The Government is currently proposing to change the planning process for hydraulic fracturing, making it easier to carry out fracking.
If enacted, these reforms would allow ‘non-fracking’ drilling to take place without planning permission. This means that fracking companies could come to an area with shale gas, set up all of their equipment and drill into the ground, as long as they do not actually start the fracking process. This would mean that businesses could destroy the environment and disrupt residents without needing permission.
The second major part of these proposed changes, is the inclusion of shale production projects into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Regime. This means that the decision on whether a business can go ahead with fracking will be left to Westminster, rather than our local Council.
I am completely opposed to these changes, which would disenfranchise local authorities and local residents. I believe that it is vitally important for locals to have a say over whether fracking goes ahead in their areas, particularly as they are the people who will have to live with the consequences.
This is why I have written to Claire Perry, the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, and called on her to abandon these proposed changes to the planning process for shale gas exploration.
I find it surprising that Westminster thinks that it knows better than the people of Bolton, or any other town, about their area. In my letter to the Minister, I asked her to come to Bolton and try to convince the residents of Kearsley, Hulton, Farnworth, Little Lever or any other area in Bolton that the central Government knew better than them.
There are legitimate and deeply-held concerns about fracking, including the health and environmental damage that fracking can cause, and the fact that this is yet another non-renewable, environmentally-unfriendly fuel that we are adding to the nation’s energy network. I, for one, have these concerns, which is why I have been opposed to fracking for many years.
However, this issue is bigger than the pros and cons of fracking; it is about whether we, as a country, respect local democracy or not. I believe firmly, that this should not be a country where the central government rides roughshod over the concerns of local residents, and that we should not open up our green and pleasant land to a gold-rush style stampede for profit, at the expense of the environment and the people living in it.
Please do take part in the consultation, which closes on 25 October 2018 You can find all of the documents on the Gov.UK website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/inclusion-of-shale-gas-production-projects-in-the-nationally-significant-infrastructure-project-nsip-regime