strongly opposed to the government's plans to let companies explore for shale gas without the consent of local communities, the survey found.

Instead, local Tory representatives in areas where fracking licenses have been granted want the government to give local communities the power to block applications for fracking in their area.

The government is consulting on whether non-hydraulic fracking should be classed as a "permitted development", meaning companies would not have to receive planning permission before beginning exploration.

However, 80 per cent of Tory councillors in areas where licenses have been granted said fracking companies should have to apply for planning permission before drilling.

And almost two in three (65 per cent) said the final decision should be made by local councils rather than central government, thereby giving local communities the power to block shale gas exploration in their area.

Ministers have proposed dealing with fracking applications at a national level in order to speed up the process.

The findings of the poll, carried out by Survation for the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Friends of the Earth, suggest Tory ministers are on a collision course with their own grassroots on the issue.

Daniel Carey-Dawes, senior infrastructure campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:

“It is clear that the government does not have the backing of its own local councillors for its proposals to fast-track fracking. These plans erode the principles of localism – they diminish local communities’ democratic powers and undermine the fundamentals of the local planning system – and councillors recognise this.

“The government lacks the political support to bypass local authorities’ decision-making processes for fracking projects in their area. Unless the significant environmental risks of fracking can be entirely mitigated, exploratory and production plans must be scrutinised to the highest degree – not be made easier.

"We urge the government to listen to the views of its councillors and drop these plans immediately.”

Rose Dickinson, a Friends of the Earth campaigner, said:

“Permitted development was meant to help people carry out small-scale things like putting up a garden shed, not drilling for gas, and this poll shows that Conservative councillors overwhelmingly agree.

“By wresting away from people the modest power they had to have a meaningful say, communities and councillors are being side-lined by the government with these plans."

She added: “More recently, getting fracking permission in Lancashire out in the dying minutes of parliament seems to show that the government are well aware of the level of opposition they are facing.

“It’s clear that affected communities’ wishes are being sacrificed so that fracking companies can more easily drill. Significantly, the fact also remains that fracking is fundamentally incompatible with avoiding climate chaos.”

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