Fracking 'industrialisation of countryside', says former Tory MP

A Tory former minister has branded fracking “industrialisation of our countryside” as he raised concerns over the environmental impact of shale gas extraction.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) called on fracking to be “treated in the same way” in the planning system as “any other industrial development in open countryside” would be.

His comments came as the Labour chairman of the housing, communities and local government committee Clive Betts reminded ministers the consultation on permitted development rights for exploration closed in October last year.

He called on ministers to consider withdrawing those proposals and “instead giving greater powers to communities to decide with they want fracking in their areas”.

Speaking during Commons housing, communities and local government questions, Mr Percy said: “I hope there won’t be any changes that will make it easier for fracking to be permitted through the planning system.

“Like many of constituents I am deeply concerned about some of the associated impacts on the environment that come with fracking so can he assure my constituents that industrialisation of our countryside, which is what fracking is, will be treated in the same way in the planning system as any other industrial development in open countryside would be.”

Housing Minister Kit Malthouse replied: “He has been a persistent advocate for his constituents on this issue and as he knows alongside the consultation on permitted development rights for exploration, we also consulted on pre-application consultation steps that might have to be taken should an application proceed.

“Both of those matters are under consideration by colleagues that we’ll be able to issue a response to them shortly.”

Mr Betts added: “I just remind the minister, the consultation he refers to closed last October and 12 months ago the select committee did a report opposing permitted development rights and opposing transferring part of the fracking regime to the national infrastructure regime.

“Could I say to the minister, given the amount of opposition on his own side as well as this side and in local communities, is he now considering withdrawing those proposals and instead giving greater powers to communities to decide with they want fracking in their areas?”

Mr Malthouse replied: “(He) is quite right to point out the timescale in which these measures have been under consideration and I’ll certainly pass his concerns onto colleagues at the department for business.”

For Labour, shadow planning minister Roberta Blackman-Woods added: “Could the minister confirm today that the Government will not proceed to use permitted development for fracking, will not dilute regulations covering seismic activity – as requested by Cuadrilla again today – and will accept fracking is environmentally unsound and invest more in renewable energy sources instead?”

Mr Malthouse said the consultation was linked to exploration in advance of a full application being made for fracking, adding the consultation is “under consideration by colleagues”.

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