County to defend fracking planning powers

The planning process for fracking at Little Plumpton began in Lancashire - but the government is considering changing that.
The planning process for fracking at Little Plumpton began in Lancashire - but the government is considering changing that.
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Lancashire County Council will tell the government that future decisions about fracking should be taken locally.

At a meeting of the full council, members voted how to respond to a consultation which proposes ministers having the first and final say.

WATCH: councillor calls for fracking decisions to stay local
Introducing a motion to object to the plan, the lone Green Party representative on the authority, Gina Dowding, told councillors:

“What we would see is the mass industrialisation of our countryside; our rural communities in Lancashire being decimated without…even being able to comment on that process.”

The government is consulting on a proposal to reclassify fracking as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, which would take it out of the hands of local planning authorities like Lancashire County Council.

It is also considering whether to remove the need for planning permission for the exploratory phase of the process, instead categorising it as ‘permitted development’.

In addition, the government has already committed to speeding up the existing planning regime for fracking applications, creating a £1.6m fund “to build capacity and capability in local authorities dealing with fracking applications”.

Independent member Paul Hayhurst, whose Fylde West division is home to Cuadrilla’s fracking site in Little Plumpton, put the case for planning powers staying close to home.

“We should stand up as a county council and say enough is enough, whether it’s from the Labour Party or the Conservatives – whoever is in government at the time,” County Cllr Hayhurst said.

“I’m convinced people in Lancashire know better what is right for Lancashire than people in Whitehall,” he added.

Conservative member Barry Yates proposed a reworded version of the original motion, which County Cllr Dowding accepted as a “friendly amendment”.

It stated the county council’s commitment to localism and said applications for fracking “should be determined by local planning authorities in accordance with planning law and guidance”.

Labour’s Steve Holgate told members the government’s proposal was about more than fracking.

“This is about local people having…their local representatives oversee a process [to decide] whether a particular development in the countryside is appropriate.

“I’ve not come across anybody in this chamber who is in favour of government taking decisions which should be taken locally,” he said.

The amended motion was passed with unanimous support.