Government set for clash with local authorities as Andy Burnham blocks fracking

Posted On: 
5th January 2019

The Government is set for a showdown with local councils over fracking after one of the country's biggest combined authorities outlined proposals to ban it.

Campaigners protest against fracking.
PA Images

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said that the 10 local authorities that make-up his region will implement planning measures introducing a "presumption" against the controversial practice, as part of a plan to make the area carbon neutral by 2038.

Mr Burnham told the Guardian the move was "about embracing the future, not the past." 

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"Cities like Greater Manchester need to join the group of leading cities on the world stage that are driving fast towards carbon neutrality," he said. "That is a big challenge and it must be embraced wholeheartedly, and it means a full commitment to renewable energy and not half measures, and not clinging on to processes that hark back to a past.”

Critics claim fracking causes earthquakes and can pollute water supplies, but supporters insist the technology is safe and can lower household bills while making the UK less reliant on imported gas.

Tom Fyans from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) told The Guardian that Greater Manchester's decision "is symbolic of the growing opposition to the Government’s plans to fast-track fracking, which look to override local democracy by disregarding the wishes of local communities and deny those very people the opportunity to have their say on decisions that will ultimately affect them and the health of their countryside".

London is also set to finalise a similar scheme to Greater Manchester, throwing ministers' plans for the expansion of fracking for shale gas into further doubt.

Other local authorities, such as Leeds, Wakefield, Hull and York have also made their opposition to the practice known. Derby, Dorset and Nottinghamshire, local authorities run by the Conservatives, are reportedly strongly against proposals to change planning laws to allow firms to drill test sites without the need for planning permission. Scotland and Wales already have imposed a moratorium on fracking. 

Tony Bosworth of Friends of the Earth said the clash with local councils, including those run by the Conservatives, was "not surprising."

"In order to deal with the climate crisis, we need to be moving away from fossil fuels, not making it easier for companies to dig up more,” he added.