Outrage as legislation designed for home extensions could be used by fracking companies

Government announces plans to make it easier to drill for gas in England's countryside.
  17 May 2018    |      3 min

The government’s plans would ‘pervert the planning process’ and force fracking on communities says Friends of the Earth, as the government today (17 May) announces proposals to make it easier to explore for shale gas.

Planned changes to the planning process, including allowing drilling for gas as ‘permitted development’, would mean that fracking companies could drill straight away, minus the need for a planning application, environmental impact assessment or proper local democratic participation.

This could put 17,820 km² of England’s countryside, which already has shale licences, at immediate risk of drilling – an area nearly the size of Wales.

Permission to frack would also be the remit of a central government agency and not local councils; the representatives of local people.

The government initially introduced the concept of permitted development so that home-owners could make modest improvements or extensions to their property without the need for a planning application.

Rose Dickinson, campaigner at Friends of the Earth said:

“The government’s plans pervert the planning process and could make England’s landscape a wild west for whatever cowboy wants to start drilling and digging up our countryside.

“Permitted development was meant to help people build a fence or a conservatory, not drill for gas.

“With all the inherent risks of fracking anyone would think that the government would at least want the process done properly and fairly, rather than wrestling what modest power local people have to object away from them.

"If there was a referendum on fracking, it would be banished to the dustbin of history – and that’s where these proposals belong. Instead, the Conservatives are planning to railroad it through against the wishes of local people and the wider public."

The government is also introducing a new shale environmental regulator – to replace the previous roles of the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority - and a new £1.6 million shale support fund, to speed-up the process of applying to drill and make the development of shale gas easier.

Fracking has already been stopped in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland because of the risks.