The future of fracking in Lancashire has been taken out of the hands of the people and into those of the government. Now, the licences in Lancashire no longer just represent a threat to the environment, but an infringement on democracy.
After the attacks on Paris last week, the platforms for demonstrating opinion on climate change, action and justice are gradually being removed from the negotiations of COP21. With the cancellations of the Climate March in Paris and mobilising in groups of more than two people being made illegal, the civil society voice at COP is gradually diminishing. Peaceful demonstrations and mobilisations have always been a key part of the process. The outside spaces of COP are a space for those most affected by Climate Change to be better represented and more visible than within the conference centre.
In June of this year, it was the amazing efforts of local communities and NGOs on demonstrating public opinion that meant that the first fracking proposals in the UK were rejected by Lancashire County Council. The 4 year campaign brought together young people, grandparents and even Bez of happy Mondays fame, together to fight for community rights to clean energy, public health, and unadulterated water sources on their doorsteps. It was a triumph of the people and sent a clear message to the government and fracking company Cuadrilla.
After the victory in Lancashire, the government retaliated immediately with new legislation. Just a few weeks later, the Lancashire county council were dubbed ‘spineless nobodies’ in some particularly unbiased media and the government announced new rules to dictate that councils must decide on fracking bids within 16 weeks of being submitted. If the council fails to do so, the decision is removed from their power and any future applications will be taken over their heads. This fast tracking process means that councils, local communities and their youth are being excluded from the decision making process and sneaky underhanded moves are being played to make sure that the next round of applications will get passed. Councils are being backed into corners to make a decision as quickly as possible before any local resistance can be formed or they can gather enough information to form an opposition.
Cuadrilla appealed the Lancashire decision and a hearing was due to take place in February 2016 to decide the outcome. Now, on the eve of the most important Climate Meeting in history, the UK government has decided to ignore that message from the people, take the power out of the hands of the planning inspector, and will be making its own decision on the future of UK energy.
This most recent step in from the government is under the guise of the decision amounting “to proposals for development of major importance having more than local significance and proposals which raise important or novel issues of development control, and/or legal difficulties”. This statement completely undermines the local impact and significance that fracking in Lancashire would have on the local people, as well as contributing to a continuous false narrative that fracking is an important method for the future of an energy secure future or combating climate change.
But this step in isn’t just an issue of the negative impacts of fracking on either a local, national or international level. There is enough information on the impacts on the environmental, health and water sources to shut down anyone who argues the centrality of shale to the British economy. Unfortunately, the government are in a financial bed with fracking companies and are not ready to listen. This is where the real issue lies. Fracking is not just an issue of the environment, of energy or of land rights, it is now an issue of democracy.
People have a fundamental right to be involved in the decisions that are being made and shaping the future of energy and the economy in our local areas. The people of Lancashire fought for years to demonstrate their opposition to fracking in their home, and across the UK in Ryedale and beyond, hundreds more groups are mobilising to protect their land and families from the impacts of fracking.
We’re here at the eleventh Conference of Youth today to connect with other young people and ensure that there are more platforms for youth voices inside the COP negotiations. In the UK, we are lucky to have the right to demonstrate, to protest and to freedom of speech to communicate out messages with the government. The people of Lancashire used these rights to oppose the Cuadrilla applications. Their council listened and respected their views. We want to make sure that their efforts, and voices are not lost. This action taken by the government is an affront to British democracy and sets a dangerous precedent which threatens the authority of regional and local government and the rights of the public. At UKYCC, we are urging Greg Clark and David Cameron not to overturn the Lancashire decision, not only because of the catastrophic impacts fracking would have on climate change, but as a simply issue of democracy. The people of Lancashire, and of the UK, have already spoken and we want those decisions to stand. So please, Greg and Dave, don’t frack with democracy.
If you think David Cameron and Greg Clark should listen to the people of Lancashire tweet them #Dontfrackdemocracy to @Gregclarkmp and @David_Cameron
You can also sign the Friends of the Earth petition to ask Cameron not to overturn the decision: https://www.foe.co.uk/act/dont-let-government-overturn-lancashires-fracking-win