Fracking could take place under homes

A general view of the fracking site at Barton Moss, Greater Manchester
A general view of the fracking site at Barton Moss, Greater Manchester
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Government plans to change trespass laws to favour fracking operations have been branded as “outrageous” by a campaigner.

Opponents to hydraulic fracturing - commonly known as fracking - have described current regulations as a “legal blockade” to energy companies.

But ministers are thought to be pushing through the changes which would allow companies to drill for shale gas under privately owned land even if owners object.

Earlier this year, the Reporter revealed fracking companies had secured licences to drill in dozens of sites across St Helens.

Campaigner Stephen Hall said he was not surprised by the move, which is set to be included in a proposed Growth Bill later this year.

He said: “Of course this is outrageous, they are proposing to do away with laws that are centuries old to suit their means.

“They are doing everything they can to stop local people from showing their opposition to planning applications (for fracking wells).

“And this goes against their localism pledges, saying they will pass over decision making to a local level.”

Details of the law changes come in the same week that energy company IGas revealed exploratory operations at Barton Moss, have found shale rock.

The firm is now putting together plans to find other areas of the North West where drilling sites could be set up.

Mr Hall, who took part in prolonged protests at Barton Moss, added: “Fracking is not going to bring energy prices down. The government would be better off investing in renewable energy projects.”

Environmental group Greenpeace has raised support for the anti-fracking cause by highlighting the current law’s “legal block” with regard to drilling taking place under homes without permission.

Several energy companies hold licenses allowing them access to areas in Wigan borough subject to planning permission from the council.

Due to its success in the US, extracting gas from vast underground shale rock formations has been hailed as a way of boosting the UK’s struggling economy.

Energy companies are reportedly poised to invest millions of pounds that could lead to thousands of jobs and drive down energy prices, the government has said.