Opponents of government plans to fast-track shale gas exploration assembled a 4m model drilling rig in Westminster this morning.
The installation, by the campaign group, Frack Off London, was in protest at the proposals that would allow some shale gas developments to bypass the local planning permission system.
This morning, 20 environmental organisations, including CPRE, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, RSPB and WWF, also demanded the government drop the proposals.
Ministers announced earlier this year that they wanted to treat non-fracking shale gas exploration as “permitted development”. This would mean companies no longer had to apply for planning permission to begin exploratory drilling for shale gas.
The government also said it wanted to classify major shale gas production schemes as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. This would take decisions away from local councils and give them to national government.
The model rig was assembled outside the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in central London.
Lorraine Inglis, of Frack Off London, said:
“The idea that these proposals could be used to force the hugely unpopular and highly contentious fracking industry onto communities is an outrageous affront to local democracy. These changes could result in the industrialisation of our countryside and it is crucial that local councils and communities have the final say on whether this polluting industry is allowed into their local area or not.”
Sebastian Kelly, Let Communities Decide campaigner at 350.org, said:
“These proposals represent a desperate attempt to force a failing industry onto communities. Local people understand the risks posed by fracking to the health of their families, countryside and the climate, and must be able to influence the planning process to express these concerns. The Government must listen to the growing concerns from locals, Councillors and MPs and immediately drop these undemocratic and reckless proposals.”
“Perversion of local democracy”
In an open letter, published today in the Daily Telegraph, heads of 20 environmental organisations said the proposals, if approved, would “be as shocking as they would be harmful”:
“These plans would disregard the wishes of local communities, remove decision making powers from local councils and strip the requirement for fracking companies to apply for planning permission for shale gas exploration.”
The letter said the proposals would be “a complete perversion of local democracy, and will undermine the fundamental principles of our planning system”.
“Now we, the voice of the environmental sector, are calling on the government to drop its proposals that risk opening the door to fracking on an industrial scale, and threaten the health and tranquillity of our green and pleasant land. Far from removing local people’s voices from the discussion, it is imperative that they are given the opportunity to have their say.”
Crispin Truman, chief executive officer at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:
“We have a Government policy full of contradictions. It makes ‘commitments’ to cut carbon emissions, to conserve and enhance the beauty of our natural environment and also to champion localism. Yet they attempt to impose on us a new industry that extracts carbon-emitting fossil fuels, that will industrialise the countryside against the wishes of local communities and deny those same communities the opportunity to reject any subsequent fracking proposals.
“To fast-track fracking through the planning system, as these proposals aim to do, is a ruthless subversion of local democracy. It is imperative that the Government heeds the warnings from this coalition of environmental groups, as well as those MPs pushing back against the plans from all political parties. The proposals are quite simply unacceptable and must be dropped immediately.”