Fracking debate gets faster and louder
Following on from last weeks announcement by the government on the fast tracking of fracking applications, local opposition groups in Lancashire are shouting back.
With establishing fracking industry a government priority, councils will now lose the right to decide on operations in their local area unless they turn applications around in under six weeks. Fracking is seen by the government as a way to increase the UK’s energy independence and David Cameron promises it will create “economic security for our country”.
The change in government policy has been prompted by the 18 months Lancashire county council took to assess their decision over fracking firm Cuadrilla’s application for exploratory drilling in the Roseacre area, which they refused in June over traffic concerns. Opinion over the industry is divided in the area, although the opposition is strong and impassioned.
Cuadrilla are now appealing the refusal, and Roseacre locals who reject fracking as an option for the area are gearing up for another fight, and reaching out for nationwide support, which is coming from corners as diverse as environmental campaigners, Vivienne Westwood and council officials in New York state. An open letter sent from the 850 elected officials in the US, described fracking as a “dirty and dangerous industry”.
Lancashire Council member Marcus Johnstone, sees the decision not as a means of increasing planning efficiency, as the government suggest, but a “removal of the right of local people to have a say”.
This is a significant assessment of the situation, in light of the recent change in energy policy relating to wind farms. Planning decisions for new wind farms will no longer be made by central government, but by the local planning authority, in order to ensure communities have the final decision.