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 per cent 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 poll carried out for Greenpeace found that 73 per cent of Conservative voters and 70 per cent of Liberal Democrat supporters did not agree with changing the law to make it easier to drill under people’s homes. Eighty per cent of Labour voters and 77 per cent 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 the Prime Minister 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.
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.
Agricultural law expert Andrew Fearn of Yorkshire-based Langleys Solicitors, said: “While the new legislation will exempt developers from the law of trespass, it also gives landowners the right to compensation.
“So on the face of it, it could be a win-win situation for both parties. However, landowners are likely to feel disenchanted at the very least with what is in effect, a statutory removal of their proprietary rights.”