74% 'oppose fracking right plan'
4:12am Tuesday 6th May 2014 in © Press Association 2014
The Government faces widespread opposition to plans to change trespass laws to allow shale gas companies to drill under homes without the owner's permission, a poll has revealed.
The YouGov survey of 1,898 people found that 74% opposed the controversial move, which ministers are thought to be considering as part of efforts to drive a "shale gas revolution" that could see fracking across swathes of the UK.
More than 45,000 people around the country have joined legal moves to block energy companies from fracking under their properties, but a change to the trespass laws could allow companies to explore for shale gas without needing their permission.
The survey found that 73% of Conservative voters and 70% of Liberal Democrat supporters did not agree with changing the law to make it easier to drill under people's homes.
The poll carried out for Greenpeace also revealed 80% of Labour voters and 77% of those planning to vote Ukip opposed the move.
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: "Having failed to reassure the country that fracking is safe, ministers now want to render people powerless to oppose it.
"There's nothing fair or just about this underhand ploy to strip people of their legal right to say no to fracking under their homes."
He added: "This survey reveals just how toxic this policy is for the Conservative Party. The same ministers who like to pose as champions of local communities against big government are now happy to trample over their property rights at the request of the fracking industry."
Greenpeace is one of a number of conservation groups who along with a leading homeowner organisation have written to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to back the rights of local people to refuse access to companies which wish to drill for fossil fuels underneath their homes and land.
The letter warned that changing property rights at a time when more than 60% of the country could be opened up to exploration of unconventional fossil fuels would further erode public trust in the Government's approach to fracking.
People's right to determine whether to allow oil and gas companies to drill under their property is "appropriate and should be retained given the associated major risks and lack of a precautionary approach by the Government," the letter said.
The groups criticised recent changes to the law which have removed the requirement for drilling companies to inform homeowners, landowners and tenants directly of plans to drill below their property.
Taking away the property owners' right to refuse drilling would allow companies to drill without either notification or permission - "an unacceptable prioritisation of the commercial interests of the few over the rights of land and property owners", they said.
The letter to the Prime Minister was signed by Greenpeace, the Homeowners Alliance, the RSPB, Friends of the Earth, the Angling Trust, the Salmon & Trout Association and the Wildlife Trusts.
Homeowners Alliance chief executive Paula Higgins said: "It's outrageous that homeowners don't have a say over who uses and profits from their land.
"Our homes are our most valuable asset and the Government shouldn't be allowed to ride roughshod over people from all corners of the country without any discussion or consultation and only a hint of compensation."
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure underground to fracture shale rock and release the gas trapped in it. Wells can be drilled horizontally, leading to exploration under land around the site.
The Government is pushing for the development of a shale gas industry in the UK, claiming it would create jobs and growth, reduce energy prices and cut the country's reliance on gas imports.
But opponents have raised fears that the process causes earthquakes, can pollute water supplies, lead to inappropriate development in the countryside and damage house prices.
There are also concerns exploiting shale gas could harm investment in renewables and undermine efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change.