Cllr Julian Ware-Lane has joined 805 councillors who have signed an open letter opposing government proposals to allow fracking companies to undertake exploratory drilling without local planning applications.
|Cllr Julian Ware-Lane|
Southend-on-Sea, UK - Councillor Ware-Lane has signed an open letter calling for the withdrawal of proposals that treat exploratory drilling by fracking companies as ‘permitted development’, and to respect the rights of communities to make decisions on shale gas activities through the local planning system.
The government is proposing that exploratory drilling for shale gas should be granted planning permission through a permitted development right. This right means fracking companies don’t need to apply for planning permission from the local authority. Permitted development is a category of planning originally designed to facilitate minor structural changes to homes such as extensions and putting up sheds.
Councillor Ware-Lane, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council Milton ward, said:
“I believe it is essential that local people should have the final say over exploratory drilling by fracking companies in our community. These proposals by-pass local democracy and risk industrialising large sections of countryside with a hugely unpopular industry that brings noise, pollution and community division. We should not be changing the planning system to facilitate fracking, but instead supporting climate and community friendly energy sources. Local voices should be heard.”
The government consultation closed on October 25th and has prompted hundreds of Councillors to express concern. The letter - sent to the Secretaries of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, James Brokenshire MP and Greg Clark MP - has also been signed by MPs, Parish Councillors, and London Assembly Members.
40 Councils have also formally opposed the government's plans, including the Conservative controlled Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Kent County Councils. More than 20 Conservative MPs have threatened to rebel against the government over these proposals.
Sebastian Kelly, Fracking Organiser at 350.org commented:
“These proposals represent a desperate attempt to force a failing industry onto communities. Local people understand the risks posed by fracking to their community, 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.”
Caroline Jones, Friends of the Earth Campaigner added:
“It’s absurd that planning rules originally designed for minor home improvements, like putting up a garden shed, could now be used for major drilling infrastructure. Our countryside and our climate are at serious risk if the government pushes ahead with these plans. We need to be moving away from fossil fuels, not make it easier for companies to dig up more.”
More than 300,000 people have also signed petitions against the proposals  and 20 organisations, including the RSPB and CPRE, have warned that opening the door to fracking companies risks negatively impacting on local democracy, the tranquility of the countryside and climate change.Text of the open letter available here: https://gofossilfree.org/uk/let-communities-decide-letter/. Full list of 850 signatories is available here including 805 Councillors, 11 MPs and 34 Other (Parish Councillors and Assembly Members).