Politicians, including a number of the government’s own MPs, voiced concerns about proposals to classify shale gas exploration as ‘permitted development’. This would mean that fracking companies would not have to apply for planning permission before drilling, removing local councils’ opportunity to reject developments.
MPs also took the opportunity to condemn the fracking industry for attempting to weaken earthquake regulations at fracking sites. There were 57 earthquakes near Blackpool, Lancashire in the 60 days that fracking took place last autumn.
This is the biggest and highest profile debate on the issue of fast-tracking fracking yet, following two packed debates in 2018. The government has consulted on the proposals and is expected to make a decision soon.
During the debate Lee Rowley MP (Conservative) said: "If there was a traffic light system to be applied today in this house, it would be flashing red that there is no majority for permitted development."
Louise Haigh MP (Labour) said: "There can be no pretence to localism when the government is riding roughshod over the voices and rights of local authorities and local people.”
Ed Davey MP (Liberal Democrat) said: "The relaxation of regulation, whether on seismicity or planning, is completely unjustified."
Speaking in a joint statement after the debate, Friends of the Earth, CPRE, FFU, 350.org, 38Degrees and SumofUs said:
“There have been 57 earthquakes in Lancashire since fracking started. Yet the government wants to rip up the planning rulebook and fast-track fracking without community consent.
“Today MPs from across the political spectrum voiced their outrage at these plans and condemned the fracking industry for attempting to weaken vital earthquake regulations.
“This industry is bad news for our climate, environment and local democracy, and proposals to fast-track fracking should be thrown in the dustbin where they belong.”