ILKLEY residents have echoed concerns of a ward councillor regarding procedures surrounding planning applications for fracking operations.

Independent ward councillor, Anne Hawkesworth, says she has been inundated with comments from residents in the ward about fracking and Government intervention.

In addition to wider concerns about the practice of hydraulic fracturing to extract underground shale gas, Ilkley residents have expressed worries about the process of applying for planning permission to carry out the operations.

Ward councillor, Anne Hawkesworth, said: "I get the impression that, yes, they are opposed to the possibility of fracking and the unknown and intrusive element but, more to the point ,they are concerned about the Government bouncing applications through after the eight weeks given to the local planning authority.

"For an enormous and contentious issue such as fracking to be considered by a local authority within that timescale is virtually impossible. The intrusion or imposition at this point does give room to question the myth of localism."

Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside. Opponents claim the process has created environmental damage in other countries, including toxic and radioactive water contamination, and air pollution, as well as being a blot on the landscape.

Critics nationwide have also voiced concerns about the Government changing planning guidance, claiming it could essentially fast-track planning decisions on fracking applications where there is likely to be local opposition and calls for all the evidence on potential environmental damage to be studied in full.

Cllr Hawkesworth says there are also concerns about other changes afoot in planning, which could also affect decisions on housing.

She added: "On top of the intrusion on contentious 'fracking' applications, ministers are proposing a system that will see developers paying to fast-track planning applications.

"It suggests that neighbouring councils, or even private organisations, could process plans before they are even submitted.

"This will obviously give a shoe-in for the big boys, who can afford the money to push forward what could be contentious planning decisions. What price democracy? What price localism?

"Once more, they are looking at ways to ride roughshod over areas such as Wharfedale to drive through their building in greenbelt areas."

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