Group seeks court challenge to government fast-track fracking policy

Emily Shirley and Jamie Potter

Emily Shirley and Jamie Potter

A group opposed to the government’s policy on fast-tracking shale gas planning applications has launched a fundraising bid to mount a legal challenge.

Last month the Energy and Local Government Secretaries announced measures to override local authorities on fracking planning decisions.

They said the government could take over applications from councils that were said to “repeatedly fail” to make decisions within the statutory 16-week timeframe. It could also intervene in fracking planning appeals.

The government said local communities would “remain fully involved in planning decisions with any shale application”.

But today the SaFE Alliance (Safety In Fossil fuel Exploitation) said the policy “ended local decision-making as we know it” and would “make it virtually impossible for local communities to stop fracking in their areas”.

It began a crowdfunding campaign to raise £20,000 to finance a judicial review of the policy.

In a statement SaFE Alliance said:

“The policy creates presumptions in favour of the need and safety of fracking, while also giving the government expansive new powers to override local decisions that go against fracking applications and to punish local authorities that take the time to properly consider planning applications.”

“This approach wholly contradicts the government’s localism agenda and will have a dramatic impact on local people and their surroundings.”

Emily Shirley (pictured left), co-founder of SaFE Alliance , said: “The government has been pushing its pro-fracking agenda, at the expense of genuine green alternatives for many years.”

“In doing so, it has ignored the evidence and voices of local people who, through democratic processes, have rejected attempts to expand the industry given the inevitable exacerbation of climate change as well as significant concerns regarding safety, noise and air and water pollution.”

“This policy is an attempt to circumvent those democratic processes, to force local councils to approve planning applications for fracking, and to override council decisions should they seek to oppose it. It is essential that this national policy is challenged so that these issues can properly be decided at a local level.”

Jamie Potter (pictured right) is a partner at the law firm Bindmans and part of the legal team working on the challenge. He said:

“This policy appears to have been introduced without any prior warning and with little regard as to the science of fracking.

“As far as we are aware, there was no consultation and nor did the government conduct an assessment of the impact on the environment or as to the costs and benefits of the policy.

“Moreover, the government have provided no explanation as to how this policy fits within the existing regime, which includes a framework for mineral exploitation as well as a myriad of local development plans that cover fracking.”

“All of these issues give rise to serious questions as to the lawfulness of the Policy, which, if the Policy is not withdrawn, should be challenged in the Courts.”

The SaFE Alliance said it intended to send a letter before action to the Secretary of State of Communities and Local Government. If the policy were not withdrawn it would issue proceedings for a judicial review.

The campaign has a website for donations and more information. It is hosted by CrowdJustice, an independent crowdfunding platform that aims to provide access to the courts for those who simply cannot afford to seek justice.

The £20,000 target will be used to instruct Bindmans and legal counsel to bring the proceedings for judicial review and to protect SaFE Alliance against liability for costs if the challenged failed.

5 replies »

  1. I suspect this will only be the start. The highhanded attitude of the government is wrong, completely wrong. And if and when fracking takes place – and it does cause a fall in house prices (which most experts believe it will) then wait for the fury and legal battles to follow. How will some community revenue scheme – mitigate personal and significant financial loss? The answer is it will not. If any pollution, spillages or earth tremors occur – then I think this industry will fail on a massive scale. I have been looking for some time for an example of clean, quiet discreet HVHF and so far have not found one example. The industry sites sites like the Wytch Farm site – an oil field and processing facility – which is not directly comparable. Not one true HVHF site has ever been put forward by industry – and given the international opposition to this industry wherever it operates – one can only assume it doesn’t exist.

  2. If Heads of State can be arrested, charged and imprisoned even executed for War Crimes then why are we not holding Ministers personally responsible for passing legislation and issueing licenses for activities that destroy land, water, air, jobs and quality of life? This type of activity should fall under Crimes against Humanity and Destruction of Environmental Security.

  3. Can nobody go to the European Courts of Human Rights before Cameron manages to get policy changes on Human Rights.

  4. Could you answer Rena’s question above? and explain if this is a seperate kind of thing or not. I get her point totally. Also how does you challenege relate if at all to the people who sued for climate change (in Holland i think)

    • Hi Ruby
      Thanks for your comment. I can’t give you an immediate answer to Rena’s question but I will research this and get back to you if I can come up with something helpful. If anyone reading this knows the answer, please let us know.
      Best wishes, Ruth

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