Most Tory councillors oppose government changes to shale gas planning rules – survey


Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, 19 July 2018. Photo: Danny Vc Llew

A survey out today has found that 80% of Conservative councillors in areas where fracking companies have a licence to explore for shale gas believe that planning applications should be required before drilling.

The research, commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Friends of the Earth, also found that 65% of Conservative councillors believe local authorities should grant final planning consent for shale production projects.

The findings suggest that most Conservative councillors disagree with their government’s proposals to treat non-fracking shale gas exploration as permitted development. This would mean that companies like Ineos, Cuadrilla and IGas would not need to apply for planning permission.

The government is also proposing to class major shale gas production schemes as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. This would bypass local authorities and give the decisions to a government minister or planning inspector.

Consultations on both proposals opened last month and run until 25 October 2018.

Earlier this week, Alex Dale, a Conservative Member of Derbyshire County Council, which refused permission to Ineos for shale gas exploration, criticised the government’s proposals. Writing on the Conservative Home website, he said:

“This is not localism; it’s not Conservatism, and it’s not doing the best by those who have elected us.”

The Local Government Association, which represents local councils, has also opposed the government’s proposals. It said last month:

“Fracking operations should not be allowed to bypass the locally democratic planning system through permitted development or national planning inspectors.”

Daniel Carey-Dawes, Senior Infrastructure Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said today:

“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, 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.

“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.”

More than 200,000 people have already signed petitions by CPRE and Friends of the Earth against the proposals.

More than 9,100 people have written a letter to their council leader in a CPRE campaign, while Friends of the Earth is urging people to email their councillor.

But the government proposals have been welcomed by UKOOG, the onshore oil and gas industry body. Its chief executive, Ken Cronin, said the changes would speed-up decisions and reduce uncertainty.

“With five separate regulators ensuring we meet our environmental and operational obligations in everything from well design to traffic management, the government’s plans only seek to ensure that communities, the industry and the nation aren’t left in the dark.”

Survey details

CPRE and Friends of the Earth said the polling was carried by Survation, from 23-26 July 2018. The survey was conducted by phone with a sample size of 507 Conservative councillors in England in areas with PEDL licenses.

Survation is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Link to survey data

23 replies »

  1. The desperate attempts by the industry to ride roughshod over local democracy has backfired. Support for the industry has all but disappeared and they are now a lone voice in the wilderness.
    They can howl all they want. No one is listening.

  2. Ignoring the two thirds again John?

    They do very little howling. Better known as the silent majority.

  3. Perhaps you could supply evidence of that Martin ? Maybe a link to an article or don’t the silent ones write either ? Sooner the Selfservatives are out of power the better.

  4. The two thirds who do not oppose fracking.
    DYOR if you are unaware of that. But, if you want to imply the antis are unaware of the wider world, feel free. It will only confirm that you have accepted the majority are not for turning.

    Shock horror. Councillors wish to retain their powers! Wonder why? If you really do, ask a few building companies or “alternatively” DYOR regarding councillors powers, and abuse of. (Apologies to those who are the exceptions.)

    Meanwhile, nuclear power reducing output in mainland Europe due to the heat, so interconnectors perhaps not such a good idea, and “rising energy costs likely to lift price cap for poor households”-by over £50/year.

    Maybe the two thirds are not less intelligent.

  5. Thanks to Jono for the clear example of how the antis use manipulation of any factual data to try and fool some.

    Let me explain it again. Fracking is allowed in England, under certain circumstances, much like many other operations are. Two thirds of those questioned were not against that policy. Therefore there is a clear majority for that policy to continue.

    A minority may dream about changing that situation so that there is a Government who impose minority opinions. That’s the Greens for you-who recently lost a big chunk of votes. (Doesn’t fit the democracy squealing very well, either.)

    Dream on.

    • 32% oppose fracking; the rest don’t support nor oppose, fact! So a small minority (according to my maths, less than a 1/3) want to force it on the rest of us. Wherever fracking turns up the majority appear to quickly turn against it, unless u have evidence to the contrary? Talk about twisting the facts and repeating propagandist nonsense.

  6. Perhaps Martin, you can use the same logic to say that the vast majority of UK people did not vote to leave the EU. See how far that gets you. When it comes to things like this statements can be both true and untrue. All you are able to do, rather than pursue a valid argument, is snipe at anybody you disagree with [edited by moderator]. Your purpose is not to argue and persuade, just disrupt. For once see yourself as others see you.

  7. Whether the majority was vast or not, it’s a majority and we are where we are ref: the EU. That’s how democracy works. In the case of fracking, the overwhelming majority express no opposition to it – it’s an irrefutable fact, no matter how much you would like to deny it or bend that fact to suit your agenda.

  8. Really Alan? And what experience do you have at commissioning and running market research testing public opinion? (I do.)

    I suspect from your comments, very little. Maybe you should speak with others outside of your own bubble and gain their experience, if you don’t want to utilise mine. You will find exactly the same comments, ie. if two thirds within a sample are not against an authorised practice then that is a majority. Few would expect too many to be “in favour” of something yet to be done. Just shows people keep their minds open rather than closed. Even I am not in that category, as I have explained many times before.

    No my purpose is not to argue and persuade you, and a few others, because there is no point. You have made up your views based largely on distorted data, from what you post. However, my purpose is where I do have some experience and knowledge to inform others who may have more open minds. Some of them may then go and do some research and actually find that the majority of factually incorrect posts are from the antis. They can then make up their own views as to whether I am a joke rather than be told by someone else.

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