A campaign group is looking to raise £20,000 through crowd funding to support a judicial review challenge to the Government’s new policy on fracking.
The policy, which was issued last month, is intended to provide a new process for fast-tracking shale gas planning applications.
It suggests that local planning authorities considered to be ‘under-performing’ could be stripped of their role in determining oil and gas planning applications.
They would be identified as ‘under-performing’ where they repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications within the 16-week statutory timeframe requirement, unless applicants have agreed to a longer period.
In such cases the Communities Secretary will consider whether he should determine the decision the application instead.
The SaFE Alliance claims that the policy would “make it virtually impossible for local communities to stop fracking in their areas”.
It also argues that the policy gives the Government “expansive new powers to override local decisions that go against fracking applications” and went against the localism agenda.
The group is using the CrowdJustice website in a bid to raise the funds, which will pay for advice from law firm Bindmans and counsel.
Emily Shirley, Co-Founder of SaFE Alliance, said: “The Government has been pushing its pro-fracking agenda, at the expense of genuine green alternatives for many years. In doing so, it has ignored the evidence and voices of local people who, through democratic processes, have rejected attempts to expand the industry given the inevitable exacerbation of climate change as well as significant concerns regarding safety, noise and air and water pollution.
“This policy is an attempt to circumvent those democratic processes, to force local councils to approve planning applications for fracking, and to override council decisions should they seek to oppose it. It is essential that this national policy is challenged so that these issues can properly be decided at a local level.”
Bindmans partner Jamie Potter said: “This policy appears to have been introduced without any prior warning and with little regard as to the science of fracking. As far as we are aware, there was no consultation and nor did the Government conduct an assessment of the impact on the environment or as to the costs and benefits of the policy.
“Moreover, the Government have provided no explanation as to how this policy fits within the existing regime, which includes a framework for mineral exploitation as well as a myriad of local development plans that cover fracking. All of these issues give rise to serious questions as to the lawfulness of the policy, which, if the policy is not withdrawn, should be challenged in the Courts. ”