Keynsham's MP urged to fight plans to 'fast track' fracking bids

Published on: 04 Sep 2015

Bath and North East Somerset’s MPs are being urged to take a stand against fracking following a government announcement that planning applications could be fast-tracked to avoid delays.

The call to North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and Bath MP Ben Howlett, both Conservatives, has been made by B&NES’ Liberal Democrat group.

In a letter to them, local councillors ask the pair to oppose the Government’s new measures “to ensure that hard-won additional protections for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites are not eroded”.

Under the new rules, councils will have to make a decision on applications to drill for shale gas with a 16-week period or ministers could step in.

Councillor Cherry Beath (Liberal Democrat, Combe Down), the Liberal Democrat shadow for Homes and Planning, said: “Fracking in the vicinity of Bath is absolutely unthinkable and our local MPs must join with councillors and residents in opposing this threat.

“Any damage to the hot springs could be catastrophic for the fabric of the city and the local economy.”

In 2013, a bid by UK Methane to carry out exploratory drilling near Hicks Gate, Keynsham, was withdrawn several months after the firm first submitted the application to B&NES Council. Hundreds of residents signed a petition against the scheme.

In July of the same year, a motion was put forward by the council’s Conservative group to register concerns about fracking in the B&NES area and the potential impact on the hot springs, local countryside and reservoir water supply and to look into measures to protect the area, a call backed by all political parties.

Conservative leader Councillor Tim Warren (Mendip) told Keynshamvoice: “The Conservative group have huge concerns about fracking in this area.

“We feel that, among other things, the infrastructure is not good enough and that the process could be detrimental to the spa waters, which would then have a negative impact on the surrounding economy.”

In response to the renewed call to oppose fracking locally, MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “Fracking may well provide a cheap and secure form of energy. This would help people to heat their homes and reduce dependency on countries like Russia.

“However, it needs to be done safely and in suitable areas. North East Somerset is protected by a number of planning guidelines, including the Avon Act, greenbelt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

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