County Hall says Norfolk fracking decisions must rest with them

Liberal Democrat Tim East is calling for control over Norfolk's fracking decisions

Liberal Democrat Tim East is calling for control over Norfolk's fracking decisions - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

County councillors are to tell the government they want control over any fracking in Norfolk to rest with them, not with Whitehall.

The government has been consulting over plans which would fast-track decisions over exploratory drilling and extraction of shale gas.

Hydraulic fracking involves drilling into the ground before pumping in a mixture of water and chemicals at high pressures to break rocks and release the shale gas trapped inside.

But the process has come under fire from communities and environmental campaigners across England amid fears that it could lead to the contamination of ground water or spark seismic tremors.

But the government sees potential for the process to create new jobs and secure the UK's future energy supply.

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They are consulting over allowing exploratory drilling under permitted development, which would mean companies would not need to secure planning permission before starting those tests.

They would still need to get permission for the fracking itself.

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But, the government is also looking at putting shale gas development on its list of nationally-significant infrastructure projects.

That would see applications go straight to the government, with councils not having a final say on the granting of permission.

And members of Norfolk County Council's environment, development and transport committee today agreed to tell the government they want control to stay with them.

Liberal Democrat Tim East said: 'It's important that we retain control, particularly over contentious and controversial issues, such as fracking.

'What this government is proposing is permitted development rights and want to take us out of the loop.

'I think it's absolutely important for local democracy that we have the say and not central government.'

The council had convened a working group to look into where fracking might happen in Norfolk - which concluded only a small area in the west might potentially yield applications.

Independent councillor Mick Castle said: 'We need to remember that Norfolk is not a site for shale gas extraction.'

But he added it was already happening 'big time in the North Sea'.

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