Fracking groups fear back door developers’ charter on cards as bill goes before Lords
By Western Daily Press | Posted: June 17, 2014
By Janet Hughes
The Government say new laws announced in the Queen’s Speech are designed to get Britain building again.
But critics fear the changes will allow developers to get their hands on forests threaten footpaths and let the energy companies frack under homes.
Campaigners say the bill, which has its second reading on Wednesday, is about so more than removing the power of opponents to fight the HS2 railway line. Those who fought off the Public Bodies Bill to safeguard the nation’s woodlands, fear the infrastructure bill will renew the threat by the back door,
Despite assurances that public woodlands are safe, campaigners from Hands Off Our Forest likened the powers in the new bill to “a massive juggernaut coming up a hill”.
“What the Bill proposes is that the Secretary of State can hand over any amount of public land to the arms-length, non-departmental Government body, the Homes & Communities Agency,” he said.
“The HCA can then dispose of it to developers. There will be no need to go through local authority planning processes – the Secretary of State can give the green light without any local politicians or planners’ involvement, just by consulting a panel of two people.
“As for public rights of way, the proposed law allows any of them to be extinguished. There is no need for permission for easements, roads, powerlines, railways. drilling, tunnels. Any existing laws that protect land and prevent it being built on, appear to be overridden by one simple enabling clause.”
The Government claims handing over public land to the Homes and Communities Agency will get more homes built by improving how national infrastructure is funded, planned, managed and maintained.
The construction industry have largely welcomed the bill, which includes changes to the Highways Agency, and say it will bolster investment and allow the UK’s creaking energy, road and social infrastructure to be upgraded.
Surveys show the most controversial aspect of the bill are changes to the trespass laws to allow energy companies to frack under properties without the permission of the home-owner.
A spokesman for Frack Free Somerset said: “We stand utterly opposed to fracking and are extremely concerned about this Bill. It all depends on people knowing about it and Frack Free Somerset is one of around 130 groups in this country encouraging people to find out about this serious issue.”
A spokesman for Defra said; “We have already said that we will not sell off the public forest estate and we stand by that commitment.”
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