Local oil and gas policy round-up: Barnsley, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire


Barnsley anti-fracking campaigners call for changes to minerals plan


An anti-fracking group has called on Barnsley to take an impartial approach to shale gas in its planning policy and to host a public meeting on unconventional oil and gas.

The borough council has published a draft of its local plan, which sets policy on oil and gas developments until 2033.

The plan includes a policy (MIN1) which states:

  • proposals for the exploration and production of oil and gas (including petroleum, natural gas, coal mine methane, coal bed methane or underground gasification of coal), will generally be supported.
  • Proposals for the exploration and production of shale gas via hydraulic fracturing will generally be supported.

In an open letter to the council this week No Fracking In Barnsley said:

“We appreciate that BMBC [Barnsley Metropolitan District Council] need to remain impartial on the subject of fracking and we would like the wording of the policy to more closely reflect that position.”

It proposed a rewording of policy MIN1 so that all planning applications for minerals, including fracked shale gas, should be considered, “on their individual merits and take in to account the applications cumulative impact”.

The group also criticised the council’s consultation on the plan, which continues until mid-August:

“The consultation exercise has not offered Barnsley residents the opportunity to learn more about the proposed policies in the plan, or discuss their concerns with officers.”

It said the online comment form was not worded in a way that lay people would understand and so did not comply with government consultation guidelines.

The group said added:

“When we attended the consultation event in Barnsley on Saturday 23rd July, we were told by the officer present that he could not discuss fracking with us. We find it incredible that we were not allowed to discuss a policy contained within the plan at a Local Plan consultation event.

“Awareness that unconventional oil and gas exploration may soon be coming to Barnsley is still growing. We consider that the people of Barnsley deserve an open and honest debate about fracking and it is important that BMBC engage and listen to their concerns.”

No Fracking in Barnsley called on the council to hold a public meeting where, it said, “information of the areas that have been licensed, the methods of hydrocarbon extraction (particularly hydraulic fracturing and underground coal gasification) including on-site works and duration, the planning procedure, the possible dangers and mitigations, and the regulatory framework are all laid out for residents to see.”

Reducing impacts

The Barnsley draft policy seeks to reduce the impact of mineral developments by requiring they should:

  • Be of limited duration
  • Have no unacceptable adverse environmental or amenity impacts
  • Be subject to high quality and appropriate reclamation and after use within a reasonable timescale; and
  • Result in a net increase in biodiversity and/or geodiversity interests.

Policy MIN4 says proposals for mineral extraction must not have unacceptable adverse impacts on the natural and historic environment or on human health including those from noise, dust, visual intrusion, traffic, increased flood risk, migration of contamination and impacts on ground and surface water. Proposals must also take into account the cumulative effects of multiple impacts from individual and a number of local sites.

No Fracking In Barnsley said the protections in the policy were not robust enough and called for this replacement wording:

“An applicant for planning permission for fracking or shale gas operations (including test drilling and extraction) must demonstrate by appropriate evidence and assessment that reasonable scientific doubt can be excluded as to adverse impacts of the proposed development alone or in combination with other developments:

  • On the quality and quantity of water resources, including groundwater and water courses;
  • On air quality (including through emissions of methane and sulphur);
  • On seismic activity;
  • On local communities;
  • On greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.”

The group added that fracking or shale gas operations (including test drilling and extraction) should not be granted unless:

  • The Council is satisfied that all reasonable scientific doubt that there is any risk of adverse impacts has been eliminated;
  • The proposal will not compromise the Council’s duties in relation to climate change mitigation; and
  • The proposal is environmentally acceptable, or it can be made so by planning conditions or obligations.

“Low carbon”

Another section of the plan (paragraph 22.12) describes coal bed methane and underground coal gasification as “new low carbon technologies”. Barnsley’s draft local plan proposes to support exploration and development of coal bed methane and underground coal gasification “where it can be demonstrated that it would be environmentally acceptable in accordance with government guidance”.

The council’s definition of low carbon technology is very different from that used by the government’s advisor, the Committee on Climate Change. It lists low carbon technologies as renewables, nuclear power, carbon capture and storage and bioenergy.

Consultation details

A consultation on the Barnsley draft local plan runs until 19 August 2016. Link to consultation

Leicestershire: Consultation opens

LeicestershireThe last chance to comment on policy on working minerals in Leicestershire begins today.

A consultation on the latest version of the county’s Minerals and Waste Local Plan – which sets policy up to 2031 – will run for eight weeks.

The ruling Conservative group blocked a call last month to include in the plan extra community consultation on fracking plans before they were discussed by the council’s planning board.

The Labour opposition group leader, Robert Sharp, said this would have prevented councillors having to approve fracking applications against their will because of council policies.

But the Conservative chairman of the planning board, Trevor Pendleton, said the committee already took account of people’s views and would do so if it had to consider any applications for fracking.

The consultation on the pre-submission version of the plan closes at 5pm on 23 September 2016. Link to the Local Plan and supporting documents

The draft is expected to be submitted to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in October 2016. It will then be examined by an inspector and publication of the final plan is expected in summer 2017.

Gloucestershire approves draft plan despite call for presumption against fracking

GloucestershireSenior councillors in Gloucestershire have rejected calls for a presumption against fracking to be included in county mineral policy.

A meeting of the county council cabinet last week (20/7/2016) approved the latest version of the draft minerals local plan, which sets policy until 2032.

The current version includes a policy (MW06) to approve proposals for oil and gas exploration and production, including those using unconventional techniques, providing they meet eight conditions. The conditions include:

  • No adverse impacts on seismicity from hydraulic fracturing
  • Sites are located as far as practicable to minimise impacts on the environment and local communities
  • No unacceptable adverse impacts on groundwater, rivers and lakes and natural habitats

Earlier this month, the council’s environment and communities scrutiny committee called for the policy to include a presumption against fracking (13/7/2016). But Cllr Nigel Moor, the cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure, said this would make the plan unsound. The cabinet backed him in approving the plan unchanged.

A public consultation on the plan is expected to begin in September. The plan is likely to be examined by an inspector in late 2017 and adopted in 2018.

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