A Calderdale Green Party survey of Calderdale Councillors’ and MPs’ views on fracking has found that some Labour and Liberal Democrat Calderdale Councillors are prepared to oppose fracking at both the national and local levels.
No Conservative councillor who replied to the questionnaire was prepared to break with their national leaders’ advocacy of fracking – although if fracking were to be licensed in Calderdale, some might vote against it at a local level.
Charles Gate, who carried out the survey for Calderdale Green Party, said,
“Calderdale Green Party welcomes Councillors’ opposition to fracking and would hope that the many Labour and Lib Dem councillors across the country opposing fracking can persuade their party leaderships to take the same stance.”
To date, 19 of the 50 Calderdale Councillors have responded to the questionnaire: 8 Labour, 4 Lib Dems, 1 Independent and 6 Tories.
The survey asked local politicians to answer two questions:
- Your party supports fracking. Do you?
- If an energy company wanted to frack for shale gas and/or oil within Calderdale’s boundaries will you be supportive of that company or will you oppose any intention to frack?
Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker replied that he supported fracking, but that his support for a company to frack in Calderdale would depend on where and how any fracking proposal conforms with and to planning policy. He wrote
“I will judge any application (if indeed there are any) on its individual merits and conformity on planning conditions.”
Charles Gate said,
“I’m disappointed that none of the leaders of the 3 main political parties responded. (Editor’s note: Cllr Tim Swift, Labour Leader of Calderdale Council, later replied, when he returned from his holiday. See below, under Town.)The 2 local MPs were also asked the same questions and so far one has responded. The summer holidays and/or illness may have kept the number of responses low, but then some councillors may have decided not to respond.
On Monday, Green MP Dr. Caroline Lucas was arrested for joining a peaceful protest at Balcombe, Sussex, where local people are resisting attempts to begin exploratory drilling ahead of possible fracking. The local community is determined to oppose a technology which has the potential to harm their environment for decades to come, as well as undermine efforts to tackle the climate crisis.“
(Editor’s update: Calderdale Council Leader Cllr Tim Swift has since responded. He was on holiday when Charles sent out the survey)
Green Party member Shan Oakes, a candidate in next year’s European Parliamentary elections said,
‘The Government should listen because there is a bigger picture here, and valid concerns of local communities. It has been estimated that between 60 and 80 per cent of existing fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if we are to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Some of the UK’s leading climate scientists have warned that the widespread use of shale gas is incompatible with the Government’s international commitments to keep global warming below two degrees.
Planning guidance which makes life easier for mineral extractors, and the prospect of tax breaks for fracking companies, mean the odds are being skewed outrageously against renewable energy.
The Government is being extraordinarily short-sighted, and not just because it might lose votes in its traditional heartlands.
Are we in Yorkshire and the Humber going to take this lying down? Who will benefit from any oil or gas found? Are we prepared to look at the big – longer term – picture?”
Calderdale Councillors’ replies, on a ward-by-ward basis.
Cllr Benton, Tory:
‘Thank you for your email. I would be equally interested to hear the views of our local Green party on these matters?’
Cllr Stout, Independent – no response
Cllr Ann Martin – being Mayor, was not sent the questionnaire.
Cllr D Young, Lab:
‘I am totally against Fracking as you are and I am pleased to report there are no applications in Calder Ward and also none in Calderdale. If there were and I don’t think there will be then I will oppose it.’
Cllr Battye, leader of the Lib Dem group – no response
Cllr Fekri, Lab no response.
No response from any councillor
Cllr Allen, Lib Dem
Cllr Ford, Tory
Cllr D Hardy, Lib Dem
Greetland and Stainland
Cllr James, Lib Dem no response
Cllr Wardhaugh, Lib Dem no response
Cllr Winterburn, Lib Dem:
‘1.Haven’t made my mind up yet but am minded at this stage not to support fracking.
2.the question is hypothetical as the maps which have appeared in the press from time to time do not indicate any reserves of exploitable gas-bearing shale within the Calderdale area.’
Hipperholme and Lightcliffe
Cllr Hall, Tory:
‘Thank you Charles for your email I will contact you in the next few days.’
Cllr Kirton, Tory:
‘I do not know enough about fracking to enable me to come to a conclusion about the issue, I know as we all do that a lot of people seem very unhappy about the issue.
With regards to fracking in Calderdale I would need to consider an application at the time if one was ever submitted and this would need a lot of very careful thought.”
Cllr Raistrick, Independent:
‘In answering your questions, indeed any questions, I like to have all the facts available. I read a piece in the Times this week about fracking. It quoted an American politician who said “you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts”.
When I know the facts, I’ll have my opinions.’
Illingworth and Mixenden
Cllr B Collins Lab (Deputy Leader of Council) forwarded his official response to a question on fracking, asked at cabinet on Monday (5th August) by Cllr P. Nash. In summary, Cllr Collins’ response states
“I am not aware that any companies are planning to undertake fracking within Calderdale; however, … applications for licences would be handled by DECC rather than Calderdale Council, although they would also need to apply to us for planning permission.”
Cllr Lambert, Lab – no response.
Cllr Sutherland Lab (Chair of Planning):
‘Firstly I believe there is a slight misrepresentation of my party’s position as I understand they are opposed to extension in the current circumstances regarding safeguards. I am not going to define myself by a blanket opposition with regards something (and this would also rule me out of making planning decisions on an issue) but I am very concerned that David Cameron’s big push on energy is to further invest in fossil fuels through fracking. Especially in the context of getting very mixed messages on renewable energy. That is before we even talk about the environmental and safety impacts of fracking vs. renewables. The information we have coming out of America with regards these impacts is very disconcerting and I would not be supportive of proposals which carried a real risk of these same impacts happening here. Personally though I don’t see fracking really coming to Calderdale due to our unique geography, dense population and absence of recoverable deposits.’
No responses from any councillor:
Cllrs Beacroft-Mitchell, Lib Dem
Cllr Marshall MBE, Tory
Cllr S Young, Lab
Northowram and Shelf
Cllr Baines MBE, leader of the Tory group – no response
Cllr Caffrey, Tory:
‘I have had numerous debates over this with residents, and feelings are mixed. Fuel poverty v fracking is not an easy one to answer. With some individuals profiteering from wind turbines and the substantial public funded subsidy of such power generation one has to weigh the pros and cons. It is an ongoing debate as to which causes the most environmental damage. Suffice it to say, for now, that to date resident objection to turbines has caused more negative feedback than fracking.’
Cllr Taylor, Tory – responded but did not want his answers to be published
No responses from any councillor –
Cllr A Collins, (Lab)
Cllr Rivron (Lab)
Cllr Smith (Lab)
Cllr Ali, Lab – no response
Cllr Lynn, Lab:
‘I do not support fracking, and would oppose its operation in Calderdale. I believe that the priority nationally must be a major expansion in renewables.’
Cllr Shoukat, Lab:
‘I have yet to explore all the arguments around fracking but given the lack of evidence base and negative press I would not support it within Calderdale or near any residential dwellings. One must also consider the devastating impact on ecology and the environment. No doubt countless landscapes will be destroyed in the pursuit for fossil fuels.
No response from any councillor –
Cllrs Beal, Tory
Cllr McAllister, Tory
Cllr Pillai, Tory
No response from any councillor –
Cllrs Barret, Tory
Cllr Carter, Tory
Cllr Thornber, Tory
Cllr J Hardy, Tory:
‘As with many proposals there are some things which are black and white and some which are varying shades of grey, this is one such situation. Support would depend on where such work was to be undertaken and the impact on the countryside and the residents.
In the current climate of searching for resources within our nations boundaries some exploration is taking place to find new energy sites and this has been highlighted in the press.
I have to be honest, as I always try to be, and say I cannot say I would support any such exploration in Calderdale, it would depend on where such exploration was to be undertaken.’
Cllr P Nash Lib Dem:
‘I asked a question about fracking at Cabinet last Monday (5th August) and was told that no applications have been received or granted although I have subsequently discovered we have places in Calderdale where fracking could take place. I have been doing some further research and am not happy with what I have discovered. The man who designed the machinery for this has just died. It has been done in the States for years. There have been problems such as water courses affected, both polluted and diverted accidentally, allegedly leaving some communities without water and again allegedly earthquakes on the scale of 3. I know we need energy but until I know more I am against it.’
Cllr Thompson, Tory – no response
No response from any councillor –
Cllr Draycott, Lab
Cllr Wilkinson , Lab
Cllr Peel, Tory
Cllr Booth, Lab:
‘I will fight against fracking with my life.’
Cllr Goldthorpe, Lib Dem – no response.
Cllr Sweeney, Lab responded that he didn’t support his party’s position on fracking and he would oppose fracking in Calderdale.
Cllr Metcalfe, Lab:
“Re your question 1- I have major concerns and for the foreseeable future I do not support fracking.
Question 2 – In what I believe is an unlikely event – but I would oppose any proposal by any company intending to frack.”
Cllr M Swift, Lab – No response
Cllr T Swift, Lab and Leader of the Council:
“Thank you for your email which arrived whilst I was on leave. My answers to your questions – which also reflect recent discussions and views within the Labour group – are as follows:-
1. Your party supports fracking. Do you?
Firstly, to say simply that all of the major parties are ‘in favour of fracking’ and therefore take the same position nationally is highly misleading. The Labour party’s national position is that fracking should only be considered if a number of stringent conditions can be met.
In addition, Caroline Flint MP has been highly critical of the way Government misleads the public by implying that shale gas fracking is likely to have a massively beneficial short-term effect on supply and price in the UK. Instead, she argues for more effective support for renewable and low-carbon energy sources. This position is radically different from that adopted by the Conservative- Liberal Democrat coalition.
However, in answer to your specific question, neither I nor Calderdale Labour group support the further development of fracking as an energy source at the present time.
2. If an energy company wanted to frack for shale gas and/or oil within Calderdale’s boundaries will you be supportive of that company or will you oppose any intention to frack?
Given the answer to 1 above, I would not support any application for fracking within Calderdale.”
Cllr Baker, Lib Dem:
‘Personally I’m opposed to fracking. Releasing even more fossil fuel reserves into the atmosphere simply doesn’t seem very sensible given what we know about global warming. I wouldn’t be supportive of companyies fracking within Calderdale.’
Cllr Burton, Lab – no response.
Cllr Evans, Lib Dem:
‘To the best of my knowledge, no company is planning to carry out fracking in our area and no licences have been granted. I will check with the relevant officers, just to make sure.
Personally I would have a number of serious concerns if a company wanted to either conduct tests or actually start fracking operations in Calderdale, including over any possible water pollution, seismic disturbance and how the waste water is disposed of. As I said earlier, I know of no plans for fracking in Calderdale, but should a company apply in the future you may wish to visit planning portal on our website to make your views known or find out more information.
As a Liberal Democrat, I want the Government to focus on renewable energy sources and I am pleased to be re-assured that this is a key Lib Dem priority nationally. I support the calls by Liberal Democrats for the Government to deliver enough renewable generation capacity to source 30 per cent of the UK’s electricity from renewables by 2020. I am also keen that we do more to encourage energy efficiency so we reduce the need to use fossil fuels like oil and gas. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to look at the Energy Saving Trust website – www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/ for useful information and tips on how to make your home more energy efficient.’
Updated 28th August to include Cllr Swift’s reply