New government documents reveal Conservatives u-turn on fracking
Documents sneaked out by the government last week reveal that fracking applications will continue to be “considered on their own merits,” contradicting Tory claims to have introduced a “ban” on fracking.
The document, a government response to a consultation on loosening fracking regulations, reaffirms the government’s commitment to a “faster” process for reviewing fracking applications and will reinforce fears of local campaigners and environmental groups that the Tories intend to continue the practice after the election campaign finishes.
Released on November 4th, only two days after the government announced it would introduce a moratorium (a temporary prohibition) on fracking, the document also hints at future changes to the law that would allow frackers to “drill at will”.
It says that proposals to give frackers “Permitted Development Rights” – which would allow drilling to take place without planning permission – have “considerable merit” and may be adopted in future, while conceding that they cannot be brought forward immediately due to public opposition.
Permitted Development Rights have previously been described by green and community groups as “drill at will” powers, which would make fracking “as easy as building a conservatory.”
The document’s pro-fracking language echoes that of Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom, who last week described fracking as a “huge opportunity” and the announced moratorium as a “disappointment”.
The government has already received heavy criticism for downgrading its proposed ban to a “moratorium”, and then again to a “temporary pause”. These documents downgrade the commitment further to a “presumption” which will not preclude the government from considering or giving the green light to new fracking applications.
The Tory manifesto is being written by a lobbyist who works for fracking firms, raising further concerns about the close relationship between the industry and government. Last year Tory minister Claire Perry was forced to apologise following revelations that she had held a secret meeting with fracking firms including Cuadrilla.
Commenting on the u-turn, Shadow Secretary for BEIS, Rebecca Long Bailey said:
“You can’t trust a word the Tories say on fracking. In just over a week their policy has evolved from a “ban” to a “temporary pause” and now, seemingly, an extreme “frack-at-will” policy imported from Trump’s USA.
“Communities have fought back hard against the Tories’ efforts to force through dangerous fracking in their backyards. After years of the Tories cooking the evidence and ignoring court rulings on fracking, they won’t be taken in by a phoney ban.
“A Labour government will ban on fracking.”