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Fracking Splits Britain’s Green Lobby

Ben Webster, The Times

A split has emerged in the green movement over fracking, with two influential groups refusing to join a campaign to help landowners to block access to shale deposits under their property.

The National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England decided not to join Greenpeace and other groups which have written to David Cameron objecting to his plan to change the law to make it easier for fracking companies to drill wells.

Mr Cameron wants to give companies the right to drill horizontally, thousands of feet below people’s property without their permission. More than 45,000 people, including five landowners near an exploration site in the South Downs National Park, have formally objected to drilling beneath their land.

Fracking companies fear being tied up in legal battles unless changes are made to the law of trespass, which is being used by their opponents. The companies claim the drilling would be too deep to have any effect at the surface.

A bill due to be announced in next month’s Queen’s Speech is expected to make clear that putting pipes under private land would not constitute trespass.

In a letter to Mr Cameron, Greenpeace, the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts, Friends of the Earth, the Angling Trust and the Salmon and Trout Association argue against the proposed changes.

They say: “We believe that the right of people to determine whether to give permission to oil and gas companies seeking to drill underneath their property is appropriate and should be retained given the associated major risks and lack of a precautionary approach by the government.”

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of CPRE, said: “We didn’t sign because we think the best way of regulating fracking is through the planning system, not through the assertion of property rights.” Richard Hebditch, assistant director of the National Trust, said it had not signed because it had been focusing on other concerns about fracking, not trespass.

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