Councillors vote for Government not to determine fracking bids

Cllr Tom Leimdorfer (left) and Richard Lawson (right).

Cllr Tom Leimdorfer (left) and Richard Lawson (right). - Credit: Archant

Future bids for fracking to take place across North Somerset should be decided by the authority and not the Government, according to councillors.

Cllr Tom Leimdorfer proposed a motion at a North Somerset Council meeting on Tuesday stating shale gas development of any type should not be classed as a permitted development.

Central Government has been carrying out consultation on whether to make non-hydraulic fracking, which is the exploratory drilling process, a permitted development and therefore not subject to the normal planning process.

Councillors overwhelmingly agreed to oppose any proposal for shale exploration to be allowed to bypass the authority’s planning system through permitted development.

Cllr Leimdorfer said: “This is not about the pros and cons of fracking, it is about how decisions are made in a democratic society.

“Given its contentious nature, local communities should be able to have a say in whether this type of development takes place.

“Areas ranging from Brean to Pill will be affected by this and it should be up to our communities to decide whether or not to host fracking operations in their areas.”

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The Government is responsible for issuing petroleum exploration and development licences (PEDLs) blocks and two of these fall within North Somerset’s boundaries from Clevedon to Brean.

Fracking has already taken place in Lancashire and was linked with causing an earthquake in October.

Frack Free North Somerset carried out a survey in Hutton, which could be affected as company Infinity Energy holds PEDLs across the Somerset coast.

Of the 181 people who responded, 87 per cent were opposed to fracking in the parish, nine per cent were undecided while only four per cent were in favour.

The group’s chairman Richard Lawson said: “Our survey shows clearly there is no social licence whatsoever to frack in the parish of Hutton.

“If and when any application comes before North Somerset Council, it should consider the wishes and well-being of people and its statutory responsibilities to play its part in avoiding climate change.”