LGA Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Howard Sykes writes: “We have submitted the motion below to our next full council meeting in Oldham, opposing Government changes to planning policy over fracking. Feel free to adapt for your own area”.
Liberal Democrats Opposed to Fast-Track Fracking
The Oldham Liberal Democrats are submitting a motion to the next full meeting of Oldham Council opposing Government changes to planning procedures on fracking matters.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Dave Murphy is proposing the motion and Councillor Derek Heffernan is seconding it.
Councillor Murphy explained: “The Conservative Government is quite simply trying to circumvent established local planning procedures because they know that fracking is simply not popular with either councils or the public. Recent fracking activities on the Fylde Coast have demonstrated that there are public health issues with fracking activities, such operations involve many vehicle movements, ground disturbances that have led to earth tremors, and the real danger that fracking could lead to the pollution of local water supplies. It is only right that where such operations are contemplated that local people and their elected Councillors are able to properly consider them under established planning procedures.”
He added: “And this is not simply about fracking. There is a danger that the government could decide that other contentious planning issues, such as building new nuclear power plants or housing on the green belt, could be considered at national level, denying local people and local Councillors any say in what goes on in their area. At the end of the day, they are the people who have to live with the consequences. This goes completely against the grain of localism, which is about divesting power to local communities, and it is fundamentally undemocratic, and this is why as Liberal Democrats we are opposed to these changes.”
Motion – Changes to the Planning System to Fast-track Fracking
With concern that the government is proposing two major changes to the planning system as it applies to shale gas extraction (or fracking) by:
- Granting automatic planning permission for exploratory drilling prior to fracking, using ‘permitted development’ rules. This would remove the need for companies to submit a planning application and so also reduce local democratic scrutiny.
- Including shale gas production projects in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime. This would take decision-making powers on shale gas production away from local councils and hand it to central government.
- That wherever fracking has been proposed, it has been opposed by the public and local authorities because of real fears about noise, traffic, air pollution, the impact on the countryside, and the effects on climate change.
- That the Cardiff Business School has produced a report that reveals that to replace 50% of the UK’s projected future gas imports for 2021-2035 would in the most likely scenario require around 6100 fracking wells to be built on well pads that could cover the area of 4900 football pitches. This would require the equivalent of drilling and fracking one well every day for fifteen years.
Council believes that:
- The Government’s proposals completely contradict the principles of localism and set a dangerous precedent for planning authorities in denying them the right to determine certain types of planning applications locally and in denying members of the public and communities their say during the planning process.
- ‘Permitted Development’ – the category of planning that the government wants to move shale gas exploration drilling into – which was designed for developments with a low environmental impact and is an inappropriate category for drilling which has such wide-reaching implications for local communities and climate change.
- Bringing fracking applications under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime will be harmful to local communities.
- Local authorities and local people are best placed to continue to make decisions throughout the planning process on matters that affect their locality, including fracking.
Council therefore resolves to ask the Chief Executive to:
- Write to the relevant government ministers outlining this Council’s objections to the proposed changes and requesting that fracking applications, or indeed on any other planning matter relating to our locality and its people, be determined locally.
- Copy in our three local Members of Parliament and the Mayor of Greater Manchester and ask for their support on this issue.