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Talk Fracking take government's fracking policy to the High Court

A campaigning environmental group are due to have their case against the government's fracking policy heard in the High Court in London on 19th and 20th December 2018.

Posted on 17 December 2018

The group Talk Fracking has brought a judicial review challenge of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on the grounds that the government failed to take into account scientific developments which call into question the “low carbon” claims it has put forward in support of fracking.
The group is challenging the legality of the publication and adoption of Paragraph 209a of the revised National Planning Policy Framework by the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government. 
As well as failing to take into account scientific developments, the group argue in their legal case that the decision to adopt Paragraph 209a is also unlawful because the government failed to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) or a lawful public consultation on the revision of the policy. The group also argues that changing the NFFP goes against the government’s policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Climate Change Act 2008.
Whereas a number of previous legal challenges have sought to overturn individual planning decisions relating to fracking sites, this case relates to the government’s national policy on fracking. Talk Fracking argues that the recent revision of this policy instructs local councils that fracking is beneficial in tackling climate change, contrary to scientific evidence. A Written Ministerial Statement in 2015 made similar claims, and it is argued that the incorporation of that statement into national planning policy has ignored key factors that have emerged since, such as a greater scientific recognition of the climate change impact of methane emissions released as a result of fracking.
Claire Stephenson, who is bringing the claim on behalf of Talk Fracking, said:

“The UK government has consistently tried to undermine local democracy over fracking, giving gratuitous opportunities to the oil and gas industry. Locally-elected representatives are best placed to decide what happens within communities, particularly when it comes to the environment, not a central government dictating instructions from Whitehall.”
Head of Talk Fracking Joe Corré said:

“Like we’ve seen so much of with this Government, they have tried to bend and break their own laws. So desperate are they to make Fracking easier for their friends in the Fossil Fuel industry – they have tried to bypass Local Government objection, Scientific facts and the will of the people”.
Rowan Smith, solicitor from Leigh Day representing Talk Fracking, said:

“This legal challenge exposes a major democratic deficit in the system. The government announced in 2015 that fracking is a force for good against climate change, without any public involvement in their policy. Three years later, and despite our client’s submissions which pointed out all the scientific developments since 2015 that seriously call in to question to government’s position, they reached the same conclusion. Our client argues that this is unfair. We hope that the Court will agree and conclude that the government’s new fracking policy was unlawfully produced.”
Friends of the Earth are bringing a separate action to Talk Fracking regarding the NFFP which will be heard by same Judge on 18th and 19th December.