The CLA has said that proposals in the Queen’s speech “to open up access to shale and geothermal sites” as part of an Infrastructure Bill, would gift access to private property for commercial companies, and fails to address the concerns of land and property owners.
Proposals on access for shale gas operators have been in the public domain since late May in the form of a DECC consultation. However, the Association believes that neither today’s announcement nor the consultation has addressed the continuing fears of its members.
The consultation proposes changes for underground drilling access allowing operators to drill under land without the prior permission of the landholder. The CLA believes the consultation failed to address concerns over long-term liability, nor gave serious consideration to alternative options. CLA President Henry Robinson said of the consultation: “This is focussed solely on the needs of the shale gas industry and fails to provide a balanced approach to the provision of access, nor does it address the legitimate concerns of property owners whose rights are being impinged.
“The shale gas industry already has a means of gaining access where they cannot do so by mutual agreement. It therefore seems extraordinary that Government is considering law changes while the shale gas industry is yet to prove the current system is not fit for purpose. Other options for provision of access should be given more serious consideration.”
Mr Robinson also said landowners must be protected from any liability in the longer term and not left out of pocket for the benefit of the shale gas industry.
“One of the key concerns for landowners is that they will be left liable for costs resulting from processes taking place on or under their land by operators whose interests are short term.
“It is appalling these fundamental issues are seemingly not being addressed. The shale gas industry already has a poor public perception and these proposals are unlikely to improve that situation.
“Rather than the Government embarking on a confrontational approach, shale gas operators should start to work with all landowners rather than seeking Government support for ways around their obligations.”