Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Frack Free North Somerset Submission to Select Committee on Local Government etc

Written Submission to the Select Committee on Communities and Local Government Inquiry
into Planning for Fracking from
Frack Free North Somerset

Submitted by Dr Richard Lawson on behalf of Frack-Free North Somerset

  1. Executive Summary
    1. We are satisfied with the guidance available to us and see no need for an update, apart from a drawing-together of sources into one place
    2. We are strongly supportive of the competence of local democratic institutions to consider this matter, and emphatically reject the idea that a corporate advisor should be embedded in the Local Authority to influence their decision-making
    3. We believe that local environmental conditions, particularly the proximity of the Mendip Hills with their complex and extensive cave systems, and the wetlands of the Somerset Levels, mean that the matter must definitely be left in the hands of the local authority.
    4. Since the impacts of fracking on environmental health (human and animal) would be borne by local people, the matter must be decided by local people.
    5. Our recommendation is that Government should invest in energy conservation, energy storage and biogas as a response to climate change and the coming shortfall in gas supplies
  1. Introduction
    1. Dr Richard Lawson MB BS, MRCPsych is Chair of FFNS, a retired General Practitioner of medicine. Contact 01934 853606
    2. Frack Free North Somerset is a civil society organisation which exists in order to support individuals and groups in the North Somerset areas to protect our local environment from unconventional onshore gas and oil development for reason of public health & safety, economic and environmental risk.
  2. Is there the need to update and improve the guidance available?
    1. The guidance available to us on the Local Plan of our local authority, North Somerset Council, is adequate.
    2. It has been carefully considered over time and arrived at through normal democratic processes.
  3. Is there the need for a comprehensive document incorporating existing and updated guidance?
    1. There is a case for central Government guidance to be brought together in one place, in the name of organisational efficiency.
    2. We would be concerned if any substantive changes were to be made in the process of creating the single document.
    3. In particular, the notion that an “advisor” representing the interests of the fracking industry should be placed in the local authority is absolutely unacceptable.

  1. Should applications for fracking be dealt with as national infrastructure under the 2008 Planning Act?
    1. Our reply is, emphatically, no. Aside from its impact on global climate, the main impact of fracking is on local people, the local economy and the local environment.
      Therefore natural justice demands that local authorities should be the first to consider and decide on any application to drill in our community.
    2. Of particular importance in our county is our proximity to the Mendip Hills, an area of fissured limestone with an extensive interconnected cave network which is an important source of drinking water for our area. This network is by no means exhaustively mapped, and upwellings of fresh water are known to occur miles out in the Severn Estuary, which may well be originating in the Mendips. There is therefore a high probability that fracking fluids injected into shale beds will find their way into the Mendip cave network.
    3. This will result in serious pollution of the network as a whole, affecting not just drinking water but also the health of recreational and scientific cavers, and also the purity of the water of Wells and Bath, which are of great importance to local tourism. For these reasons, any attempt to override or bypass local planning considerations is absolutely unacceptable.
    4. The same considerations apply to the ecologically important wetlands of the Somerset Levels. Even though fracking takes place at a great depth below the surface, the high pressures needed for fracking inevitably mean that gas, water and fracking chemicals will migrate to the surface and contaminate the wetlands, with adverse consequences on the environment of the wetlands and its bird population.

  2. Recommendations
    1. We are mindful of the worsening gap between gas demand and gas supplies in the UK. We are convinced that in view of the reality of anthropogenic climate change, rather than allowing large corporations to exploit a few years of fresh supplies of gas from geological strata where it has been safely stored for millions of years, Government should invest extensively in the following:
      1. Energy conservation
      2. Renewable energy
      3. Energy storage in all its diverse forms - which complements the variability of 5.1.2
      4. Biogas technologies.
    2. We note that the above response to the coming problem of gas supplies will have the following advantages:
      1. They are environmentally benign
      2. They create large numbers of jobs, particularly 5.1.1
      3. They are small scale, dispersed and can be provided by SMEs, who are more likely to pay tax than large fracking corporations
      4. Unlike fracking, they are sustainable. Biogas will deliver gas for the indefinite future, rather than for one or two decades.
    3. We recommend that large fracking corporations should not be encouraged to mine fossil gas as they are likely to export any gas that they produce (20% of our gas production before the last few years was exported) if market conditions are such that they will make more profit by exporting their product.
    4. We note that the promise that fracking will create lower prices for the British consumer is unlikely to be met.
    5. We note that water supply bills are likely to rise in gommunities affectd by fracking.
    6. In the same way, Government should be mindful that at least one of the large corporations holding fracking licenses is a manufacturer of plastic, and will therefore not contribute to the gas grid, but rather will contribute to the global problem of pollution by micro (and macro) plastics.


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