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Easier fracking plans announced in Queen's speech prompt law firms to prepare for surge in inquiries from landowners

By Chris Price

Landowners will “not welcome” plans announced in the Queen’s Speech to ease the path for fracking projects say a Kent law firm.

The commerical team at Thomson Snell & Passmore (TSP) are preparing for a surge in people seeking legal advice as the government confirmed its intention to allow fracking companies to drill under peoples’ homes without their permission.

The measure was not included in the infrastructure bill as expected, with ministers forced to wait for the result of a 12-week consultation before moving to add the measure to legislation.

The Cuadrilla hydraulic fracking drill site in Balcombe, Sussex
The Cuadrilla hydraulic fracking drill site in Balcombe, Sussex

Tunbridge Wells and Dartford-based TSP's senior associate Sarah Easton said: “Many landowners will not welcome the proposal to legislate what has previously only been possible through private negotiation.

Previously, exploration has required consent not only from the landowner where the well head is situated, but also from any adjoining landowner through whose land gas is extracted.

“The Government proposes to legislate to allow companies to run pipelines under private land to transport gas without the consent of the landowner and without causing a trespass.

“This fundamentally changes the longstanding principle of English law that a landowner owns “everything reaching to the very heavens and down to the depths of the earth.

“ The only exception to this has been where mines and minerals have been reserved out of a sale of land.”

Among 11 measures put forward in what has been viewed as a light Queen’s speech are changes to pensions, allowing greater freedom for people to draw down funds early.

Portal Financial managing director Jamie Smith-Thompson – whose Strood-based firm specialise in pension advice – said: “The Queen’s speech will be warmly received by those thinking about retirement.

"It shows commitment to reform and flexibility for pensioners, encouraging people to save regardless of their age.

“There was also mention of innovation in the private pensions market, which could be an indication of further changes in the near future.

“We are all awaiting the chancellor’s statement on July 22, where he will explain what these changes are.”

Proposals to slash red tape and stamp out abuse of zero-hours contracts were also put forward as part of a Small Business Bill.

FSB Kent and Medway regional chairman Roger House said: “Government is at last beginning to seriously implement some of the promises made to the business sector that it has taken so long to fully appreciate.

“With legislation proposed strengthening prompt payment; access to finance; employment law and procurement together with other key issues we must be positive, I look forward to seeing the detail.

“However, one might be forgiven for remembering that an election is looming and here is the first pitch.”

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