Cheshire councillors adopt new oil and gas policy document

Cheshire west and chester pedls

Source: Cheshire West and Chester Council

A council in what could be one of the country’s leading shale gas areas has agreed a new policy document to help it deal with planning applications.

Cheshire West and Chester Council – where almost the entire area is licensed for oil and gas – adopted a supplemental policy document (SPD) on onshore hydrocarbons at a meeting of the cabinet this evening.

SPDs are used to provide further detail and guidance on the implementation of policies and proposals contained in existing Local Plans. They are not statutory development plan documents but they can, once adopted, be a material consideration in deciding planning applications.

CWAC cabinet meeting 17032017

Cheshire West and Chester Council cabinet meeting. Photo: Matt Bryan

In writing the SPD, Labour-led Cheshire West and Chester changed its constitution to require all planning applications relating to oil and gas development to be dealt with by a planning committee, rather than by delegation to council officers.

The new document refers to the HS2 rail line as a potential constraint on oil and gas development. It also makes clear that planning permission for exploration and appraisal does not carry with it any presumption that long-term production from those wells, or that the development of further wells, will be permitted.

The SPD sets out the key issues it expects developers to address when making planning applications for oil and gas. These include: noise, air quality, surface and groundwater protection, flaring, landscape and visual impacts, traffic and transport, site restoration and after care, flood risk, heritage assets, nature conservation, land stability, soils and agriculture, economic impact, health and cumulative effects.

It defines the standards that the council would expect a development to meet. On noise, for example, it says:

“The noise impact assessment should demonstrate that the noise levels as a result of the development shall be 5dB(A) or more below the measured background level at the nearest facade of the residential property when measured as a rating level in accordance with British Standard BS4142:2014”.

Some members of the working party drawing up the document wanted to include a requirement that local communities must support an oil and gas development – as allowed by government policy for onshore wind energy. But other members and council officers said this could not be included because there was no similar policy for oil and gas proposals.

Mike GarveyMike Garvey, of Frack Free Frodsham and Helsby, (pictured left) welcomed the SPD. He told the Cabinet:

“In the absence of a complete ban it offers the greatest protection against the effects of fracking within our democratic process.”

He said the document had provided clarity, detail and explanation.

“It effectively deals with our concerns without tying the hands of elected representatives with any suggestion of pre-determination.”

Cllr Matt Bryan, who represents Upton and opposes fracking, said the SPD enshrined existing policy to a high standard.

“It also reassures residents that the issue of fracking and onshore oil and gas is an issue that this council takes incredibly seriously.”

Cllr Bryan added:

“The issue of fracking has not gone away in Cheshire West. Only three months ago IGas applied to make a deed of variation to their coal bed methane production permission.

“Their application was refused and they were advised to send in a new full application which will be heard in a public forum by a planning committee.”

Link to information about SPD

Webcast of Cheshire West and Chester Council cabinet meeting

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10 replies »

  1. Great to read such a positive step has been made. However you have a spelling error. It’s Cllr Matt Bryan (a, not o)

    [Moderator: Name corrected – thank you]

  2. What have they actually changed with this SPD? What diference does it make? As well as being not statutory, the document just repeats all the issues an applicant needs to address already (noise, air quality, surface and groundwater protection, flaring, landscape and visual impacts, traffic and transport, site restoration and after care, flood risk, heritage assets, nature conservation, land stability, soils and agriculture, economic impact, health and cumulative effects). The applicant has to address these issues without the SPD. If the SPD contains parameters unreasonably limiting which conflict with National Planning Policy then the document is worthless. And taking away Officer delegation means what? All these applications get called in to Committee already?

    I had a quick look through the 29 page document and can not see anything different? The requirement or not for EIAs are already defined. Some of the deleted items were different but presumably this is why they were removed.

    Perhaps someone with a good understanding of this SPD can explain how it differs from existing policy?

    • The existing Local Plan includes little detail on fracking specifically only that CWAC should support the move to low carbon energy but allows for hydrocarbons – its quite contradictory actually. This new policy will mean that planning decisions for fracking will have to go through a committee process and it can be used in planning objections to support the weak points in the local plan for our area.

  3. I just wonder what the views of this Labour controlled body will be, if the car plant up the road starts to suffer contraction and Mr. Ratcliffe is looking for a location for his car plant??!!

    • The new legislation is only relating to the planning process for onshore Oil and Gas extraction – ie. Fracking and UGE projects in the area so it would have no impact on the acquiring of land for a car plant as far as I can tell

      • Reading the SPD it applies to all oil and gas activities, including conventional, not just shale gas (fracking). Planning decisons on “fracking” will always have gone through the Committee process. So basically no change with the SPD that I can see.

  4. My point Paul was that Mr. Ratcliffe can chose where he might put a car plant, and create employment, based upon a number of criteria-including whether he feels his business interests, in the round, are being supported in the vicinity. I would find it hard to believe any international company would make a location decision for one business if another had been delayed and adversely impacted financially in that location.

  5. Under the previous Tory administration planning consent for previous cbm wells did not go through full committee. This SPD clarifies many issues which were either ambiguous or simply ignored when dealing with earlier applications. Locals were flabbergasted to find out that a 20 year gas extraction licence was granted at one site without going to full committee or full consultation.

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