Shale Gas Development

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:14 pm on 31st October 2018.

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Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities & Local Government) (Planning) 5:14 pm, 31st October 2018

My hon. Friend makes an important point.

BEIS concludes that all the scientific evidence pertaining to possible risks of damage to the natural environment, the risk of contamination to the water supply, and safety concerns about earthquakes are to be dismissed. Try telling that to the people of Lancashire. They have had 18 earthquakes recently, each one increasing in seismic magnitude. Interestingly, the Government are telling local people who oppose fracking that they just need help to understand the process. It is exactly because they do understand it that they are concerned. The Minister for Energy and Clean Growth has said that she pities

“any local councillor who gets an application on their desk, because they will shortly have a travelling circus of protestors to deal with”.—[Official Report, 12 September 2018;
Vol. 646, c. 333WH.]

Is that really how a Minister should respond to concerns of local people? I hope that the Minister today will distance himself from those comments.

I am not sure that the planning system should allow fracking at all, but I know that the permitted development system is not appropriate for dealing with the complexities of fracking, and neither is the nationally significant infrastructure project process. Both those aspects of the planning system totally ignore the voice of local people. Greenpeace has said that the fracking industry is pulling UK energy policy in entirely the wrong direction and that the public are right to be concerned, and I agree.

Many people in the Chamber might not know that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government today issued a further consultation document on talking to people earlier in the planning process for fracking, as if that will stop them opposing it. I say to the Minister that that is just not going to cut it. The Government have to start listening to local people, change track and get planning policies that support renewables, not fracking.