For many years elected councils have managed planning applications using local knowledge, whilst learning about new risks, under the public gaze.
Of course we all understand the need for change but expect to see risks assessed transparently, before any operations commence.
So it is of concern that Government has moved towards more centralised control, by conferring powers to the un-elected Planning Inspectorate.
Indeed, it now seems that fracking exploration may have been started in some cases, without full consultation, leaving many in fear of the unknown and ‘Localism’ is surely now beyond resuscitation.
Apart from despoiling areas of outstanding natural beauty and increasing local traffic, the principal risks appear to be i) contamination of water, ii) minor earthquakes and iii) release of gas, mainly methane.
Also, it seems that the process consumes substantial volumes of water, a commodity that is already somewhat limited in some areas and it is not clear how the used (contaminated) water will be disposed of safely. We might have expected to see pilot schemes in areas of low population density with minimal visual impact, against robust legislation, codes of practice and a full impact assessment, but that has not been too evident.
Needless to say, the process needs to be pursued in a measured way, so that lessons can be learned and impacts fully understood, whereas the Government appears once again to be pushing ahead, without due concern for the public disquiet that it has caused.
The exploration company would hardly have started test drilling, without some assurance that they could then move on to Fracking. Are we really expected to believe that WSCC might withhold approval as a result of consultation, if exploratory operations at Balcombe prove successful?
In 2011, the Government promised to put elected local councillors back in charge, accountable to local people via the ballot box & they will know what to do, if the consultation process proves to be meaningless.
(UKIP)Horsham district councillor for Chanctonbury ward, North Street, Horsham