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Article date - 29 October 2018
St Helens Council has objected to Government plans to allow certain types of shale gas exploration to take place without applying to councils for planning permission.
In July this year, local authorities across the country were invited to take part in a Government consultation which set out whether non-hydraulic fracturing shale gas exploration development should be made a ‘permitted development right’, meaning applications from companies to frack would not need to be granted by the local planning authority.
The consultation document proposes that the permitted development right would apply to: 'boring for natural gas in shale or other strata encased in shale for the purposes of searching for natural gas and associated liquids.'
In its response to the consultation, St Helens Council argued that while the exercise only involves exploration for shale gas, it is of significant interest to the public given what it may lead to should viable extraction be possible in the future.
Councillor Andy Bowden, St Helens Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Balanced Development, Housing, and Economic Development, said:
“While the chances of fracking happening in St Helens are fairly slim given that it is a former mining borough, we were quick to dismiss this proposal when given the opportunity to have our say.
“Not only because we as are completely opposed to any form of fracking – but because the idea of essentially fast-tracking this controversial process without planning permission undermines local democracy and accountability.
“We’ve seen recently the consequences fracking can have on the environment when it led to seismic activity not too far away from us in Preston, so for it to be suggested that applications be passed through without reference to the local planning authority or elected members as representatives of the community is not acceptable.”