Last week, four councils criticised government powers to override local decision-making on fracking applications.
Trafford went the furthest in reaffirming its opposition to fracking until it was proved to be safe. It agreed to ask the government to reconsider an exploration licence, issued last year to INEOS.
Chorley also agreed to write to the government, this time outlining its wish to see planning decisions on shale gas taken locally.
In Bolton, the cabinet member for environment approved a report which recommended no exploratory drilling for shale gas on its land.
And at Isle of Wight, councillors agreed to ask fracking companies to enter into a planning performance agreement. They also said it was inappropriate for a government minister to decide fracking appeals.
A senior member of Labour-led Bolton Council has approved a report which recommends the authority will not allow exploratory drilling for future fracking on land it owns or controls.
The decision follows the submission of a petition signed by 2,500 people which called on the council to confirm its stance against fracking as a landowner and planning authority.
Last October, Bolton Council voted to oppose fracking on its land.
The Cabinet member for the environment, Nick Peel, said on Friday (22nd January 2016):
“We don’t feel there is enough information to address the number of concerns that people have”
He approved a report which said:
The authority would not allowed exploratory drilling or infrastructure associated with fracking on land it controlled or owned.
As a planning authority, the council would “rigorously scrutinise” any planning applications for fracking.
The council also criticised Government powers to make the final decision on fracking appeals and to intervene in planning applications.
Darren Tickle, of Bolton Against Fracking, said:
“It is very pleasing to have Bolton Council with us and we have regular liaison meetings with them on this issue.”
Bolton is a mineral planning authority and will make decisions on shale gas applications.
Members of the Labour-led Chorley Council voted unanimously to look into the effects of fracking in the borough. They also agreed to urge the government to allow decisions on fracking to be made locally.
The council debated the issue on Tuesday (19th January 2016) after receiving a petition with 3,155 signatures. This called on the council to:
Refuse any applications for exploratory drilling or fracking on land it owned or controlled
Ensure applications to carry out fracking were subjected to vigorous scrutiny about effects on landscape, water and air quality
Oppose government attempts to override local decision-making of fracking applications.
The meeting did not approve the first demand but accepted the second and third.
The council leader, Alistair Bradley, said:
“It was great to see residents coming to us with an issue because this is what local democracy is all about. We listened very carefully to what people had to say and there were two main points to come out of the debate.
“Firstly, that any application for fracking operations is subject to vigorous scrutiny with regards to the possible effects on landscape, water and air quality.
“Secondly, that all decisions are taken at a local level so residents and businesses can have a proper input and influence the decision.”
Cllr Bradley added:
“As a council we feel very strongly about local residents influencing what happens in their own area”.
“People will have differing opinions on whether they think fracking is a good thing or not but one thing everyone agreed on is the need for decisions to be taken by people who are locally-elected and know the area.”
“We will be writing to the Secretary of State to outline our concerns and we look forward to receiving a positive response.”
Chorley Council is not a mineral planning authority. Decisions on shale gas applications would be taken by Lancashire County Council.
Isle of Wight
Independent-led Isle of Wight Council voted on Wednesday (20th January 2016) to request fracking companies enter into a planning performance agreement. This might include a contract which would waive statutory time limits for deciding an application. The council said this would help to ensure applications were considered fully.
A motion approved by 22 votes to three, with five abstentions, also called for applications to be decided by the council’s planning committee, not by officers.
In the event of an appeal, the council voted that this should be heard by a body that had not “predetermined any issues” on the application.
The motion had been proposed by Cllr John Medland. He said:
“The government has clearly established a bias. The Prime Minister has declare ‘we’re going all out for shale’. The Secretary of State is a member of a cabinet with a clear policy in favour of fracking. It is inappropriate for him to determine appeals.”
Isle of Wight is a minerals planning authority and has the powers to determine applications for fracking. Last year the council decided against declaring itself ‘anti fracking’ because it could not be seen to prejudge future planning applications.
Link to the motion (see 9b on the agenda)
Live reporting of the meeting from OnTheWight (spool down to about 9pm)
Conservative-controlled Trafford Council voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday (20th January 2016) to reaffirm its opposition to fracking until the technique is proved to be safe.
A motion submitted by the Labour group condemned the award of an exploration licence block in south Trafford to INEOS.
It also called on the council to write to the Energy Secretary and Oil and Gas Authority asking for the licence decision to be reconsidered.
Minor changes to the wording, put forward by the Conservative council leader, Sean Anstee, were approved by 57 of the 60-member council. Three councillors did not vote.
Trafford is a minerals planning authority and will make decisions on shale gas applications.
In November 2014, the council voted unanimously to oppose fracking until it could be proved to be safe and Cllr Anstee said that remained the policy of the council.
More details in DrillOrDrop report