Nine years ago, a deal was signed by the Peel group with fracking operators, Igas. The former gave the latter the rights to frack on their land in the north west, with particular reference to the Dee and Mersey estuaries. Now that national government has overruled local democracy in Lancashire to allow fracking there, a green light has been given to allow it everywhere.
Remember that there has already been great controversy over fracking on Peel land. That was the celebrated and much disputed drilling in Salford. Given that the Peel group has land holdings in each of the six local authorities in the Liverpool City Region, it is entirely possible that fracking could become an issue across the entire LCR.
It would be eminently sensible for the Combined Authority to reach some sort of consensus on fracking policy. After all, it has the makings of a major challenge for local authorities whether one approves of this process or not. One has only to look at the ongoing argument over Redrow’s proposal to build on Sefton Meadows, and Liverpool’s disastrous record on green spaces generally, to see the importance of such a sensitive environmental issue. Green issues do not – and will not – go away. At the very least, our local authorities should have a developed and comprehensively informed policy on fracking, rather than simply reacting to events and protests as and when they occur.
I would have hoped that Barrie Grunewald – one of the more progressive local leaders – would have taken the initiative on this, but sadly, he appears to have been incapacitated for some time to come. We all hope that he makes a speedy recovery, but, realistically, it will be some time before he can hope to resume his duties (I speak from personal experience on this, and know how tough it will be for him).
Meanwhile, I note the usual round of optimistic announcements about “development” proposals across the LCR. However, I must sound a note of caution about over-spinning of projects, or the repetition of previous announcements. Such hyped promises of future “goodies” in the community can lose their value with cynical citizens. Too often, hopes are raised only to lead to disappointment down the line. Failed promises simply feed the disenchantment which bedevils politics both locally and nationally.