The fracking industry overcame a major hurdle yesterday, when MPs voted 308 to 52 against a moratorium on fracking. This paves the way for the Infrastructure Bill to introduce a statutory right of underground drilling under homes without permission.
Anti-fracking campaigners will also be claiming a partial victory. Significant concessions were agreed by Ministers to avoid an embarrassing 11th hour defeat
- An outright ban on fracking in national parks and areas of outstanding beauty
- Ban on fracking in groundwater source protection zones
- Environmental monitoring for 12 months before starting work, rather than 3 months
These regulatory changes will protect thousands of miles of the UK that were previously targeted for shale gas exploration. Some of the largest shale reserves are in protected areas such as the South Downs and the North York Moors.
The Infrastructure Bill now heads to the House of Lords where further changes could be made. The new fracking legislation will change the trespass laws to provide a statutory right of access to drill under peoples land without permission.
Landowners will be eligible for compensation if horizontal drilling takes place under their land. Plans are awaited however it could range from a few £100 to £20,000 or more per lateral well.
Fracking companies will still need to negotiate access rights for surface drilling sites with individual landowners, as well as obtaining planning permission from the local council and environment permits.
Opponents of fracking will now focus their attention on individual planning objections. Each council will need to consider planning applications in a politically charged arena. Last week, Lancaster Council Council’s planning officer recommended that planning should be refused at two Cuadrilla sites in Lancashire.
What does all this mean for landowners? Many homeowners and businesses will be interested in the compensation proposals, but may have concerns about groundwater pollution, structural damage, nuisance, carbon pollution and the possible negative impact on land values.