Richmond Park MP, Zac Goldsmith has pledged support for anti-fracking campaigners during a debate in Westminster on October 31.

Zac Goldsmith attended the debate chaired by Mark Menzies MP, on the subject of local involvement in shale gas developments. The debate was called in Parliament following the Government’s consultation regarding allowing fracking under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project Regime (NSIP) rather than under the auspices of local planning decision-makers.

Concerns were raised by MPs of all parties that such a move would enable Government to bypass local authorities and overrule local concerns.

The consultation on fracking, and the role of the planning decision process, closed on the October 25. Under the consultation, the current proposals would grant planning permission for non-hydraulic shale gas exploration through a permitted development right, which would in effect grant an automatic right, removing the requirement for planning permission to be sought.

This would only affect exploratory drilling as full fracking would still require permission. Such a move would represent a major shift away from local decision making and would centralise the decision making process for the initial exploratory stages of fracking.

Fracking impacts local communities; who will experience increased traffic as a result of the work in their area and may also experience seismic activity, as has been seen at the Cuadrilla site in Lancashire.

In the debate, Zac pointed out that the Government’s position with regard to fracking is in stark contrast with their treatment of onshore wind power developments, for which local communities have been given the right to effectively block new developments.

The requirement for planning permission would not prevent fracking from taking place, but it would allow local input by those who will be most affected by it.

Zac said: “Fracking is an issue that has the potential to turn whole regions against the Government. The drilling rigs and pollution, the industrial equipment and sheer volume of trucks all make it an alarming prospect for communities up and down the country. If the Government’s answer is simply to change the planning rules so that even elected local representatives have no say on the issue, then it will have to be prepared for a huge backlash.”