At last nights Bridgwater Town Council meeting members voted to raise the stakes in the war against ‘Fracking’ and voted to challenge new proposed legislation that reduces community influence in planning decisions relating to the controversial topic. In 2017 Bridgwater Town Council became the first Town in Somerset to declare itself a Frack-Free Zone.
Town Council Leader, Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour,Westover) said “The government is proposing massive changes to planning rules that could give the fracking industry a green light to cover swathes of the country in drills. If these changes went ahead, fracking companies could start drilling across the country without local planning applications, threatening communities and the climate in the process.This flies in the face of local democracy and threatens to slash community involvement in decision-making. We can’t allow fracking to be forced on communities, and our countryside to be turned into a gasfield. Bridgwater Town Council has declared itself a Frack Free Zone, we need to now join the national ‘Let Communities Decides’ campaign and support this motion.”
Seconded by Cllr Graham Granter (Labour, Fairfax) the proposal ran as follows.
Bridgwater Town Council notes: That in May this year Ministers outlined a proposal in a Written Ministerial Statement to redefine non-hydraulic fracturing shale gas exploration applications as permitted development and to redefine large scale shale gas production sites as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, thus removing any local authority control and community involvement in decision-making.
That the Government consultation on these proposals began during the middle of July 2018.
That on 5 July 2018, a report by the cross-party Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee warned the Government against its proposal to bring fracking applications under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime, concluding that Mineral Planning Authorities were best placed to understand the local area and how fracking could best take place.
That the above report said the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime was unlikely to speed up the application process for fracking.
Bridgwater Town Council is committed to the principles of localism and the involvement of local communities in decisions that affect their environment, their health and safety and their well-being.
Bridgwater Town Council believes: That moving decisions about fracking, which have huge implications for local communities, to a national level would contradict the principles of localism.
That ‘Permitted Development’ – the category of planning that the government wants to move Shale gas exploration drilling into – which was designed for developments with low environmental impacts, is an inappropriate category for drilling with such wide-reaching implications for local communities and climate change.
That bringing fracking applications under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime will be harmful to local communities.
That local authorities are best placed to continue to make decisions throughout the planning process for shale gas exploration drilling, appraisal and production.
Bridgwater Town Council resolves:
To respond to the forthcoming government consultation with the above views.
To share this response with Somerset’s MPs and relevant government ministers.