Greater Manchester to set out fracking ban

Anti-fracking campaigners
A file photo of anti-fracking protesters outside Holyrood, Edinburgh

One of the country’s largest combined authorities will lay out plans to ban fracking in a new green strategy.

Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities will put a “presumption” in planning laws against allowing the technique to be used to extract shale gas, mayor Andy Burnham told The Guardian.

The measures will be included in a new “spatial framework” for the city, which aims to be carbon neutral by 2038.

The combined authority does not have the power to implement a ban on fracking, although Mr Burnham said it is “doing what we can within the legal structures that we have got at our disposal”.

“That’s a reflection of Government policy and not our policy. We would if we could,” he said.

Campaigners say there is overwhelming evidence the fracking is harmful for the environment and have called for the Government to ban it.

Greater Manchester’s move comes after fracking near Blackpool was halted on several occasions last year due to underground tremors.

Mr Burnham said the incidents at Preston New Road were “a worry”.

“It’s hard to know what damage is being done and the effect that is having on groundwater and all of those other issues that emerge,” he said.

“It’s even more worrying in Greater Manchester, which is a much more urban place, where there is more contaminated land, more mine shafts. This is an industry which hasn’t proven its case. In fact, the opposite.”

The mayor said Manchester needs to join other cities on the world stage that are “driving fast towards carbon neutrality”.

However attempting to prevent companies from drilling in the region would go against Government plans to expand fracking.

“There has never been a legal case involving a spatial framework of this kind,” Mr Burnham said.

“We would be empowering our own communities to take on a Government policy which at times seems to impose its will on local communities.”

Elsewhere in England, Sadiq Khan’s draft New London Plan states that the mayor “does not support fracking in London”.

“Development proposals for exploration, appraisal or production of shale gas via hydraulic fracturing should be refused,” the document says.

In Scotland a moratorium outlaws the practice and the SNP is consulting on a permanent ban.

Licensing powers for fracking were transferred to the Welsh Assembly in October and the Labour government has a preferred policy of not supporting any applications.

On Whitehall, the belief is that domestic gas resources should be used “to the maximum extent”.

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman said: “Shale gas has the potential to be a new domestic energy source, enhancing our energy security and delivering economic benefits, including the creation of well-paid, quality jobs.”

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