COUNCILLORS from across the country – including Portsmouth City Council – have signed an open letter opposing ‘anti-democratic’ government fracking proposals.
A staggering 851 councillors, including members from all major political parties, are lobbying for the withdrawal of proposals that exploratory drilling for shale gas should be granted planning permission through a permitted development right.
As it stands it would mean fracking companies would not need to apply for planning permission from the local authority.
Thirteen councillors from Portsmouth, including leader of the council Gerald Vernon-Jackson, have put their names to the letter.
The move has angered those in local authorities who believe allowing fracking under permitted development is against regulations with it originally designed to facilitate minor structural changes to homes such as extensions and putting up sheds.
The government consultation closed in October – prompting hundreds of councillors to express concerns that the proposals risk industrialising the countryside, as well as being undemocratic.
The letter has been sent to the Secretaries of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, as well as the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It has also been signed by MPs, parish councillors and London Assembly Members
In total, 40 councils have also formally opposed the government's plans, while more than 20 Conservative MPs have threatened to rebel against the government over these proposals.
Ben Bradley, Conservative MP for Mansfield, said: ‘It's vital that residents can have a say in the development of their communities, and particularly regarding fracking where there is simply not the public trust at this time to justify driving through decisions without consultation.’
Tim Hall, Conservative councillor and chairman of the planning and regulatory committee, Surrey County Council, said: ‘The current planning framework works reasonably, the centralisation of planning is anti-democratic and will lead to more problems with controversial sites in areas of outstanding natural beauty or other protected sites.’
Tytus Murphy, campaigner for 350.org, which fights climate change, said: ‘Councillors are up in arms at these proposals and the widespread support from members from all different political parties across the country shows the strength of feeling there is about these proposals.
‘With this level of support we can apply pressure on the government. With this overwhelming support from councillors and those in power I’m very confident we can stamp out fracking.’