MPs have warned the Government against going ahead with its current fracking proposals, which will move planning applications to a national level.
The report from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, published today (July 5), says that should the Government press ahead with plans to include fracking in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) regime, a National Policy Statement must be produced urgently to ensure cumulative impact of applications is considered automatically and every decision is consistent with Local Plans.
The report also calls for an online one-stop shop for all fracking guidance and policy documents. The report says current guidance ‘hinders understanding, transparency and engagement with fracking applications.’
Clive Betts, chair of the committee said: ‘Taking decision-making powers away from local planning authorities would be a backward step. It would remove the important link between fracking applications and Local Plans and be hugely harmful to local democracy and the principles and spirit of localism. It is Mineral Planning Authorities that have the knowledge of their areas needed to judge the impacts of fracking, not Ministers sitting in Whitehall.
‘Any move to alter this process also seriously risks worsening the often strained relationship between local residents and the fracking industry. The Government has failed to provide any justification as to why fracking is a special case and should be included in the regime in contrast to general mineral applications.’
The Committee has also raised concerns on the current definition of fracking from the Infrastructure Act 2015 in the revised National Planning Practice Guidance. The report states that the definition does not reflect the technologies used on the ground nor the public understanding of fracking.
The Committee has called on the Government to amend the definition to ensure every development which artificially fractures rock is included.
Responding to the report, Daniel Carey-Dawes, senior infrastructure campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘This report is a major blow for the governments plans to fast track fracking across Englands countryside. The report correctly highlights that local authorities are best placed to understand their local area and that the proposals would result in a significant loss of local decision making and exacerbate existing mistrust between communities and the fracking industry.
The government must now heed these warnings and abandon plans to fast track fracking. Failure to do so risks leading to the industrialisation of our countryside, all for the benefit of an industry that has no environmental, economic or social licence.