CPRE Kent is supporting a challenge to Government plans to fast-track applications for fracking projects.
According to the Government announcement on 13 August, councils will be given a deadline of 16 weeks to approve or reject applications; after then, ministers will have the power to call them in and make a decision themselves. The Government will also consider calling in any application for shale gas and oil exploration, and will consider recovering appeals. In publishing the announcement, Communities Secretary Greg Clark said that “no one benefits from uncertainty caused by delays in planning decisions”.
We are highly concerned that this removes decision-making from local communities and is out of step with plans for new energy infrastructure.
Nick Clack, national CPRE senior energy campaigner said: “Ministers talk of a national need for shale gas and oil, but have yet to make a convincing case to communities. These changes, which could see Government taking more decisions away from local people, won’t help to persuade them and could fuel division and disempowerment. Enabling broad local conversations about what appropriate local energy projects might be, taking full account of local environmental impacts, would be the most positive way forward.
“It is very concerning that it looks like Government has chosen a different path for fracking than for onshore wind planning, where recent welcome changes have sought to put local communities at the heart of decisions. Why is greater localism appropriate for some new energy projects, but not for others? It sounds disingenuous for the Government to claim that local communities will remain fully involved in shale gas and oil planning decisions if these decisions are ultimately taken by ministers.
“Taken with the weak statutory safeguards proposed for protected areas, the fracking announcement suggests a wish to create a fracking regime that works more effectively for developers than for local people and the environment.”
CPRE Kent is now backing a campaign to look at taking the Government decision to judicial review. This case will be the first to challenge the Government’s pro fracking stance, approach to climate change and local democracy. We are seeking to get the Government to change course and to implement adequate climate change policies and to give local communities a say in what energy choices they would prefer.
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September 9th 2015.