Government could decide Cuadrilla’s fracking appeals under new rules

Greg ClarkThe government gave more detail this afternoon on how it would fast-track fracking through the planning system.

In a statement the Local Government Secretary, Greg Clark, said he was changing the rules to allow him to take over decisions on shale gas appeals.

He also set out how the government would identify what he described as councils which “underperformed” on determining oil and gas applications.

Planning appeals

Mr Clark said in his statement: “I may want to give particular scrutiny to planning appeals for exploring and developing shale gas”.

Up to now, the Local Government Secretary has the right to decide a planning appeal if, among other reasons, the application may conflict with national policy, may have significant long-term impact on economic growth or could have significant effects beyond the immediate locality.

Today Mr Clark added to these criteria any proposals for exploring and developing shale gas. The change begins today and lasts for two years.

Cuadrilla’s appeals against the refusals of planning permission to frack in Lancashire may be among the first applications to be decided by the Secretary of State under the new rules.

Media reports said the company submitted appeals last week against the refusals of its applications to drill, frack and test up to eight wells at Roseacre Wood and Preston New Road. So far, the fracking appeals have are not been listed on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.

Other details

Mr Clark also set out how the government would sanction councils that did not, in its view, decide applications quickly enough.

  • Councils will be said to be underperforming if, over a two-year period, they decide 50% or fewer applications within the statutory time-limit (or an extended period agreed with the applicant)
  • The statutory time limit is 13 weeks, or 16 weeks if an environmental impact assessment is needed
  • Councils will be exempt if they decide no more than two applications over two years
  • The first underperforming councils will be named in the final quarter of each year, starting in 2016.
  • Once a council has been named as underperforming, the Local Government Secretary has the power to decide any oil and gas applications submitted to it for a year.
  • Councils will have the right to set out exceptional circumstances that make identification as “underperforming” unreasonable.
  • Data on councils’ performance on deciding oil and gas planning applications will be published quarterly. The first release will be on 22nd September 2015.
  • The measures will be reviewed in 2019.

In August, ministers said there should be a “swift process for developing safe and suitable new sites” for shale gas exploitation.

7 replies »

  1. What a disgrace and from the MP that championed localism. This has to be the most undemocratic government in a very long time. Looking at what they propose for the North – I hope every sensible person fights this behaviour all the way.

  2. Ruth – some of the details this report posted today do not ring true to me – you yourself have (helpfully) linked the planning appeals to info on the LCC website – which to cut a long story short lead to a 10 day hearing on Feb 2105. Or have I misunderstood??? Nick Riley

    • Hi Nick
      Thanks for your comment.
      The information on the LCC website is about Cuadrilla’s appeal against refusal of permission for the monitoring array at Preston New Road and another appeal against some of the conditions attached to the permission for monitoring at Roseacre Wood. Cuadrilla’s draft timetable on the LCC website had a predicted date for Cuadrilla’s submission of its appeals on the fracking applications (drilling, fracking and testing wells as opposed to monitoring).
      There could still be an inquiry (as you say currently scheduled for Feb 2016). The inspector would make a recommendation having heard the evidence but the final decision could, under the new rules, be up to the Secretary of State. In previous cases, the Secretary of State has ruled differently to the recommendation.
      Hope this makes sense – but please come back to me if I haven’t explained this clearly.

  3. No they wont. It is a controversial issue fracking and they will go through all the hoops to show or posture that they are listening to the debate.

  4. Does anyone know of a pictorial representation of the number of times and the ways in which the goalposts have been moved by the government in relation to imposing Fracking on the UK

    • The only thing that comes to my mind is think of the moon landing ending up at alpha centauri.its all absolutely disgusting, why are we even entertaining something that wont benefit anyone but the people with the shares and stocks. the government is turning into a dictatorship.

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