It’s still NO to fracking.

A new prime minister can say what she will but Bath & North East Somerset Council’s cabinet member for Planning and Licensing Councillor Tim Ball has re-affirmed the council’s opposition to fracking within the council’s area – and also those of neighbouring authorities.

A motion agreed by Bath & North East Somerset Council in 2018 identified that the potential impact of fracking and its capacity to affect the water flows for Bath’s precious hot springs. This could then be catastrophic for the World Heritage City of Bath. The Full Council meeting resolved to request the council leader to contact authorities that border Bath & North East Somerset to ask them to support the council in its opposition to fracking in our region.

Councillor Ball said: “The recent announcement by central government that it has lifted the ban on fracking put in place in 2019 is extremely concerning to the council and local residents. Bath & North East Council has a statutory duty under the County of Avon Act to protect the source of the hot springs in Bath. This in itself would be a significant reason for opposing fracking within our area. However, when added to other environmental risks and impacts – and our commitment to the use of green technologies to help us achieve our net-zero ambitions-  the case against fracking in our own and neighbouring areas is clear and compelling.”

The council will now be writing to surrounding local authorities and MPs to reaffirm the council’s position.

Meanwhile, from the office of Bath’s MP Wera Hobhouse, comes this release.

Mr. Rees-Mogg said at the Conservative Party Conference this week that he would be ‘delighted’ if fracking were to go ahead in his constituency. He described allowing it to go ahead as a ‘public service’. 

The Government has promised that fracking will only commence where there is ‘local support’. However, they are yet to outline what ‘local support’ means. In an interview with BBC Lancashire last Thursday, the Prime Minister failed to answer what local consent would look like and the Government has not given a clear response since. 

Speaking at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event and then on a Telegraph journalist’s podcast, Mr. Rees-Mogg dismissed the idea of local referendums to gauge support. He instead said:

“I don’t think local referendums are necessarily the right idea. Turn-out in local referendums can be very low so how much real validity would that give you as to the consent.”

And on Chopper’s Politics Live Podcast:

“What I think you need to get community consent is for the companies to go around door-to-door, as politicians do at elections, and ask people if they will consent in the community that would be affected.

“If they get 50% plus one in favour then they should be able to go ahead.”

This prospective plan would mean that fracking companies would be put in charge of doing unrepresentative surveys to see if fracking was popular or not. An email seen by The Guardian suggests that another plan Rees-Mogg is looking at would be to have Parliament vote on whether or not fracking would take place in a given area, claiming this would be democratic consent. This has been slammed as it completely circumvents the views of the local communities.

Studies have linked several health problems to living near fracking sites. These include higher rates of birth defects, asthma, migraines, heart-related issues and certain cancers. Fracking causes dangerous air pollution from activities like burning off excess gas as well as the potential for water supply contamination.

Bath MP Wera Hobhouse, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for energy and climate change, commented:

“Jacob Rees-Mogg takes his constituents for granted time and again. This is yet another example. 

“In the past week, Mr. Rees-Mogg said he would welcome fracking in his back garden. I am quite sure he did not ask, nor does he care, whether any of his constituents also want it in theirs. This Government consistently ignores the wishes of the local community and Rees-Mogg is promising more of the same.

“The Liberal Democrats believe that we need full scrutiny of all new oil and gas projects. This must include giving people who will be affected by fracking a real voice in the decision-making process. Circumventing their views, as the Conservatives are set on doing, is grossly unjust.

“Risking our beautiful countryside and the world-famous Bath hot springs to line the pockets of the oil and gas giants is shameful and this country deserves better.”