Fracking industry must respect property rights and long-term liability, says CLA

18 August 2014

The CLA has accused the Government of having too little regard for property rights and long-term liabilities in its enthusiasm to realise shale gas extraction.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Consultation on Underground Drilling Access proposes removing the need for landowner consent for underground works associated with oil, gas and geothermal heat exploration.

The CLA has now submitted a robust response to this consultation.

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 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 Midlands regional director Caroline Bedell added that no real consideration had been given to alternative means of gaining the underground access required.

Mrs Bedell said: “While Government wants to streamline access, we see no reason why the fracking industry should be 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.”  

Mrs Bedell 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.

She 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 Underground Drilling Access closes on Friday, 15 August. For more information, please see here

Read the full CLA consultation response here