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Shale gas planning applications to be fast-tracked

Shale gas planning applications to be fast-tracked

Thursday 5th November 2015

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Renewables Bulletin - Issue 10

The UK Government has announced plans to get tough with local planning authorities in a bid to
fast-track fracking planning applications.

It was announced in August that the Communities Secretary would consider deciding fracking applications himself where “under-performing” local authorities have “repeatedly” failed to determine oil and gas planning applications within statutory time frames and will “actively consider” calling in shale gas plans. 

In a Shale Gas and Oil Policy Statement, jointly published by the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Government has announced that shale gas planning applications will be fast tracked through a new, dedicated planning process. The measures announced by the Government include identifying councils’ that repeatedly failed to determine oil and gas planning applications within the 16 week statutory timeframe, with subsequent applications potentially decided by the Communities Secretary. 

The Government has made it clear that shale gas is a national priority, but ministers now want to ensure that shale planning applications “cannot be frustrated by slow and confused decision making amongst Councils’, which benefit no one”.

The Government is frustrated that planning applications for shale excavation developments are taking months or even years to determine and they argue that this can create uncertainty for communities and prevent the development of a potentially vital national industry.

The measures introduced by the Government mean that ministers can consider calling in any application for shale excavation and will, if required, recover appeals on a case by case basis. However, the Government are keen to reassure local communities that they will remain fully involved in planning decisions with any shale planning application, whether decided by councils’ or the Government. 

The measures introduced by the Government include:

  • The Communities Secretary actively considering calling in on a case by case basis shale planning applications and considering recovering appeals;
  • Identifying councils’ that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas planning applications within the        16 week statutory timeframe requirement (unless applicants agree to a longer period). Under performing councils’ gas and oil planning applications could then be determined by the Communities Secretary;
  • Adding shale planning applications as a specific criterion for recovery appeals, to ensure no application can “fall through the cracks”;
  • Ensuring planning call-ins and appeals involving shale planning applications are prioritised by the Planning Inspectorate; and
  • Taking forward work on revising permitted development rights for drilling bore holes for ground water monitoring.

In conclusion, the Government have argued that by fast-tracking any appropriate oil and gas planning applications it will tackle potential hold ups in the planning application system. Also, the increased prospect of call-in and the prioritisation of appeals and call-in decisions will give the industry greater confidence that they have an alternative route, even if the first priority will remain a swift, positive outcome at the local level.

If you would like more information about the fast-tracking of applications or to discuss any other planning matter please contact:

Kevin Halewood

Director of Planning
Tel: 0151 600 3365