Darren Bisby-Boyd: We must put people first, not fracking

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The Green Party has labelled government plans to ‘fast-track’ fracking in the UK as “reckless”. The proposed plans would see test drilling go ahead without the need to consult with local residents.

Fracking remains a controversial subject amongst many communities, there has been strong research conducted in Australia and the USA to link fracking to water contamination, methane leaks, environmental degradation and negative impacts on human health. Those that support fracking in the UK argue that with stringent measures in place the method will be safe and can act as a bridge between fossil fuels and renewables. I could not disagree more with the previous statement.

But the current Conservative government has supported fracking, with Prime Minister David Cameron backing a House of Lords report urging the UK to “go all out for shale”.

Despite all of this, Lancashire residents won a historic victory in stopping shale gas licences being sanctioned by the Lancashire County Council. However, David Cameron’s Ministers last week introduced new planning guidance to speed up the planning process and make it easier for Government to overrule or bypass local councils who obstruct the process.

Some 53 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and three RSPB nature reserves are among the 27 licences that have been awarded and the RSPB have said “the Government has refused to ban fracking in these areas, saying it would be “impractical and put some of our most precious wildlife sites under threat. Species such as kingfisher, bittern and goldeneye could be put at risk in these special places and should be protected from the Government’s fracking plans,”

Friends of the Earth, have said: “Opening up huge swathes of England to a fracking blitz will only provoke more anger and controversy, because wherever fracking has been proposed, it has been opposed by local people. The Government’s own report into the rural economy impacts of fracking highlights a myriad of concerns, including a drop in house prices, impacts on tourism, and increased noise and traffic congestion - not to mention local environment and climate risks.”

These plans are evidence that the government is prioritising corporations rather than people.

These proposals would see the government endanger our environment and disregard the people who would be affected. Going ahead with fracking will always have its dangers, but to begin drilling without a proper environmental audit is simply reckless, and shows what little regard ministers have for the natural environment of this country. The government knows full well the level of opposition to fracking in the UK. Its refusal to listen to the public shows where its priorities lie – squarely with corporations, rather than people.”

This week the Government announced the 14th round of fracking licences, granting 27 new oil and gas exploration licences covering around 1,000 square miles. The handing out of fracking licences up and down the country today is shocking. Going all out for fracking is short-sighted and is a big distraction from the new era of clean renewable energy that scientists are urging us to move into. This is yet another move in the wrong direction for UK energy policy away from climate security and in favour of self-serving unproven technology.

However, the ultimate question for our city will be, is Peterborough’s Conservative-led City Council and Peterborough’s MP Stewart Jackson prepared to stand up for residents against fracking? Or will they 
endorse licences for Shale Gas to happen in our city when it has ambitions to be the UK’s Environmental Capital.