A vow to fight any attempts to bypass locals on fracking

Coun Anthony Murray.
Coun Anthony Murray.

A north Northumberland councillor ‘condemns with all his might’ any attempt by the Government to exclude local people from decisions on fracking.

It follows a report in the Daily Telegraph that local communities could lose the right to block fracking wells as part of a plan to create a shale gas industry within a decade.

A leaked Cabinet report described a scheme which would see the wells classified as ‘nationally significant infrastructure’, meaning councils would be stripped of the ability to block planning applications.

Coun Anthony Murray, ward member for Wooler, said he has been contacted by a ‘considerable’ number of constituents expressing concerns about these proposals.

The Tory councillor said: “I look on this as a negation of our democratic rights and condemn the idea with all my might. I will join in any community or group of communities to fight against Government to maintain the democratic right that they would choose to withdraw.”

Responding to residents, he said: “I agree that Government has no right to attack our local democracy in this way.

“We all have an opinion on fracking and where it should take place and I believe the voice of local communities should be an important part of any debate if fracking is suggested in their area.”

The Government has said communities will always be involved in planning applications.

Coun Murray is also a member of the Northumberland National Park Authority (NNPA).

Before Christmas, MPs voted on and agreed that fracking could take place at depths of more than 1,200m under national parks so long as the drilling takes place from outside the protected areas and not within 1km of park boundaries.

Opposition parties and campaigners criticised the lack of a Commons debate, while also accusing Tory Ministers of a U-turn as they previously pledged an outright ban.

However, the NNPA said it does not expect fracking to be an issue for the park. A spokesman said: “There are currently no Government licence blocks in the immediate vicinity of the national park and research suggests the geology of the Northumberland National Park would not make it a priority area for fracking.”

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