Lee Rowley, Member of Parliament for North East Derbyshire, held a Parliamentary meeting with other MPs and planning experts last week to investigate proposed changes to fracking rules.
The third evidence session of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Impact of Shale Gas met in the Palace of Westminster to question planning officers from numerous councils, legal planning experts and campaign groups.
All witnesses who gave evidence at the session showed concern for the plans to loosen planning rules for fracking.
If adopted, the proposed changes could allow applications for exploratory drilling, such as on Bramleymoor Lane near Marsh Lane, to by-pass local planning processes. In effect, this could speed-up plans to conduct fracking and reduce the influence of local people on what happens in their area.
Changes to what are known as “permitted development” rights would allow exploratory drilling to be conducted without a planning application. These rights already apply to some types of development, such as certain phone masts, changes of use of offices and residential extensions.
The plans also include adding fracking to the list of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, which would give the Secretary of State the power to approve applications, by-passing local councils.
A consultation into the changes closed last week following the APPG meeting.
Lee Rowley commented: “We held this session of the APPG to dig deeper into the proposals to change fracking planning policy and find out what the likely impacts will be on places like Marsh Lane and Eckington if they are adopted.
“We discovered that there is a lot of concern out there, in Councils, communities and the legal world, about the implications and interpretations of the proposals.
“All the witnesses who gave evidence to our group last week agreed that there was a lack of detail in the consultation documents and highlighted a number of unanswered questions if the proposals were to go ahead.
“Communities should not be taken out of the decision making process for these kind of developments. Planning is a local issue and we should be empowering local people to be able to shape their area.
“I am strongly of the view that these proposals are wrong for North East Derbyshire and for the country as a whole. I will keep fighting to stop this idea from going any further.”
The APPG heard from an expert group of witnesses including from: North Yorkshire County Council, Surrey County Council, West Sussex County Council, Royal Town Planning Institute, Garden Court Chambers, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Friends of the Earth.
Dozens of public guests also attended the session.
Lee Rowley held a debate in Parliament earlier in the year to question a Minister on the proposed changes to loosen fracking planning policy and spoke at a separate debate this week on the subject.
During this week’s debate, Lee commented: “This proposal on permitted development and this proposal on NSIPs are ludicrous, need to be stopped and fracking, in my view, will not work in this country.
“I am simply not clear in all the consultation that has run over this summer what we are trying to achieve here, what the problem is and how we will do it.
“And, as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Impact of Shale Gas, we have heard from a significant number of people who say that it will be technically extremely difficult if not impossible to confuse the planning process in a way that is being proposed.”