Fast-track fracking plan by the government denounced

Fracking opponents have reacted with anger after ministers unveiled measures to help projects through the planning system in England, which campaigners said would make drilling a shale well as easy as building a conservatory.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/17/fast-track-fracking-plan-by-uk-government-prompts-criticism
Date: 17 May 2018 (Last modified on Fri 18 May 2018 11.53)
by Adam Vaughan, The Guardian

Shale gas explorers will be able to drill test sites in England without applying for planning permission and fracking sites could be classed as nationally significant infrastructure, meaning approval would come at a national rather than local level.

Planning authorities will also be given £1.6m to speed up fracking applications over the next two years and a new shale environmental regulator will be created this summer, under government proposals published on Thursday.

Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green party, said the plans were shocking. “Britain’s fracking experiment was on life support and now the government is trying its best to shock it back into life.

Rebecca Long Bailey MP, shadow business secretary, said: “Fracking should be banned, not promoted.

Greenpeace said the government had turned a deaf ear to communities and councils, and would make “exploratory drilling as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory”.

The progress of fracking in the UK has been glacial, with not a single well fracked since a ban was lifted in 2013.

Companies including Ineos, Cuadrilla and Third Energy have been bogged down in planning battles with local authorities. In the first three months of the year, seven of eight shale drilling plans were rejected by councils.

However, under plans outlined by the business secretary, Greg Clark, the drilling of shale wells in England will be considered permitted development, meaning no planning application is required.
For full article, click here.
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38 Degrees Petition (written by CPRE)
The government’s trying to sneak this through quietly. But if it happens, it could set a dangerous precedent for our democracy. Not to mention the devastation it could cause to our countryside, from the Yorkshire Moors to Sherwood Forest.

This is the biggest threat to our countryside and democracy we’ve seen in a while.
Please drop measures to:
● Treat exploratory drilling as permitted development.
● Include fracking in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Regime.
Sign the Petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/don-t-fast-track-fracking
 

Background: The 2015 Infrastructure Bill, which provided new strategic powers in terms of development and planning law for government to make provision for infrastructure development with specific regard to increasing provision for greater housing development across the UK, also included specific safeguards around hydraulic fracturing. It provided automatic right of access given to “deep level” land (300m or lower) for the purposes of exploiting petroleum or deep geothermal energy, i.e. for general petrol extraction and specifically unconventional extraction or hydraulic fracturing / fracking. This put into legislative statute the right of developers involved in fracking to override the interests of surface landowners who are now no longer able to unduly object to or frustrate initiatives on the basis of works amounting to trespass. In addition, “there is the right to leave the deep level land in a different condition than before the right was exercised. This includes by leaving any substance or infrastructure in the land. Liability for any loss or damage attributable to the exercise of these rights by another person is expressly removed from resting with the landowner.” (Source: https://www.walkermorris.co.uk/publications/infrastructure-act-2015-fracking-focus/ ).




References:
[1] The Guardian: Fast-track fracking plan by the government prompts criticism:
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/17/fast-track-fracking-plan-by-uk-government-prompts-criticism
The Times: Backlash as Ineos puts fracking on fast track with plans to bypass local councils:
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/backlash-as-ineos-puts-fracking-on-fast-track-with-plans-to-bypass-local-councils-m7wmrcxgm
The Independent: Government announces plan to accelerate fracking developments by fast-tracking private companies’ planning applications:
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/fracking-development-government-plan-accelerate-shale-gas-carbon-emissions-a8355756.html
UK Parliament: Written statement on Energy Policy made by Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which lays out the Government’s plans:
https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-05-17/HCWS690
[2] This has made it into a few news articles, like the ones above, but such a massive change to our local councils’ powers should have gone much further than that.
[3] Greenpeace: 4 reasons why we could all be fracked by fracking:
https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/3-reasons-why-we-could-all-be-fracked-fracking-20130812/
The Independent: Fracking could cause earthquakes across huge swathes of UK, warns former Downing Street adviser and seismologist:
https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/uk-fracking-earthquakes-cause-shale-gas-seismic-events-government-planning-a8363411.html
[4] Guardian: How fracking can contribute to climate change:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/29/fracking-contribute-climate-change
[5] 38 Degrees: “Fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland”:
https://home.38degrees.org.uk/2017/10/03/fracking-cannot-will-not-take-place-scotland/
[6] The Guardian: UK fracking backlash: seven of eight plans rejected in 2018:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/08/uk-fracking-backlash-seven-out-of-eight-plans-rejected-in-2018
The Telegraph: Villages across the UK take up the fight against fracking:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/10209728/Villages-across-the-UK-take-up-the-fight-against-fracking.html
Friends of the Earth: Fracking in Sherwood Forest – we’re winning but it’s not over yet:
https://friendsoftheearth.uk/climate-change/fracking-sherwood-forest-were-winning-its-not-over-yet
38 Degrees: Protect Sherwood Forest:
https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/1787

Residents of Scottish island Ulva raise €5.1 million to buy out aristocrat landlord

They delayed the sale under a new Scottish law, allowing them to raise the money through public funds and private donations.

THE LAST REMAINING residents of a dramatically depopulated Scottish island pledged to rebuild their community after finalising a €5.1 million deal to buy out their aristocrat landlord.

The five tenants on the Isle of Ulva feared their way of life might be coming to an end when the island was put on the market after decades of ownership by the Howard family.

But they succeeded in delaying the sale under a new Scottish law, allowing them to raise the money through public funds and hundreds of private donations.

The Munro family and their only neighbour Barry George held a party on the island today with supporters from the neighbouring island of Mull to celebrate the sale being finalised.

“We paid just over £4.5 (€5.1) million,” Rebecca Munro, 31, told AFP, adding that a large chunk came from the Scottish Land Fund, founded in 2000 to help communities buy their land from their landlords.

We also had some really generous donations from all over the world on our Just Giving page, and we also had a significant one from the Macquarie Bank so that’s gone a huge way.

The island’s “laird” Jamie Howard put the island up for sale for £4.25 (€4.8) million, offering prospective buyers the opportunity to own “one of the finest private islands in northern Europe”.

Soon after, tycoons began flying in for viewings, raising concerns among residents that they might be removed from the island.

“When the island was on the market and the helicopters appeared, it was a real concern for us that a private owner would come in and close the island and they wouldn’t keep the residents or keep our business going,” said Munro.

‘Phenomenally beautiful’

Barry George, who has lived on the island for 22 years, told AFP: “It’s a phenomenally beautiful place, and it would be criminal to shut the place down, and that is my objective, to keep it open so that people can come and see what I see.”

The new legislation has far-reaching implications in a region where half the land is owned by just 500 people, many of them absentee aristocratic landlords with castles and vast country estates.

Ulva is an idyllic location with views of Ben More mountain and the spectacular Eas Fors Waterfall on the neighbouring island of Mull.

It once had a population of more than 800 people. But now empty cottages, an abandoned church and the disused Ulva Hostel are falling into disrepair.

“We’re never going to get back to those numbers but we need to make a healthy community so we’ll have to start doing that now,” said Rhuri Munro, 35, a fisherman.

Its decline can be traced back to the Highland Clearances, when landlords conducted a wholesale eviction of Scottish farmers in the 18th century and turned their lands over to sheep grazing.

Many Scots emigrated to the then British colonies and one Ulva native, Lachlan Macquarie, became a governor in Australia in the 19th century.

The islanders received a £500,000 (€570,000) donation from the Macquarie Group, the largest investment bank in Australia which was named after the late governor.

Roseanna Cunningham, the senior lawmaker in the Scottish government responsible for land reform, said the buyout could be the first of many.

“Scottish government officials stand ready to support any community that wants to think about doing this, urban and rural,” she told AFP.

“Ulva, in that sense, is quite iconic because it’s a big, big signal that, no matter the challenges, if you have the vision, we will support you.”

Tories vote down law requiring landlords make their homes fit for human habitation

72 of the MPs who voted against the measure are registered as landlords themselves
Jon Stone @joncstone Wednesday 13 January 2016
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tories-vote-down-law-requiring-landlords-make-their-homes-fit-for-human-habitation-a6809691.html

Conservative MPs have voted to reject a proposed rule that would have required private landlords to make their homes “fit for human habitation”.

The vote, which came on Tuesday night, was on proposed amendment to the Government’s new Housing and Planning Bill – a raft of new laws aimed at reforming housing law.

The Labour-proposed amendment was rejected by 312 votes to 219, however.

READ MORELandlord Tory MP opposes law to make homes fit for human habitation

According to Parliament’s register of interests, 72 of the MPs who voted against the amendment are themselves landlords who derive an income from a property.

Communities minister Marcus Jones said the Government believed homes should be fit for human habitation but did not want to pass the new law that would explicitly require it.

“Of course we believe that all homes should be of a decent standard and all tenants should have a safe place to live regardless of tenure, but local authorities already have strong and effective powers to deal with poor quality and safe accommodation and we expect them to use them,” he said in a reply.

Teresa Pearce, the shadow housing minister who proposed the amendment, said renters lacked “basic consumer protection” when things went wrong.

“The majority of landlords let property which is and remains in a decent standard. Many landlords go out of their way to ensure that even the slightest safety hazard is sorted quickly and efficiently,” she said.

“So it is even more distressing when we see reports of homes which are frankly unfit for human habitation being let, often at obscene prices.

“Where else in modern day life could someone get away with this? It’s a consumer issue. If I purchased a mobile phone or a computer that didn’t work, didn’t do what it said it would or was unsafe I would take it back and get a refund.”

But the Government claimed the new law would result in “unnecessary regulation”.

The proposed amendment reflects the contents of a private members bill blocked by Conservative MPs in October last year.

That bill, proposed by Labour MP Karen Buck, was “talked out” by backbenchers, including Conservative MP Philip Davies, who is himself a landlord.

During that debate he warned that landlords “appear to be an easy target for the Left in this country”.

The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill would have updated a law introduced in the 19th century that requires homes under a certain rent limit to be “fit for human habitation”.

That rent limit has not been updated since 1957, however, and the rule currently applies to all properties with an annual rent of below £80 in London and £52 elsewhere.

The weekly average weekly rent in London is currently £362 and practically zero properties currently fall under the legislation.

The Government’s housing bill includes provisions for starter homes, the right to buy for housing association tenants, higher rents for higher income social tenants, and some changes to speed up the planning system.

According to Parliament’s register of interests, the 72 MPs who are registered as deriving income from property of over £10,000 a year and who voted against the law are:

Nigel Adams

Stuart Andrew

Victoria Atkins

Jake Berry

James Berry

Bob Blackman

Robert Buckland

Alun Cairns

David Cameron

Alex Chalk

James Cleverley

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown

Therese Coffey

Geoffrey Cox

Mims Davies

Philip Davies

Richard Drax

James Duddridge

Alan Duncan

Philip Dunne

Jane Ellison

George Eustice

Mike Freer

Richard Fuller

John Glen

Robert Goodwill

Chris Grayling

Dominic Grieve

Chris Heaton-Harris

Peter Heaton-Jones

George Hollingberry

Kevin Hollinrake

Philip Hollobone

Nick Hurd

Stewart Jackson

Margot James

Sajid Javid

Joseph Johnson

Simon Kirby (teller)

Greg Knight

Brandon Lewis

Julian Lewis

Craig Mackinlay

Tania Mathias

Karl McCartney

Anne Marie Morris

Sheryll Murray

Robert Neill

Sarah Newton (teller)

Jesse Norman

David Nuttall

Neil Parish

Owen Paterson

Rebecca Pow

Jeremy Quin

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Laurence Robertson

Julian Smith

Royston Smith

Mark Spencer

John Stevenson

Desmond Swayne

Derek Thomas

Anne-Marie Trevelyan

Andrew Turner

Shailesh Vara

Theresa Villiers

Ben Wallace

David Warburton

Craig Whittaker

John Whittingdale

Nadhim Zahawi

How the extent of County Farms has halved in 40 years (from Who Owns England blog)

Source: https://whoownsengland.org/2018/06/08/how-the-extent-of-county-farms-has-halved-in-40-years/
First posted on 8th June 2018

The extent of County Farms in England has halved in the last 40 years, an investigation by Who Owns England can reveal.

County Farms are farms owned by Local Authorities and let out to young and first-time farmers, sometimes at below-market rents. They’re a vital ‘first rung on the farming ladder’ for newcomers to a sector that has high up-front capital costs: by providing the land and buildings, the public sector is helping get fresh blood into an industry where the average age of farmers is 60.

Yet the acreage of County Farms across England has plummeted from 426,695 acres in 1977 to just 215,155 acres in 2017, as data outlined below shows.

The revelation of the shocking decline in County Farms nationwide comes after Dorset County Council recently earmarked 6 of its County Farms for disposal and sale – 14% of its entire estate. This is despite the council officer’s report warning the sales would result in the loss of £95,000 in annual rents, and despite firm objections from the local branches of the Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) and Country Land & Business Association (CLA).

In his widely-praised Oxford Farming Conference speech this January, Environment Secretary Michael Gove spoke about equipping the “next generation of farmers” to grow better-quality food and do more to protect the environment post-Brexit. But the ongoing sale of County Farms runs precisely counter to that: undermining prospects for the next generation of farmers, just like the housing crisis is damaging prospects for young adults more broadly.
Charting the decline of County Farms

The origins of County Farms lie in the late-Victorian agricultural depression, during which widespread cries for land reform led radical Liberal MP Joseph Chamberlain (Theresa May’s political hero) to stand for election on the promise of “three acres and a cow” for landless tenant farmers. He went on to propose a solution whereby councils would buy up land and lease it out to small tenant farmers on cheap rents. A succession of government Acts in 1892, 1908 and 1925 created County Farms, sometimes called County Smallholdings.

The area of land bought up by Local Authorities for County Farms skyrocketed between the turn of the century and the Second World War. “The smallholding movement is unique in modern agricultural history”, writes one historian. “It is the only occasion on which we see the promotion of small, rather than ever-larger farming units.” But since the end of the 1970s, thousands of acres of council-owned smallholdings have been sold off.

Click here for the original post on the Who Owns England Blog and scroll down to the end of this last paragraph to see 2 different graphs showing the rise and decline of County Farms over the past 110 years and also “Mapping the decline of County Farms – 3 case studies

 
Enough is enough – halt the sale of County Farms

The decline of the County Farms Estate mirrors wider trends in English agriculture over the past half-century, with small private farms declining and being swallowed up by ever-larger industrial farm units. Indeed, England has recently seen the rise of the megafarm. Is this the future of farming post-Brexit? If it is, it doesn’t match Michael Gove’s welcome rhetoric about creating sustainable, healthy farms fit for the 21st century. Millennials need affordable housing; young farmers need County Farms.

Fundamentally, the problem is central government cuts to local authority budgets. That much becomes clear from the long-term national statistics reviewed above: the period of decline has coincided with the era of privatisation, cuts and centralisation ushered in by Margaret Thatcher’s governments in the 1980s, and accelerated under the austerity budgets of the Coalition and current government. It’s vital the Environment Secretary intervenes to reverse this trend. A word in the ear of Phillip Hammond and James Brokenshire, to protect council budgets for County Farms and issue a Ministerial direction halting sales, could go a long way.

Enough is enough. It’s time to halt the sale of County Farms and chart a new course for agriculture in England.

Campaign groups calling for a halt to County Farm sales:

Landworkers’ Alliance
Tenant Farmers’ Association
Three Acres And A Cow
The Land is Ours