A HAMPSHIRE county councillor has publicly opposed government proposals to allow fracking companies to undertake exploratory drilling without local planning applications.

Councillor Alan Dowden joins 805 fellow politicians by signing an open letter calling for the withdrawal of proposals that treat exploratory drilling by fracking companies as ‘permitted development’, and to respect the rights of communities to make decisions on shale gas activities through the local planning system.

As reported, the government is proposing that exploratory drilling for shale gas should be granted planning permission through a permitted development right. This right means fracking companies don’t need to apply for planning permission from the local authority. Permitted development is a category of planning originally designed to facilitate minor structural changes to homes such as extensions and putting up sheds.

Cllr Dowden said: “I believe it is essential that local people should have the final say over exploratory drilling by fracking companies in our community.

“These proposals are an affront to local democracy and risk industrialising large sections of countryside with a hugely unpopular industry that brings noise, pollution and community division. We shouldn’t be changing the planning system to facilitate fracking, but instead supporting climate and community friendly energy sources.”

The government consultation closed on October 25th and has prompted hundreds of Councillors to express concern. The letter – sent to the Secretaries of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, James Brokenshire MP and Greg Clark MP – has also been signed by MPs, Parish Councillors, and London Assembly Members.

Around 40 Councils have also formally opposed the government’s plans, including the Conservative controlled Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Kent County Councils. More than 20 Conservative MPs have threatened to rebel against the government over these proposals

Cllr Dowden added: “These proposals represent a desperate attempt to force a failing industry onto communities. Local people understand the risks posed by fracking to their community, countryside and the climate, and must be able to influence the planning process to express these concerns. The Government must listen to the growing concerns from locals, Councillors and MPs and immediately drop these undemocratic and reckless proposals.”