Julian Sturdy, Member of Parliament for York Outer, today used Prime Minister’s Questions to raise local concerns about proposed changes to planning rules on fracking applications.
In a Written Ministerial Statement, the government has said it plans to consult on treating non-fracking shale exploration as permitted development, and on the criteria for including fracking projects in the nationally significant infrastructure projects regime. The Statement also proposed strengthening the right of local communities to be consulted pre-application.
Julian Sturdy shares the concerns local residents have expressed about the potential for these proposed changes to reduce the control local councils have over the progress of fracking applications. Given the interest fracking companies have shown in the York area, especially northeast of the city around Strensall and Sheriff Hutton, there are fears this could reduce the ability of City of York Council to decide on fracking applications.
Mr Sturdy is opposed to any reduction in the powers of local authorities to decide on fracking applications. He has previously written to Ministers at both the Department for Business and Energy and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to make this clear, and request that the government drops these proposals.
In the House of Commons, Julian Sturdy said:
“There is growing concern in my constituency about the proposed planning powers changes for fracking applications being put forward for consultation by the government, specifically…. the idea of treating non-fracking shale exploration as permitted development.
So could my Right Honourable friend update me on when the consultation will be open, and does he also agree with me that these kinds of planning applications must come forward on the basis of local authority consent?”
Responding for the Prime Minister, who is at the NATO Summit in Brussels, Cabinet Office Minister David Liddington explained the potential benefits of shale gas for the economy and energy security, and said that decisions on applications had to be fair to all involved.
He also said: “We are committed to consulting on further shale gas planning measures. Those consultations are planned to open over the summer, and I want to reassure my Honourable friend that these decisions will always be made in a way that ensures that shale can happen safely, respecting local communities and safeguarding the environment.”
After leaving the House of Commons chamber, Julian Sturdy commented:
“It is good to hear that the consultation on potential changes to local planning powers on fracking will open soon. I urge all interested local residents in York Outer to respond to it, so that their views can contribute to the decision-making process on this.
However, I would have liked to hear a clearer statement from the government that local authorities should feel free to reject fracking applications if they are not supported by the local community.
I will certainly be holding the government to account on the Minister’s statement that fracking planning decisions have to be fair and respect local communities and the environment. In many cases, this may mean allowing local councils to reject or restrict fracking applications, and I will continue to make very clear to the government that these local decisions have to be respected.
I remain firmly opposed to changing planning rules to classify early non-fracking stages of shale development as permitted development, and told the government this as early as summer 2017. I will continue to monitor the situation, and defend the interests of York residents.”