No to abolishing planning requirements for fracking

Tom Franklin and Councillor Lars Kramm spoke at the Council meeting on the motion to oppose removing local councils from the planning process for fracking.

Tom said:

Good evening, and thank you for allowing me to Speak. I am
chair of York Green Party.

There is a motion to Council this evening on the
government’s proposal to change the planning rules relating to fracking.  The motion is really about local democracy
and not allowing the government to take yet more control from councils.

There are actually two consultations that the government is
running at the moment.  The first on
exploratory and test drilling would mean that no longer need planning
permission as exploratory drilling would be covered by “permitted development”
– the same as might be used for a garden shed or rooflights, where the impact
is minimal and full planning permission would be overkill.  The second consultation is for production,
moving it from requiring planning permission from the local authority to national
infrastructure – like a new airport or motorway or HS2.  The effect of these is to remove any local
say in the planning process for fracking at either the exploratory or the
production stages. 

Suggesting that fracking should be both permitted
development and national infrastructure clearly shows the contradiction in
government thinking, and their desire to ride roughshod over local communities.
I demonstrates a determination to push fracking on communities that do not want
it, at a time when only 18% of the population (and falling) support fracking.

For those of you who have not visited a fracking site, even
at the exploratory stage they are not on the same scale as other permitted
developments. Even at the exploratory stage sites are more than 100m x 200m and
include a 30m high drilling rig and literally hundreds of containers to collect
waste etc.  That is a major industrial
site and not appropriate for “permitted development”

Fracking requires, even at the exploratory stages,
thousands of lorry movements.  If the current
government proposal goes ahead then the Council will have no say in whether the
location is suitable – perhaps requiring lorries to pass close to schools or
nurseries or along narrow roads not designed to accommodate HGVs.  Fracking sites could be put anywhere,
regardless of what the minerals and waste policy might say.

Most of York is in fracking areas, PEDL 146 and 282, and
companies are already looking at undertaking fracking within York including
places like Strensall.  This is not an
academic exercise in York.  The results
will affect us.

Many Councils have already passed motions opposing these
changes to planning regulations, and include councils run by all parties.  The very first was Conservative controlled
Lancashire County Council which unanimously opposed the changes to planning
regulations.  Others that have passed
similar motions include:

  • Bath
    and NE Somerset Council
  • Bury
  • Isle
    of White Council

This is not about party politics, this is about local
democracy, and the ability of local communities to decide.  If the government passes these regulations,
then some of the most important planning decisions that you would have to
address will be removed from council oversight.

I urge you to pass this motion unanimously.

Thank you

And Lars said:

Thank you, Lord Mayor,

I am happy to second this motion and
I would like to thank the Liberal Democrat Group for this cross-party
initiative. It is clearly showing that we came a long way since 2011 when the
Green Party was the only national party fully committed to opposing Fracking in
the UK.

The motion is also mentioning the
500m buffer zone in the joint mineral and waste plan for North Yorkshire and I
want to publicly issue a well-deserved thank you to Cllr Waller for his support
he has thrown behind this proposal. I remember when I first brought up a buffer
zone at the local plan working group I was still rebuffed by officers that it
would be legally impossible. Even if we are a bit short of the original
one-mile proposal, together with the all the residents who signed my petition,
we managed to get an agreement on firstly 400m and later 500m. Without Cllr
Waller keeping it in play and keeping an eye on the legal justification at
meetings that no Green Councillor could have reached yet, we would not have
been as successful.

Why is it important for the Council
to lobby against our government’s fracking proposals?

The recent plans to changes in
national planning legislation clearly show that this government is willing to
ride roughshod over local residents and their representatives in the pursuit of
environmentally-destructive fracking. This is not the promised devolution of
power to the people this is just anti-democratic. It’s shameful enough that the
Government, in a bid to fast-track, fracking have already done this in places
such as Lancashire. But now the Government is making a total sham of any
pretence of localism.

The Government’s claim that: ‘there
are potentially substantial benefits from the safe and sustainable exploration
and development of our onshore shale gas resources’ needs challenging. We have
all our own reasons for doing that like climate change, air quality,
industrialisation of the countryside, diversion of resources away from
renewable etc. etc. 

Just last week, climate scientists
from across the globe pleaded with world leaders to take unprecedented action
to divest from fossil fuels and decarbonise their economies to avert the very
worst effects of a climate breakdown that is already in progress. 

Therefore also Councils must act
because Britain under this government is a genuinely terrifying place. The
ignorance of evidence and the pursuit of climate-destructive policies at any
cost imperils any future we hope to build for the generations to come. 

The Government is planning to use
Secondary legislation to get the new planning proposal through. As well as
asking Rachel Maskell and Julian Sturdy to object, I would also ask them to
call for a proper Parliamentary vote on these important proposed.

Otherwise, this means if MPs won’t
get a vote and as the government wants to stop local councillors having a vote
on development – it’s a double whammy for democracy.

I would urge you to support this
motion, not for the residents in the city centre, as nobody expects a drilling
site in the Minster gardens anytime soon, but for the people, communities and
the countryside in villages that fall in the licensed areas in Yorks Green

Please protect people, communities
and the countryside in and around our villages.

Please support this motion.

(Which are Askham Bryan, Askham
Richard, Bishopthorpe, Clifton Without, Copmanthorpe, Dunnington, Earswick,
Haxby, Heslington, Hessay, Heworth Without, Holtby, Huntington, Kexby, Murton,
Nether Poppleton, New Earswick, Osbaldwick, Rawcliffe, Rufforth with Knapton, Skelton,
Stockton-on-the-Forest, Strensall with Towthorpe, Upper Poppleton, Wigginton
and all the farms and hamlets that do not fit in three minutes.)

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