Protest in Norwich over government’s fracking move

A rally against fracking was held in Norwich's Haymarket. Pic: Dan Grimmer

A rally against fracking was held in Norwich's Haymarket. Pic: Dan Grimmer - Credit: Archant

Activists held a rally in Norwich to protest against government moves they say would undermine local democracy over fracking.

The government has been consulting over plans which would allow exploratory drilling under permitted development. Companies would not need to secure planning permission before starting those tests.

The government is also looking at putting shale gas development on its list of nationally-significant infrastructure projects, so applications would go straight to the government, with councils not having final say.

And Norfolk Against Fracking held a rally in the Haymarket on Saturday, with speakers such as Norwich South MP Clive Lewis.

Dr Hayley Pinto, chair of Climate Hope Action In Norfolk, said: 'The government's changes to planning laws threaten to slash communities' democratic rights by taking decisions about fracking out of the hands of local councils and giving free rein to companies.

'The public have clearly said they do not want fracking and the government must listen to them, not cosy-up to fracking companies causing climate chaos.'

Chris Keene. from Norfolk Against Fracking said: 'As the United Nations has just issued its direst warning yet about climate change and heatwaves and extreme weather are ever-increasing, we need urgent action to switch away from fossil fuels like fracked gas towards renewables.'

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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.

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

Members of Norfolk County Council's environment, development and transport committee recently agreed to tell the government they want control over decisions 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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