3 police guard the fracking site at Preston New Road, Preston, Lancashire. Site and 2 workmen in background.

We won't let them fast track fracking

Proposed changes to planning rules could give a green light to the fracking industry. But Friends of the Earth local groups and partner organisations are determined to fight back.
  05 Oct 2018    |      4 min

Proposed changes in the planning rules would classify exploratory drilling for shale gas as permitted development.

This is a category originally designed to speed up minor home improvements like garden sheds or conservatories. The changes could allow fracking companies to drill without needing to apply for planning permission.

During a Week of Action from 8 – 14 October Let Communities Decide is asking people around the country to do a campaign stunt or action to highlight the dangers of permitted development.

Friends of the Earth local groups and partners have already had some good ideas.

Huddersfield Friends of the Earth

In July, the Huddersfield group gathered in the town centre and taped up their mouths. They wanted to show that allowing fracking under permitted development is undemocratic and silences local communities.

6 Huddersfield Friends of the Earth members in the street with placards protest against permitted developments.
Huddersfield Friends of the Earth protest against permitted developmentsfieldsfield
Credit: Huddersfield Friends of the Earth

The group's next action is to bring a mock fracking rig, drilling equipment and hard hats to a central Huddersfield location. They want to show that they can also 'drill' without applying for planning permission.

Leicester Friends of the Earth

Long fans of the stunt, Leicester Friends of the Earth decided to take a cardboard garden shed and a fracking rig to the town centre in August. They wanted to highlight the fact that the government doesn't ask for planning permission for either of these developments.

Leicester Friends of the Earth in street with cardboard shed protest against permitted developments.
Leicester Friends of the Earth
Credit: Leicester Friends of the Earth

Building the shed took longer than we anticipated because we decided to stitch it together rather than using a glue gun and staples.

Hannah Wakley, Leicester Friends of the Earth group co-ordinator

Leicester Friends of the Earth has previously organised an anti-fracking carol concert and a Frack-Free festival at a local branch of Barclay's Bank in the city.

The group were nominated for an award to recognise their tireless campaigning at Friends of the Earth's annual Earthmovers ceremony in June 2018.

Leicester local group joined a suffragette anti-fracking protest.
Leicester local group joined a suffragette anti-fracking protest
Credit: Hannah Wakley/Leicester Friends of the Earth

Ryedale against permitted development

Protestors gathered outside Malton library in North Yorkshire in August and symbolically taped up their mouths. Frack Free Malton and Norton, which has worked closely with Friends of the Earth, believes the permitted development plans are an attack on local democracy.

Ryedale is currently a proposed fracking site and the surrounding area has licences held by fossil fuel companies. Following the Malton protests, Conservative-controlled Ryedale District Council voted overwhelmingly to oppose permitted development.

Frack Free Malton and Norton protesters against permitted development in street with banners and mouths taped.
Frack Free Malton and Norton protest permitted development
Credit: Frack Free Malton and Norton

Let communities decide

All of the groups featured here are part of the Let Communities Decide campaign which is organising opposition to permitted development across the country. Members have been writing to local councils, lobbying MPs and the Energy and Clean Growth minister Claire Perry.

Successes

A number of other councils have come out against the proposals. These include the Isle of Wight council which is not currently licensed for shale gas exploration, Bridgwater council in Somerset which voted to challenge the proposed legislation and Conservative-controlled Lincolnshire County Council.

At a packed House of Commons debate in September, a number of MPs spoke out about the plans. At least 20 Conservative party backbenchers recently told the Financial Times they are planning to rebel against the plans. The Labour party has said it will ban fracking if it wins the next election.

United against fracking

If you're incensed at the onslaught against local democracy, you can find out more about the Let Communities Decide week of action here. Sign our petition and we'll make sure your voice is heard.

Friends of the Earth has the biggest network of grassroots environmental activism groups in the UK. There are 157 local groups with an average of 42 volunteer members.