Brent Council considers using localism powers to ban fracking

The London Borough of Brent is investigating whether it can use powers under the Localism or Planning Acts to ban shale gas fracking in its area.

Many residents have raised concerns with the council about the possibility of fracking taking place in the borough, according to council leader Muhammed Butt.

This is despite the fact that no companies are yet planning any such operations in the borough, he admitted.

"Residents have been asking what our policy is on fracking, and we haven’t got any," he said.

The council has not yet identified how it might instigate such a band, but legal and planning teams are currently looking into how powers under the Localism or Planning Acts could be used at the moment, he said.

Stuart Andrews, partner at law firm Eversheds, said that any attempt by the council to include a policy banning fracking in its local plan would "fall at the first hurdle".

The Planning Inspectorate would have to consider national policy when examining the borough’s local plan. National policy supports exploration of shale gas resources, he pointed out.

"As a policy, it is doomed to failure," he said.

Angus Walker, partner at Bircham Dyson Bell, said that the council would have to be careful not to compromise its position by deciding in advance not to grant permission for a particular type of development. "It would have to give thought to any application it receives", he said.

Earlier this year, Brighton and Hove Council’s policy and resources committee declared the area a "no-fracking zone".

But a note from Brighton and Hove Council lawyer Elizabeth Culbert on the committee’s declaration of intent states: "The declaration of intent proposed in this report would not be a material planning consideration should a planning application be submitted to the council in relation to fracking.

"Any planning application would need to be considered against the waste and minerals plan and any other valid material planning consideration or relevant legislation in force at the time of the application."

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