ANTI-FRACKING campaigners have criticised Energy Secretary Amber Rudd’s call on councils to speed up their decision-making over proposals to use the controversial mining method.
The Government will tell planning authorities this week that there is a “national need” to explore the potential for extracting gas trapped in shale rock deep underground.
The intervention comes as North Yorkshire County Council considers an application by Third Energy to carry out test-fracking operations at a site at Kirby Misperton.
Energy companies have been pressing for fracking applications to be dealt with faster since Lancashire County Council rejected proposals in June which were first submitted more than a year earlier.
A spokesman for UK Onshore Oil and Gas said: “We have already stated the government needs to take a strategic view of how to ensure these planning decisions are made in the prescribed timescales.
“The lengthy delays experienced so far are bad for industry and the communities involved.
“We will need to see the detail of any new guidance before making any further comment.
“Over 80 per cent of our homes are dependent on gas for cooking and heating, a substantial amount of electricity is produced by gas and very significant proportions of our manufacturing industries use gas as a raw material making all manner of everyday products but without indigenous production over 75 per cent of our gas will come from outside the UK in the next decade.”
North Yorkshire County Council is carrying out a public consultation on Third Energy’s plan to use the fracking method at Kirby Misperton, between Malton and Pickering.
The company wants to see if gas can be extracted in quantities that would make a long term operation commercially viable.
Opponents, who claim fracking poses a major risk to the environment, criticised the Government’s decision to issue new guidance to councils.
A spokesman for the Frack Free Ryedale campaign group said: “This blatant attack on local democracy and the rights of county councils is in stark contrast to the Government’s recent announcements allowing local communities to veto plans for wind energy projects.
“In future, wind farms will only be allowed if the project has the backing of the local community. However, when a local community opposes fracking, the government is practically ordering councils to ignore their concerns and approve the applications anyway, while also threatening to take the matter out of local council hands and grant permission centrally if they don’t play ball.”
The Government has thrown its weight behind efforts to create a UK fracking industry, arguing it will create wealth and reduce the country’s dependence on imported energy.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Ms Rudd said: “We can’t continue with a system in which applications are dragged out for months or even years on end, a system that doesn’t give certainty to industry and that could spell the end of a potentially vital national industry. We need a system that delivers timely planning decisions and that works effectively for local people and developers.”