Fracking: 'If you can't get in the front door, just go around to the back'

Posted by kcumming — 19 December 2013 at 1:27pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Steve Morgan/ Greenpeace

Yesterday, late afternoon, the government quietly announced it is changing planning rules to allow companies to frack under people’s homes without telling them.

The companies want to drill horizontally under private property (sometimes up to two miles from an initial well site) because England is so densely populated. They need to go down and then across if they are to extract shale gas at scale, firing toxic chemicals and water at high pressure into rock. Yesterday, planning minister Nick Boles said it was simply too burdensome for fracking firms to have to notify every landowner of their plans.

This attempt to circumvent people’s property rights is a deeply cynical and underhanded move by the government; especially coming less than 48 hours after energy minister Michael Fallon announced plans to open two-thirds of the country up to fracking.

But people shouldn’t lose hope. There is a big difference between planning laws, which the government is changing, and common law, under which drilling is unlawful under people’s homes without their consent. If you own a house or land, the rights extend right down to the centre of the earth. If you say no to fracking companies and they go ahead anyway, it’s trespass.

That’s what our fracking legal block is about. Launched in October, the block is now 22,000 people strong - nearly 2,000 people have joined it in the last two days alone, since the government revealed the extent of its fracking plans. Many of these people will go to court if necessary to defend their property rights. In some areas, such as Fernhurst in West Sussex, the companies are in real trouble. We effectively have them surrounded.

Everyone's favourite oil baron JR Ewing once said: "If you can't get in the front door, just go around to the back." And that is exactly what the government is trying to do with these changes to planning laws. But communities are switched on to where drilling is planned locally and they do not want it going on under their land. Who would? The energy minister himself would not answer the question on Tuesday as to whether he’d want it under his home.

One of the landowners affected by the drilling plans in Fernhurst recently described the government’s behaviour over fracking as "almost Stanlinesque".  But my bet is this - communities are not going to stand by and allow multinational drilling companies to exploit them like this. The government has a massive fracking fight on its hands.

If you haven’t already, tell your family and friends to sign their homes up to the legal block. Tell them they have the right to say no.

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