Public backs local fracking decisions

Greenpeace staged a protest against fracking in Westminster todayGreenpeace staged a protest against fracking in Westminster today
Greenpeace staged a protest against fracking in Westminster today
THE PUBLIC believes decisions over the use of the controversial fracking mining method should be taken locally, according to a new poll by environmental campaigners.

The Greenpeace research, suggesting 62 per cent of people want councils rather than ministers to decide if fracking should go-ahead, was published as a landmark planning appeal got underway in Lancashire.

Energy exploration firm Cuadrilla is appealing against Lancashire County Council’s decision to reject applications to frack along the Fylde Coast.

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The appeal will be heard by a planning inspector but Communities Secretary Greg Clark has indicated he will use legal powers to make the final decision.

Energy firms have so far been frustrated at their attempts to get fracking underway in the UK in the face of significant local opposition at potential sites and delays in councils reaching decisions.

Last year, the Government - which has declared its support for the development of a UK fracking industry - told councils they would lose their powers to take decisions on fracking if they sat on applications for too long.

Fracking is used to release gas from rock formations, usually shale, deep underground.

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At the start of the planning inquiry, being held in Blackpool, Nathalie Lieven QC, for Cuadrilla, said that the appeals over the two sites concerned applications relating to the exploration of onshore natural gas through hydraulic fracking of shale rock or related monitoring works.

“Self-evidently that process is controversial. However, this is not an inquiry into the rights or wrongs of shale gas extraction and how it relates to the UK’s climate change obligations.

“This is a planning inquiry,” she said, warning it must be considered in the context of national planning policy.

She pointed to a ministerial statement setting out the Government’s view that developing gas was a “key requirement” in the move towards a low-carbon economy and there was a clear need to seize the opportunity to explore and test UK shale potential.

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One planning application was turned down on the grounds of unacceptable impact on the landscape, visual amenities and noise, while the second site at was refused over traffic concerns.

But Ms Lieven said objectors to the schemes had failed to acknowledge or properly take into account the temporary nature of the impacts.

Alan Evans, representing Lancashire County County, said that the local authority’s decisions was “local democracy in action”.

Energy firm Third Energy is seeking planning permission to frack at a site near to Kirby Misperton between Pickering and Malton.

The application was first submitted to North Yorkshire County Council last year but the process has been delayed a number of times.