Rudd warns councils to speed up fracking decisions
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd has announced the Government will be writing to local councils to urge them to speed up planning decisions on fracking.
Writing in a blog for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Rudd said the current system which sees applications “dragged out for months, or even years on end” could spell the end of a “potentially vital national industry”.
She added: “The Government will be writing to planning authorities this week to make clear that there is a national need to explore shale in a safe, sustainable and timely way to help meet our objectives for secure energy supplies, economic growth and lower carbon emissions.
In June, Lancashire Council refused two planning applications from shale developers Cuadrilla. The original decision was due in January, but the council postponed it after Cuadrilla requested more time to consult on 'noise and traffic concerns’.
In her blog, Rudd also claimed that shale could create over 60,000 new jobs in the UK and generate billions of pounds for the economy.
Addressing concerns that shale gas would slow down a transition to renewable energy, Rudd said: “Natural gas meets a third of our energy demand and we will need it for many years to come, even as we decarbonise. The choice is not gas or no gas.
“The choice is how much we rely on gas from abroad or whether we extract more in the UK. Having a choice of where we get our energy, including producing our own at home wherever we can, is the best way to make sure we’re secure.”
The announcement comes the week before DECC will reveal the winners in an auction for dozens of shale gas exploration blocks.
It also comes the week after a Government survey revealed that just 21% of Britons support fracking, leading environmental groups to frame Rudd’s column as wilfully ignorant of public opinion.
Friends of the Earth senior energy campaigner Donna Hume said: “Bulldozing fracking applications through the planning system, against the wishes of local people and councils, will simply fan the flames of mistrust and opposition.
“It’s no wonder fracking’s unpopular when even the frackers admit that it won’t cut energy prices. It also threatens house prices and the environment of local communities and will cause more climate change.
“Rather than riding roughshod over local democracy to suit the interests of dirty industry, ministers should champion real solutions to the energy challenges we face, such as the boosting the UK’s huge renewable power potential and cutting energy waste.”