Shale gas changes a ‘disgrace’, says senior county councillor

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A senior county councillor described proposals to remove shale gas fracking decisions from councils as a “disgrace” and said they should be made by local authorities.

Councillor Colin Davie, executive member for economy, called on the government to rethink its plan which was presented in a consultation with councils.

Members of Lincolnshire County Council’s Environment and Economic Scrutiny Panel voted to reject the measures which would see shale gas planning decisions made at a national level.

It comes as ministers have proposed giving permitted development rights for shale gas exploration across the UK.

It would mean that no formal planning application would need to be submitted to a local authority.

The government is carrying out a consultation with local authorities across the country on the proposal.

It wants to make the decision making process for the exploration stage of developments quicker.

Exploring for gas means operators would drill a well at a site and test for energy before carrying out further drilling.

The process of extracting the shale gas requires the use of a technique called ‘hydraulic fracturing’ which has been described as ‘unconventional’.

But, Councillor Davie said that decisions on the developments should be kept at a local level and that making them in London is the “wrong way forward”.

“I’ve been clear that as a council we are not opposed to shale gas on a blanket basis,” he said.

“What we are saying is that when the environmental safeguards are met, it should be for local councils in consultation with local communities to take that decision.

“We do not want it removed to Westminster to some minister or secretary to sign off on extraction somewhere in Lincolnshire when it has not gone through the proper process.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Eddie Poll, executive member for commercial and environment, said that the current planning system protects people from such developments.

“The idea that you can just go around anywhere drilling holes looking for stuff is ridiculous,” he said.

“The thing that keeps us safe from inappropriate developments is the planning system.”

One of the potential areas for shale gas drilling is the ‘Gainsborough Trough’ in the north west of the county.

But councillors have said that decisions should be made the same way as oil and gas developments and kept at a local authority level.