COALITION FACES VOTER BACKLASH OVER ‘UNDER-HOUSE FRACKING BILL’, NEW POLL SHOWS

Government plans to allow fracking companies to drill under people’s homes without their permission are set to run into widespread opposition as a major new poll reveals three quarters (74%) of British people are against the move.

Nearly three quarters of Tory (73%) and Lib Dem (70%) potential voters hold the view that energy companies should have to get permission from owners or residents before drilling for gas under their homes or land, a YouGov survey published today reveals. Only 13% of respondents said energy firms should not be required to have this consent.

The results are published on the day a broad range of environmental groups and a leading homeowner organisation has written to David Cameron urging him to ditch moves to weaken people’s property rights in order to clear the way for fracking. Ministers are planning to include the policy in the new Infrastructure Bill, due to be announced in the Queen’s Speech [1].  

In a letter addressed directly to the Prime Minister, the heads of the Homeowners Alliance, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association, argue that people’s right to say no to under-house drilling is ‘appropriate and should be retained given the associated major risks and lack of a precautionary approach by the government’.

They also warn the Prime Minister that ‘the rush to change property rights will further erode public trust in the government’s approach to fracking’’ and brand the move ‘an unacceptable prioritisation of the commercial interests of the few over the rights of land and property owners’.

Under current laws, if an energy company wants to drill or frack for gas which is found under somebody’s home or land, they need the person’s consent, or must obtain special permission from a judge, otherwise they can be held liable for trespass [2].

A group of Sussex residents have already formally denied permission for drilling under their properties, forming a ‘legal blockade’ around a potential fracking site in the South Downs National Park – an initiative which could be replicated across the country [3].

The government is now considering changing the law so fracking companies can drill under people’s home or land, even if they don’t have the person’s consent to do so, without the risk of legal action from the people affected [4].

Over 45,000 people across the country have already denied permission for under-house fracking by joining the www.wrongmove.org platform set up by Greenpeace.

The survey also shows 80% of Labour and 77% of Ukip potential voters are opposed to the policy. Only 13% of all respondents said they are unsure.

 

Marcus Adams, one of the five Sussex residents who have formally refused permission for energy firm Celtique Energie to drill under their land, commented:

“It’s really unfair that ministers should be putting the interests of energy corporations before the rights and concerns of ordinary people. All we’re doing is simply using long-established guarantees, enshrined in law, to protect our homes from a controversial industry which has completely failed to prove that what they’re doing is safe, or even beneficial to our economy. As a long-time Tory supporter, I feel this is a cynical betrayal of the kind of values our party used to stand for.”

 

Greenpeace UK Executive Director John Sauven said:

“Having failed to reassure the country that fracking is safe, ministers now want to render people powerless to oppose it. There’s nothing fair or just about this underhand ploy to strip people of their legal right to say no to fracking under their homes.

“This survey reveals just how toxic this policy is for the Conservative Party. The same

ministers who like to pose as champions of local communities against big government are now happy to trample over their property rights at the request of the fracking industry. Tory MPs will struggle to justify this brazen double standard to their constituents.”

 

Homeowners Alliance Chief Executive Paula Higgins said:

"It's outrageous that homeowners don't have a say over who uses and profits from their land.  Our homes are our most valuable asset and the Government shouldn't be allowed to ride roughshod over people from all corners of the country without any discussion or consultation and only a hint of compensation."

 

ENDS

 

Notes

[1] The letter to David Cameron was signed by

– John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK   

– Paula Higgins, Chief Executive of the Homeowners Alliance

– Mike Clarke, Chief Executive of RSPB

– Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth

– Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust

– Paul Knight, Chief Executive of the Salmon & Trout Association

– Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of the Wildlife Trusts

[2] The Supreme Court held in 2010 in Bocardo SA v Star Energy [2010] UKSC 35; [2011] 1 AC 380 that property rights apply when someone wants to drill underneath your land.

[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/fracking/10613466/Fracking-landowners-form-legal-block-against-drilling-in-South-Downs-National-Park.html

[4]

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2594644/Trespass-law-overhauled-make-easier-frackers-Firms-able-access-underground-gas-without-asking-landowners-permission.html

About the survey

YouGov survey. Total sample size was 1,898 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29th – 30th April 2014.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+)