Planning Permissions for Shale Gas sites

The Government recently held consultations on proposed changes to the planning procedure for Shale Gas sites. These changes would see permissions for exploratory drilling sites brought under Permitted Development and consent for the production phase brought under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).

 

Permitted Development for Shale Gas exploration.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government's consultation was held on the principle of granting planning permission for non-hydraulic shale gas exploration development through a permitted development right, as introduced through the 17 May 2018 joint Written Ministerial Statement on Energy Policy.

Permitted development rights are a national grant of planning permission. They provide a simpler, more certain route to encourage development and speed up the planning system, and reduce the burden on local planning authorities by removing the need for planning applications. More information on Permitted Development rights can be found here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/596/contents/made

I am clear on this - I strongly object to changing the existing law on permitted development rights.  Development of non-hydraulic fracturing shale gas sites should not be granted in this fashion.  The existing law requiring prospective shale gas exploration sites to receive planning permission from the local mineral rights authority should remain in force.

I appreciate that the proposed changes are only in relation to shale gas exploration and non-hydraulic fracturing operations to take core samples for testing purposes. This does not, however, allay my fundamental concern that such changes would remove key safeguards which prevent sites from being built at inappropriate locations.

I know from experience that though ultimately temporary, shale gas exploration sites are considerable constructions.  It is at this initial phase that planning authorities should be able to consider all the circumstances of the case.  It is stated at paragraph 10 of the consultation document that the Government remains committed to ensuring that “local communities are fully involved in planning decisions that affect them.”  I offer my support in upholding this commitment. It is however patently obvious that these proposals do not, which is why I do not and will not support them should the department decide to proceed with this policy.

You can read my full submission to the consultation at the bottom of this page.

The consultation has now closed and we await its outcome in due course.

More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/permitted-development-for-shale-gas-exploration 

 

Inclusion of Shale Gas production in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project Regime.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy's consultation intended to gather views from industry, regulators and other interested parties on the timings and criteria for including shale gas production projects in the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) regime under the Planning Act 2008.

Currently, any organisation wishing to undertake a shale gas development must submit its planning applications to local Mineral Planning Authorities under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The Planning Act 2008 created a planning process for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects in fields of development including energy, water, waste water, road and rail transport and hazardous waste disposal. For projects falling within scope of what is defined in the Planning Act 2008 as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, this becomes the only route for obtaining planning consent. The Planning Act 2008 defines the type and scale of infrastructure developments considered to be nationally significant and therefore required to obtain development consent. The final decision for granting development consent rests with the relevant Secretary of State depending on the type of infrastructure project. More information on the NSIP can be found here: https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/

Taken in conjunction with the proposition that shale gas exploration sites could be given planning permission through a permitted development right, these proposals are deeply concerning.  In combination, these plans deny local mineral rights authorities the opportunity to scrutinise the suitability of shale gas sites at both exploration and production phase. 

I do however, welcome the introduction of an overarching national planning body to ensure that planning policy in relation to shale gas is applied uniformly across the country.  This will ensure that there is not a significant proliferation in the number of sites in any given area, removing potential inconsistencies in the number of sites that develop across different local authorities.

Alongside what would be this welcome change, local authorities and local people must not be cut out of the planning process.  The danger is that these plans will completely bypass local people’s concerns and remove the substantive powers that local authorities have to properly scrutinise shale gas planning applications using the benefit of their knowledge of all the circumstances.

You can read my full submission to the consultation at the bottom of this page.

This consultation has now closed and we await its' outcome in due course.

More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/inclusion-of-shale-gas-production-projects-in-the-nationally-significant-infrastructure-project-nsip-regime

 

 

The removal of all local consultation when considering the suitability of shale gas sites is unacceptable. This will increase the prospect that shale gas sites will be sited in wholly inappropriate locations.

I accept the Government’s concerns that it takes local mineral rights authorities too long to consider planning applications are legitimate.  What I cannot accept however, is the removal of any consultation of local authorities during the planning process. It is vital that local authorities are able to have a significant impact on whether both shale gas exploration and production sites should be constructed. This is because local authorities have practical, on-the-ground experience of the local area and have a better understanding of their suitability than an Examining Authority that may have little to no knowledge of the location of proposed developments.

As we have seen at the proposed Roseacre Wood site, not everywhere is suitable for such activities and, as I made clear to the planning inquiry, I am of the considered and firm view that the proposed exploration site should not be built because traffic management concerns cannot be overcome. This is a view shared by both Fylde Borough Council and Lancashire County Council, however without their consultation these significant concerns may well have been missed.

 

Attachments

Attachment Size
Submission to MHCLG consultation 4.75 MB
Submission to BEIS consultation 4.02 MB

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