‘Freedom to frack’ on private land sparks outrage

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The government is about to include plans in an infrastructure bill to allow energy companies to drill on private land without permission, despite protests of residents and green groups.

The bill will be part of the Queen’s speech in June and would see changes in the trespass law, so that landowners would receive only a small compensation for drilling operations.

The bill would also make changes to road construction, giving more powers to the Highway Agency to renew the UK’s ageing infrastructure.

The move is likely to cause anger among landowners and environmental campaigners who oppose fracking because of its health and environmental effects. The government has promoted the controversial practice as a way to reduce energy bills, but critics have contested this claim.

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    Ralph Smyth, transport campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, commented on the measures. He said, “Some within government may, in fact, see it even as a test of their virility.

    “Given how controversial they are, it’s no surprise fracking and road-building were not in any election manifesto in 2010. The government should abandon this undue haste and let the electorate decide.”

    The idea of allowing energy firms to drill on private land and national parks without permission was revealed earlier this year and led to a protest in Sussex against the proposal.

    Later on, energy firm Celtique Energie was refused permission to drill in the South Downs national park amid requests for more detailed information about the environmental impact of the plan.

    The Conservative party is expected to strengthen support for shale gas in the next election’s manifesto, while curbing that for onshore wind. This is despite a recent poll revealing that the majority of Britons would prefer to live near a wind farm rather than a fracking site.

    Photo: push europe via flickr

    Further reading:

    Government has ‘two-faced attitude to fracking’, say campaigners

    Just one in five back local fracking projects, but support increases with distance

    Landowners launch ‘legal blockade’ on fracking as ministers eye trespass law change

    Government to offer fracking ‘bribes’ to local councils

    National Trust reaffirms present opposition to fracking on its land