In May 2018 the Government announced new measures to support the development of shale gas in the UK, including several proposals relating to the planning system. In particular, the Government stated its intention to hold an early-stage consultation in summer 2018 on whether and under what circumstances non-fracking shale gas exploration should be treated as permitted development. This change would mean that such exploration would not need planning permission.
Instead of encouraging the use of fossil fuels by making the planning process easier for their development, we should be boosting renewable energy projects.
In 2016 the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published a report on shale gas and our climate change targets. It found that fracking was not compatible with these targets unless it met several conditions, including that gas consumption remains in line with the UK’s carbon budgets. Yet these budgets require our gas consumption to decrease sharply after 2030. Fracking would therefore lock us into an energy infrastructure based on fossil fuels long after we need to have moved to clean energy. It was for this reason that at the 2016 Labour Party conference I announced that a future Labour government would ban fracking in the UK. That commitment was reaffirmed in Labour’s manifesto at the general election in 2017 on which I stood.
I am also concerned about the lack of local democratic participation in planning decisions. The Government has marginalised democratic planning authorities in the planning system. Its decision to allow fracking in Lancashire, for example, overrode both Lancashire council’s rejection of a proposed fracking site and the opposition of local people. In my capacity as shadow minister for international climate change I visited Preston New Road in August, where the government has just given the go ahead for the first fracking in England since 2011. The community I met with made clear their anger at the fact that this government has overruled local democracy to push ahead with fracking. Too often, developers’ profits take precedence over community priorities. Rather than making changes that will undermine local decision-making, we should be giving planning authorities greater powers to put people and communities at the heart of planning.
In light of the above, I can assure you that I will oppose the Government’s current proposals on this issue at every opportunity. The Government should be banning fracking, not promoting it.