Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance fears fracking will not be subject to normal planning process:
The Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance has expressed concern that Wiltshire fracking sites will not be subject to normal planning rules. New planning guidance forces local authorities to decide on whether to allow controversial fracking operations within 16 weeks. If they fail to approve them, government ministers have the right to intervene.
Last week the government announced that four large blocks in Wiltshire are to be licenced for fracking. ST84 - near Warminster, ST85 - in and around Trowbridge, ST94 - Salisbury Plain, and ST95 - south of Devizes.
Lesley Bennett, spokesperson for the WCEA said, ‘These changes dangerously undermine UK planning rules. The government has torn up its commitment to local democracy. Local councils can no longer adequately protect community health or the environment in this bizarre rush to impose fracking on the British people. Fracking has been banned in Germany and France, but in Britain we are to have fracking forced upon us.’
Fracking is common in the United States, but has proved difficult to safely regulate. It has now been banned in New York State because of the threat to public health. Underground pollution from methane, and from the carcinogenic chemicals used in the fracking process, is common. Methane leaks are also routinely recorded at the well head. Leaks typically pollute water sources and soil, affecting drinking water and farm land. An increase in cancer rates has also been reported in many areas identified with fracking.
The UK planning system has traditionally been independent and evidence-based. Clear, consistent rules help protect community health and landscape, and give a voice to local people. The new planning rules give fracking special treatment; a green light to frack regardless of local concerns. At the same time other rules have changed, making it much harder to put up wind turbines and create new solar energy projects.
Lesley Bennett said, ‘We are deeply worried that fracking is being imposed on Wiltshire’s beautiful and fragile countryside and its densely-populated towns and villages. Fracking is divisive and public support has slumped to just 32%. Renewables on the other hand are popular with over three quarters of the British public. Wiltshire is already a leading solar county, and is equally suitable for wind farms and biomass.’
Fracking also contributes to climate change. While natural gas produces lower carbon emissions than dirty coal, its methane emissions are high. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Evidence suggests that the overall climate impact of fracking is as just as bad as coal.
Lesley Bennett said, ‘The Wiltshire Clean Energy Alliance believes energy security is best delivered through a commitment to home-grown renewables, community-owned renewables, and investment in electricity storage. Fracking unnecessarily extends our reliance on fossil fuels, and diverts financial and political efforts to develop clean, renewable energy infrastructure in Britain.’
You can download the complete map of planned UK fracking sites here...