IN their contributions to last week’s public debate in Chichester on fracking, the representatives from the South Downs National Park and the Minerals Planning Authority laid great emphasis on their due diligence when deciding applications.
Obviously, it’s always reassuring to hear this, and, to be fair, faced with a largely anti-fracking audience, probably their only option.
That said, both of these officers are employees of statutory bodies and whatever they might think privately about fracking, neither is at liberty to say so.
Like any other planning application, their role is to manage a process in line with statutory guidance published by a pro-fracking government.
It’s fair to ask what pressures might be placed on these officers and their political bosses by allowing councils to keep 100 per cent of the business rate from fracking operations plus cash contribution to local communities from the frackers.
For the councils, such incentives create for them a contradictory role, on one hand, acting as protectors while on the other, resisting hand-outs at a time money when is tight.
On a wider point, the comment from one of the speakers that the planet already had substantially more fossil fuel than it could safely burn is surely relevant in a warming world.
Public debates about fracking are being held throughout the south of England and it would be reassuring to see more local politicians attending them than turned up for the Chichester event
Hampshire Friends of the Earth