UK fracking policy faces court challenges | Environment | The Guardian

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Ministers face a pair of legal challenges to their planning rules on fracking this week, from a national environmental group and the son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

The government used its revamped planning rulebook to tell local authorities in July that they should recognise the benefits of shale gas and facilitate its extraction.

Business secretary Greg Clark also proposed removing the need for exploratory wells to get planning permission, to speed shale projects through the planning system.

The high court will first hear a challenge from Friends of the Earth, which the group hopes will force the government to change its planning policy.

The case hinges on whether ministers and officials unlawfully failed to assess the change’s environmental impact.

Will Rundle, the group’s head of legal, said: “The government’s national planning framework, which directs development in every single community in England, has never been environmentally assessed. This makes a mockery of the government’s green credentials and undermines sustainable development.”

The court will also hear an application for a legal challenge against the new planning regime from Joe Corré, the founder of lingerie company Agent Provocateur.

He said: “So desperate are they [the government] to make fracking easier for their friends in the fossil fuel industry – they have have tried to bypass local government objection, scientific facts and the will of the people.”

The entrepreneur argued that the science has moved on since a 2013 official report that has been the basis for the government arguing shale gas can act as a “bridge” in the transition to renewable energy.

The first exploratory fracking in seven years is underway at a site near Blackpool and due to finish later this month.

But shale gas companies have found themselves bogged down in planning battles and delays with local authorities, prompting repeated efforts from the government to ease projects through the planning system.

The two legal challenges will be heard between Tuesday and Thursday.

The communities department said: “It would not be appropriate to comment on an ongoing legal challenge.”


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