DRILL OR DROP?

Fracking: “Local people know best” – Minister

The energy minister, Andrea Leadsom, promised today there would be “no compromise” on taking account of the views of local communities on fracking.

Answering questions from MPs this morning, Mrs Leadsom said:

“We absolutely support the idea of local consultation and local people having their say.”

The Conservative MP for Chippenham, Michelle Donelan, said historic market towns, built for the horse and car, like Bradford on Avon in her constituency, could not cope because they didn’t have the infrastructure for extra traffic that fracking would bring along.

Mrs Leadsom replied:

“I absolutely think that that is one of the factors that any local authority planning committee would take into account and that’s precisely the point about having the local authority involvement in it and the community say because, of course, local people know best what’s suitable for their area.”

Ryedale decision

The shadow energy secretary, Lisa Nandy, said the country would be looking very closely at the decision – to be made next week – on Third Energy’s plans to frack at Kirby Misperton in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire. She asked:

“If the answer to that question is no will she extend the same courtesy to that community as she’s extended to communities affected by wind farms and give the people of Ryedale a promise that she will not override their wishes and impose fracking against their will.”

Mrs Leadsom replied:

“Safety is absolutely paramount. If there was any likelihood or chance or any risk of any of the scare stories that the right honourable lady likes propagate, if any of those issues were real, this government would not be looking at promoting such a vital industry.”

“It’s vital for our energy security that we continue to use home grown resources wherever we can. It is also a massive jobs and growth opportunity for very many communities in this country where employment is desperately needed.”

Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for York Central, put it to the minister that more than 4,000 “well-informed people” had objected to Third Energy’s plans.

Mrs Leadsom replied:

“There is a balance between the absolutely right case that local people should have their say and the national interest and that is why there is a very clear local consultation process and that’s why the people of Ryedale will have their views taken into account and local authority will balance up those interests.”

Reassurance

The Conservative Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) also asked for reassurance about letting local residents have their say and that fracking would be considered only in what he called appropriate locations.

Mrs Leadsom said:

“I think I can absolutely assure my honourable friend that the UK has more than 50 years of safely regulating onshore and offshore oil and gas and we have the best regulatory environment in the world.”

“We have the Environment Agency looking very carefully at any proposals for hydraulic fracturing. The Health and Safety Executive who monitor all activity in that area. And of course local authorities will consult widely with their local communities.”

She also added:

“One thing I’m really desperate for is local communities to be given the proper facts and I think that’s really important part of the job that’s for us and for local authorities to do.”