Council leader on fracking decision rights

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News

Wakefield Council leader Peter Box has defended the right of local authorities to decide fracking applications in their areas.

Coun Box argued that government ministers would create a “democratic deficit” if they step in to take planning decisions over fracking out of local hands.

The government has told councils that ministers will intervene where local authorities are suspected of prolonging decisions on fracking applications.

Local government Secretary Greg Clark has already said he will decide the outcome of an appeal which an energy firm, Cuadrilla, is mounting against Lancashire County Council’s refusal to allow it to frack at two sites on the Fylde coast.

Fracking is a controversial mining method that sees sand, water and chemicals pumped at high pressure into underground rock formations to release trapped gas.

Coun Box will next week ask fellow Wakefield councillors to back a motion calling on the government to withdraw licences allowing energy firms to search for gas which could be extracted via fracking and to remove the threat of ministerial intervention.

He said: “I want to give all elected members an opportunity to express their own views on fracking and those of residents.

“I think there are grave concerns about a technology that is not yet proved.

“There will be particular concerns about the right of local authorities to assess these applications which could be taken away.

“There is a real danger of a democratic deficit being created which I don’t think is right.”

Members of Wakefield Council’s planning committee will not take part in the debate to ensure they cannot be accused of pre-judging any applications submitted to the authority.