Ministers have recently revealed plans to classify fracking applications as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects. This would mean decisions regarding fracking applications would be made by government-appointed planning inspectors at a national level, instead of decisions at a local authority levels, essentially bypassing local involvement in fracking applications.
The government is also making £1.6 million available for planning authorities, to assist with fracking applications. Under these regulations, the actual process of shale gas extraction would still need applications at local level, however exploratory drilling can be approved by government-appointed planning inspectors at national level.
Fracking applications have proven deeply unpopular at local consultations, with councillors in North Yorkshire on the Kirby Misperton fracking site receiving 4375 objections as opposed to 36 representations in support of the application to frack. By classifying fracking applications as NSIPs, Greenpeace argue that the government will make ‘exploratory drilling as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory’.
Daniel Carey-Dawes, senior infrastructure campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said in The Independent: “This announcement signals an outright assault on local communities’ ability to exercise their democratic rights in influencing fracking applications. Whilst fracking has been banned in Scotland, the government in England seems determined to introduce shale gas extraction, despite its unpopularity.
Friends of the Earth and Go Fossil Free are currently running divestment campaigns against the fossil fuel industry. Friends of the Earth report that local councils are investing up to £16bn of workers pensions into fossil fuel companies, and are encouraging people to lobby their local councils to divest from fossil fuel investments. Divestment campaigns are a successful way of putting pressure on governments through a public demand for action. Those done at a local level can empower communities in the fight against fossil fuel extraction, giving campaigners a platform through which to protest the government plans to restrict local community involvement in the application process.
Visit the Friends of the Earth divestment website for support and advice in starting a local campaign in your area.