THE Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has accused the Government of having too little regard for property rights and long-term liabilities to meet the demands of energy industry investors in its enthusiasm to realise shale gas extraction.
The association has submitted its response to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Consultation on Under-ground Drilling Access which proposes removing the need for landowner consent for underground works associated with oil, gas and geo- thermal heat exploration.
CLA president Henry Robinson said: “The CLA is not opposed to the development of the UK’s shale gas and geothermal resources but, as an organisation dealing with land ownership and property rights, we have serious concerns with these proposals.
“The consultation is extremely one-sided, squarely aimed at meeting the demands of the energy industry while disregarding the rights and concerns of UK property owners.
“Large-scale shale gas development is new to the UK and the long-term implications are relatively unknown.
“There is currently no clear system in place to protect landowners from any ongoing liability should problems occur once a well has been abandoned.
“This is a major concern for our members and a glaring omission from the consultation.
“Land and property owners must be protected before further development takes place.”
CLA South East regional director Robin Edwards added that no real consideration had been given to alternative means of gaining the underground access required.
He said: “The Government wants to streamline the existing system of access but we see no reason why the fracking industry should be entirely absolved of its duties to identify and agree access with landowners as other profit-making industries do. “Many of the proposals seem to be aimed at reducing the upfront cost of exploration, but we have seen no evidence to suggest that access is anything more than a tiny proportion of the total development cost for a well.
“There are other ways to deliver the access required without the need for legislation.” Mr Edwards added that the voluntary community fund included in the proposals is an incentive for the local community, but misses the point in providing compensation to those whose rights are infringed.
He said: “Where property rights are infringed it is only fair that owners themselves are appropriately compensated.” The Department of Energy and Climate Change Consultation on Under-ground Drilling Access closed on August 15.
In order to find out further information regarding the consultation visit the website which can be found at gov.uk/government/consultations/underground-drilling-access.