Fracking should not be forced through on the Fylde Coast without regard to the environment and tourism, despite plans announced by the Government yesterday to speed up the controversial process, a Blackpool MP has said.
The announcement in the Queen’s Speech in Parliament of an Infrastructure Bill, which will make it easier for companies hoping to extract natural gas by the hydraulic fracturing method, has been greeted with mixed views.
It is intended to remove a stumbling block for shale developers, such as Cuadrilla Resources, which is facing a “legal block” of thousands of people across the country denying them permission under trespass laws to drill under their properties .
Although details have yet to be released, it could see a change in the law so that companies would not need permission from home- owners to drill horizontally under houses and land for shale gas.
But Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said today that if fracking is to go ahead in the Blackpool and Fylde areas, regulations and monitoring must be tough.
He said: “The Government has been acting as cheer leaders for the fracking lobby, but what people want to see is strong reassurances that it is a safe process which will not damage the environment and people’s health and homes.
“Although we have yet to see the details, this change in the law could set a very big precedent. In Blackpool and the Fylde it is vital that this new industry is not detrimental to residents, the environment and our tourism industry.”
Friends of the Earth campaigner for the Fylde, Helen Rimmer, said: “Allowing fracking firms to drill under people’s homes without their permissions would send shock waves across the UK.
“Fracking has been hugely over-hyped. It threatens the local environment, maintains our dependency on climate-changing fossil fuels and experts say it is unlikely to lead to cheaper fuel bills. It’s no wonder local communities are increasingly opposing its development.
“This is rapidly turning into a politically toxic issue for the Government.”
However, a spokesman for Cuadrilla welcomed the move.
He said: “We welcome the announcement in the Queen’s Speech regarding the proposed changes to the Land Access legislation as it will align the onshore oil and gas industry with other types of sub-surface activity, such as coal mining, telecommunications cabling, pipelines carrying gas, water and electricity, which all have a legal basis for their sub-surface activities.
“This will reduce the uncertainty and potential delays in progressing onshore gas and oil exploration and extraction created by the existing Land Access law.
“We agree with both the Government’s assertion and recent case law that the landowners’ enjoyment of surface land is not impaired at all by this activity.”