Last week, I spoke in Parliament to condemn the Government’s efforts to bypass community opposition to fracking.
The Bowland shale gasfield, which is by far the most sizeable in the UK, is where the viability of fracking will live or die. It covers land from Lancaster in the north to Sheffield in the south and Whitby in the north-east. One well — just one — has been introduced to that basin, in the teeth of opposition, and even that has lain dormant for many months due to tremors.
The gasfield covers almost all the major metropolitan centres of the north of England: Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Derby, Sheffield, York and north Leeds. It is an absurdity that the Government think that a fracking basin that covers a population that runs into many millions is viable.
Rather than recognise those inherent flaws, which are caused by trying to impose an industry with a dubious environmental record on a highly populated sweep of land, the Government are considering bypassing local authorities entirely and removing the need for planning permission for fracking.
I do not support fracking for a number of reasons: health and safety; the potential for earth tremors; the likely pollution of the water table; the impact on local communities in terms of disruption and subsidence; the fact that the chemicals used are deleterious to our health.
Crucially, we also know that fracking contributes significantly to climate change and so, while all of the above means that fracking should absolutely not take place on an island as populated and as unconducive as ours, the evidence clearly shows that we should reject it outright.
Instead of paying any heed to any of this, the Government has sought to weaken planning legislation and the rights of communities to have their say. As concerned citizens have sought to raise their concerns, the Government has changed the law, has moved the goalposts, has empowered the wealthy and disenfranchised the many.
The next Labour Government will ban fracking, no ifs, no buts. But before we are elected, we need to fight against the Government’s brazen attacks on local democracy and their shameless stripping away of the rights of local people to protect their communities and their environment.