Fracking laws on route to big changes – are you for or against?

It has been announced the government will be pressing on with plans to alter fracking regulations for firms, as part of the Infrastructure Bill. This proposal has been discussed within the House of Lords earlier this week, with the third reading scheduled for 19th November. It will then proceed to the House of Commons.

The current proposals involve making access to shale gas easier for fracking companies and allowing extraction without permission of the land or property owner. Firms would potentially be allowed to source and extract shale gas and drill beyond 300 metres below an owned estate. This should be a consideration amongst conveyancing professionals, as this could pose an issue to your clients – both buyers and sellers.

Following the consultation, there has been a strong reaction from many sources, with many saying it will have a negative effect on the property market.

Property consultants, Knight Frank, have submitted a report showing government reaction to the consultation. There were over 40,000 respondents to the enquiry, with 99% claiming they are opposing the removal of land and property owner consent.

In response to the report, the government have stated there are many MPs who are against the process of fracking, and the results within the report are only showing those who are for or against the access proposals in particular.

The government have also commented that current laws safeguard land owners from possible future consequences of fracking, such as pollution claims and similar issues. If problems do occur as a direct result, and the fracking firm is no longer running, there are plans to alleviate any financial issues.

In partnership with UKOOG, a trade body for the oil and gas industry, the government are working towards creating a scheme that will provide cover for land and property owners who have been affected by the problems that can occur from fracking.

Some property professionals are said to be warning their clients of the risks of fracking and are encouraging them to sell their property before other consumers become aware of the issues. Conveyancers need to examine the problems fracking could pose on their clients, and decide whether the commercially available searches should be implemented.

You will need to bear in mind the consequences of not providing clear information to home purchasers. If the area does currently have a fracking licence, it is your responsibility to share any details with your client.

Is there more that can be done to protect land and home owners? Is fracking really necessary, and do the positives outweigh the negatives?

Today's Conveyancer