Politics

Conservatives back fracking and seek to take some shale decisions away from local councils

ConsManifesto.jpg

A Conservative government would take some decisions on shale gas drilling plans out of local control.

In the manifesto published this morning, the party said:

  • Drilling that did not involve fracking would be classed as permitted development and would not need planning permission
  • Major shale planning decisions could be made by a government minister rather than a local council planning committee.

This marks a major change in policy for the Conservatives, who have previously promised “local people know best” and there would be “no compromise” in taking account of the views of local communities.

The party said today it would also establish

  • Expert planning functions to support local councils
  • A new shale environmental regulator to take over the functions of the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The proposed shale wealth fund would give a greater percentage of tax revenues to communities that host extraction sites, the manifesto added.

The Conservatives are now the only the only major party in the UK to support fracking. Labour and Lib Dem manifestos, published earlier this week, promised to ban or oppose it.

This is a big difference from the 2015 election, when only the Greens promised an outright ban, as it has done again this year.

“We will develop the shale industry in Britain”

The manifesto said the UK could benefit from shale energy in the way it said the United States had, with lower prices, less reliance on foreign imports and lower carbon emissions.

It said:

“We will therefore develop the shale industry in Britain. We will only be able to do so if we maintain public confidence in the process, if we uphold our rigorous environmental protections, and if we ensure the proceeds of the wealth generated by shale energy are shared with the communities affected.”

Avoiding planning applications

On changes to the planning rules, the manifesto said:

“Non-fracking drilling will be treated as permitted development”.

Permitted development rights currently allow proposals to be carried out without the need to go through the full planning system.

This would mean that shale gas wells, like the ones to be drilled by IGas in north Nottinghamshire and those proposed by INEOS in Derbyshire would not need to go through a public consultation and get permission from a planning committee.

Tinker Lane impression Bassetlaw Against Fracking

Artists impression of the IGas Tinker Lane in Nottinghamshire. Image: Bassetlaw against fracking

DrillOrDrop asked Conservative Central Office whether the changes also applied to all other oil and gas developments in non-shale areas. A spokesperson said:

“This is specific to shale”.

Under current rules, permitted development includes drilling boreholes for groundwater monitoring and seismic monitoring.

Permitted development rights are more restricted in some protected areas, including conservation areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites.

Local authorities can suspend permitted development rights but they must first notify the Secretary of State, who has the power to modify or cancel their decision.

National decision-making

The manifesto also said it would provide what it called “expert support” to local planning authorities to process planning applications.

But it added:

“When necessary, major shale planning decisions will be made the responsibility of the National Planning Regime.”

There is no definition in the manifesto of “major shale planning decisions” or details of the circumstances in which this would happen.

But DrillOrDrop understands the Conservatives see this measure as a way to reduce delays and costs.

It would allow proposals to be decided as nationally-significant infrastructure projects. They would not go through the current public consultation process and be decided by a local planning committee. Instead, they would go before a public inquiry, at which local people could make representations. A planning inspector would make a recommendation to a government minister, who would make the final decision.

New regulator and shale wealth fund

According to the manifesto, the new shale environmental regulator would:

“Provide clear governance and accountability, become a source of expertise, and allow decisions to be made fairly but swiftly.”

The document also said:

“Finally, we will change the proposed Shale Wealth Fund so a greater percentage of the tax revenues from shale gas directly benefit the communities that host the extraction sites. Where communities decide that it is right for them, we will allow payments to be made directly to local people themselves. A significant share of the remaining tax revenues will be invested for the benefit of the country at large.”

Reaction

The industry has welcomed the manifesto but the companies’ umbrella group, UK Onshore Oil and Gas, would not comment specifically on the planning changes. Nor would INEOS, which might benefit from them. Campaign groups and other parties have strongly criticised the proposals.

UKOOG

“Domestic shale gas production has the potential to secure the UK’s energy supply by reversing the increasing reliance on gas imports. By using the natural gas we have just a mile under our feet, we ensure that the British public have the means to heat and power their homes for generations. Analysis shows that the industry could also provide around 64,000 UK jobs, so it’s encouraging to see that the Conservative Party is looking towards British home-grown energy for the future. The UK onshore oil and gas industry has always been committed to strong regulatory oversight and the pledge to create a combined Shale Environmental Regulator is an important step in securing and increasing public confidence in our operations.” Ken Cronin, chief executive,

INEOS

“INEOS Shale welcomes the Conservative Party’s commitment to continue to support shale gas. Today’s manifesto draws a sensible balance between the needs of communities and regulators and the companies’ operational requirements to allow the viability of the UK shale gas industry to be established.”

Frack Free Ryedale

The group, which opposed Third Energy’s plans to frack at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire, said:

“The Conservatives have already proven they are ready and willing to ride rough-shod over local democracy and force fracking on communities where local authorities refuse it.

“They are living in a land of make-believe, cherry-picking information and ignoring proven harms to the ecology, human health and rural economies, which have led to US and Australian states banning fracking.

“Even best-case-scenario fracking would be a travesty for northern England and the Midlands as it would irreversibly industrialise huge parts of the countryside. Any short-term benefits would be dwarfed by long-term negative impacts.

“It is completely irresponsible to claim that the path to lower carbon emissions lies in developing a new fossil-fuel industry, a point which all opposition parties have already refuted. Cleaner than coal does not mean clean.

“Refusing local authorities the right to have a say in the drilling of new wells reeks of desperation, as opposition at this stage is a clear hurdle to fracking development.”

Friends of the Earth

“The mantra of ‘take back control’ will ring hollow for communities who face having fracking forced down their throats and their rights stripped away.

“The Conservatives have comprehensively rejected the siren voices calling for the UK to walk away from its international and domestic commitments to tackle climate change. This sends a strong message to both Donald Trump and opponents of action in the UK. However, far too many of the policies to deliver on this welcome pledge are inadequate or absent.” Dave Timms, campaigner

Frack Free United

The campaign group, which is working to put fracking on the election manifesto, said:

“The Tory manifesto is a car crash for communities and the environment. They are giving a blank cheque to the companies allow them to trample on communities across the country. We should be forward-thinking and looking to the future – and the future is not in fracking.

“The Conservatives have isolated themselves and have aligned themselves with the oil barons.

“This potentially opens up development on the scale of HS2 or Heathrow”

Green Party

“This Conservative agenda represents an absolute car-crash for the environment, and makes an entirely vacuous contribution to the major environmental challenges of our time. With the UK’s climate targets slipping further out of reach and biodiversity in free fall, it appears Theresa May has decided to bury her head in the sand

“Fracking would be forced on local communities, whilst the dirty and expensive energy of the past will continue to receive lavish public hand-outs. The cheapest and cleanest energy once again loses out.” Caroline Lucas, co-leader

Lib Dems

“The Conservative manifesto shows a complete failure to take climate change seriously. It’s never been more urgent to increase renewable energy, yet the Tories are backing more fossil fuels and expanding fracking. The environment and our countryside is simply not safe in their hands” Lynne Featherstone, Lib Dem energy spokesperson

Conservative candidates in front line constituencies

Kevin Hollinrake

Kevin Hollinrake, Thirsk and Malton

Kevin Hollinrake held the constituency, which includes Third Energy’s shale gas site at Kirby Misperton, in 2015 with a majority over Labour of 19,456.

On his website, the former MP gives this answer to a question about his views on fracking:

“Kevin Hollinrake believes that fracking could provide national solutions to national needs and that it will provide a much needed source of energy. However Kevin is clear that it should only happen if it is safe and has no significant impact on the countryside.”

DrillOrDrop asked for an interview with Mr Hollinrake about his party’s proposed changes to the planning system. We have not received a response.

Mark MenziesMark Menzies, Fylde

Mark Menzies was first elected to Fylde in 2010 with a majority of 13,185, which he repeated in 2015.

His constituency includes Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton.

But his website has made no reference to the start of work at the site in early January or to the daily protests.

Analysis by DrillOrDrop found that he asked the most parliamentary questions about shale gas and fracking in 2016.

DrillOrDrop asked Mr Menzies to comment on the proposed changes to planning for shale gas but we have received no response.

Lee RowleyLee Rowley, North East Derbyshire

Lee Rowley, who came within 1,883 votes of defeating Labour’s Natascha Engel in the 2015 election, opposes the INEOS proposals for a shale gas well at Marsh Lane in the constituency.

In conflict with party policy, he wrote on his website:

“As parliamentary candidate, I do not support this application and, if elected as Member of Parliament, would work with local residents and groups to oppose it.

“The strength of feeling amongst local residents against these proposals is clear and unambiguous: they are rightly concerned regarding the potential impact on the area, the detrimental effect of increased lorries and HGVs on local roads and the effectiveness of the consultation process to date.”

Annette SimpsonAnnette Simpson, Bassetlaw

Annette Simpson, a member of Bassetlaw District Council, is standing in the constituency which includes IGas sites at Tinker Lane and Springs Road, Misson. At the last election, Labour’s John Mann had a majority of nearly 9,000.

Cllr Simpson attends the Community Liaison Groups for the IGas sites.

Other parties

Links to DrillOrDrop posts on the other party manifestos and candidates.

Conservatives

Labour

Lib Dem

Green

UKIP

 

 

 

 

 

58 replies »

  1. Ry-you should either worry about matters in your own country or see a doctor about your insomnia.

    In terms of the subject being discussed, this would be great news for the local councillors/planning departments. Johnson is absolutely correct, they do not have the specialist knowledge in this sort of area and have been lucky to get away without huge financial compensation in some of the recent situations. Remember, their usual fare is whether to allow someone to install a multi coloured cat flap!

    The real losers will be the lawyers. They will just have to concentrate on trying to pursue our servicemen.

  2. Thanks for that Jack! Perhaps you should spread your net wider than Giggle?

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but has anyone explained that Giggle contains millions of pieces of information, which just happen to be incorrect?

    Somewhere along the line a belief has grown up amongst the antis that anyone out there will take such references as gospel. I really feel sorry for teachers these days when they have to keep explaining that the kids have worked hard but their work is full of nonsense, or unsubstantiated references. But then, I know they don’t because that might cause some emotional problems.

      • So what, Jack? A letter expressing concerns….do you think that because a group of uninformed medical professionals has concerns, the UK should give up the pursuit of energy independence? Do you think their concerns should trump the health and welfare of tens of thousands who live in fuel poverty? The facts in the letter don’t add up (fracking is done in far more densely populated places than the north of the UK), but you want to base national energy policy on that letter?

        Nope, the facts say that the concerns are over stated. The facts say that fracking is carried out safely every day. The facts say that fracking has helped to lower pollutants in the air dramatically in the US. The facts say that the democratic process in the UK supports the exploitation of shale gas. The facts say that the precautionary principle should also be applied to ask what the consequences should be of not taking an action – and not fracking could be disastrous for many in the UK.

  3. Jack-you can find millions of references to the dangers of motor vehicles. Do we ignore them? No, we assess the data and decide if it is valid and a reason not to do something. Just about every activity under the sun would be banned if we followed that route, including some very enjoyable ones. (Swimming?-before the morality police get excited.)

    I was not trying to be patronising in my earlier post but I have relatives and friends in senior positions in education and this Giggle epidemic drives them mad. They are forever having to explain to students that cutting and pasting is not what most employers will expect or accept. I have lost count of the times I have seen someone present such data to a client, only for the client to pull from his file a reference showing exactly the opposite, supplied by a competitor.

    This is why there are so many stories around the terrible problems with fracking, but when challenged there is little to substantiate them. I don’t need to provide more reference to that than the FOE picture of the Lake District being lost to us all due to fracking! If I was so inclined, I suspect that picture is still available through Giggle and I could use it for whatever purpose I wished.

    It’s probably my age, and my upbringing, but I will not believe information which is contrary to what I know is happening, or has happened, in reality. One upside of that currently is it seems to be keeping the political foot soldiers from my door.

    • Martin, I agree with some of your previous comments regarding the capabilities of local Councils.
      Their should be an independent body that advises Councils on such technical matters.

      I know you are not trying to be patronising. We duel on this forum as we both believe strongly in what we say.
      ( no harm ever intended )

      I have found this forum very informative and have learnt a lot from members on both sides regarding the Oil and Gas industry in general , both good and bad.
      ( The type of information and answers you will never get at any public meeting.)
      I am though, still unconvinced about the safety of fracking.

      Referring to your above post…… when we have leading members of the medical profession warning us of the dangers of fracking , do we ignore them ?

      Don’t we pay them to give us sound and correct advice ?

      If we ignore what is said by such reputable , high ranking medical professionals, believing as individuals we know better, then what next ?
      Do we start self diagnosing and treating ourselves when we have a particular aliment, because we choose not to believe these people , or do we continue to trust and take the word of our medical profesionals when we need them ?

      They are now warning us of the potential dangers, that are linked with fracking, should we not now stand up and take notice ?

  4. An extra little indication of why you should beware of fake news.

    Remember all the Giggling on here about how the N.Sea has plenty of oil for us, for the foreseeable future??

    All very interesting until you check out where the oil that is being shipped into the UK refineries come from. My source is from someone who actually is involved with those ships coming into one of the UKs major refineries. It seems the source WAS the N.Sea, but then demand for oil products changed as did the economics of refining, so now this oil comes from all places around the world, but NOT the N.Sea, which has the wrong type of oil!! We can sell N.Sea oil to pay for the right type of oil. But, if we need that right type of oil now and in the near future it would be a very silly idea to see if we have it under our feet wouldn’t it?

    Now, who do I believe when I see posts about how supply secure we already are with our oil supplies? I think I will stick with actual facts of what is happening and why-sorry Giggle.

  5. FAKE NEWS, is spun ( lies ) by media who in their effort to promote a particular agenda for their owners , sponsors or government spin a story without showing sweet FA in the form of evidence.

    Take for instance the weapons of mass destruction farce. The so called evidence came from some source that we couldn’t be told about . That’s my point, NO VERIFIABLE evidence was ever shown, before the war … When finally the evidence did come out, we found that it had come from someone no more important than the local Kebab shop owner.

    Some of the mainstream media present stories with laughable reasoning when pointing the finger at someone/organisation or country, backing up what they say using terms like , IT IS THOUGHT , IT IS BELEIVED and IT IS POSSIBLE and offering unnamed sources, or at best a particular large government department ( no-one accountable ) That’s how FAKE NEWS is spun.

    What I present comes from reputable , long standing organisations backed up by world leading health professionals and scientists who are willing to put their names and more importantly their reputations on the line for what they say.

  6. Jack – I have over 30 years drilling, completion, production experience in the field, engineering, ops management, including many horizontals, and several very large frack jobs, in over 30 countries. I also have a lot of experience working onshore UK albeit in the 1980s, but am familiar with the current Regs, the well construction process, the well examination process and the EA allowable chemicals.

    I have not experienced any of the issues which keep being repeated by antis / links on this BB. As far as I know I am healthy as is everyone else I keep in touch with in the industry. So who do you believe? Some of the wells I drilled in the 1980’s onshore UK are still producing and the aquifers are not contaminated, nor are the world famous chalk trout rivers nearby.

    • Paul your vast experience within the oil and gas industry is unquestionable.

      Regarding health, I agree, the fact that you are putting forward your opinions on this site is an indication that you are probably still in good health .

      Your 30 years experience in more than 30 countries, possibly clocked up by working shifts that would have been so many weeks on and so many weeks off.
      With time off, probably, like many other oil workers being spent with their families ( being flown home, away from the rig .)
      The very fact you have worked in so many countries also indicates that none of the places have been your permanent home.

      Therefore your exposure to risk has been limited and no doubt whilst you were working on these rigs, your health and wellbeing was carefully monitored on a daily basis by the company.

      With what is proposed, regarding fracking in England, is totally different …

      (1) In our densely populated country. fracking will be taking place in close proximity to people’s homes … They will have to live and breath this industry on a permanent basis, 24 hours a day for many years Their close and permanent proximity to these fracking sites will in the words of many world leading doctors and scientists put them at an increased of bad health .

      (2) Unlike oil workers whos health and wellbeing would be paramount to their employers. ( I am certain that protective clothing and breathing apparatus, etc , etc would of been supplied by the companies for their employees as and when required.)

      For people living in close proximity to these rigs, they will just have to put up with whatever is thrown at them. Their health and wellbeing will not be individually monitored or cared for . ( the Economics of such a venture would make it impossible.)

      At the end of the day, the main concern for these companies is money .

      • North Sea workers in UK work a 14/14 day rotation. International it used to be 28/28 or 35/35. They live and work on the rig / producing platform. In a lot closer proximity to hydrocarbons and flares / vents than you / local residents will ever be. Frack jobs take very little time to execute. They are not continuous. Production is continuous but how does this impact people living nearby? There will be more natural methane seepage from the ground and animal farming than from a production site.

        Of course it is about money. What Industry / Business is not about money? Do you think wind farm companies put wind farms up to save the planet? Of course they do it to make money. My Renewables Investment fund pays a good dividend, albeit not as high as Shell…..

  7. Just had my MOT with the GP. (That’s all about money, as well.) Seems everything I like is going to kill me. Well, something will, and if wasn’t on their list I am hardly going to sue them.

    Trouble with these doctors Jack, is that they tell you if you follow their advice you will probably “live” another few years. They are even wrong on that. You might “survive” another few years-98 instead of 94. Not another 4 years in your 20s and 30s.

    See OPEC are likely to have to REDUCE oil production AGAIN because the renewed surge in US fracking means they can’t raise their prices even at current restricted output. So, I wouldn’t be too sure that UK fracking will not impact prices to the consumer. I believe it has a good chance to do so BUT no one can be assured of this until sites have been developed. It’s all about output, tuning of methods etc. and what government slices off.

  8. Good to see the N. Sea is doing so well John!!

    How many food banks in Aberdeen now John?? (Careful-I have friends in Aberdeen. They are bit sensitive regarding the price they paid for their property and what they might get back from it in the future.) I see one kind guy is re-training oil workers to cut men’s hair.

    Shame some of the UK customers are having to buy in oil from overseas because N.Sea is the wrong type of oil! But, not too much of a problem since US fracking has forced the world price down. Shame about the balance of payments though, and the taxation loss.

    And that forgets the Queen Nic. question. What has she to offer the EU to try and bargain membership, and encourage Frau Merkel to produce a Germanic Barnet?? Ahh!

    And what happens if the new French President scuppers Hinkley Point? (Certainly not Toshiba.)

    Not to worry, we are perfectly secure with John’s assurances.

  9. Yes let the councils stick to housing planning and leave the complicated stuff to the experts. Cutting red tape, delays and removing decisions by local nimbys gets a massive thumbs up.

  10. Remember all the glee about Third Energy being a problem to Barclays and the efforts of the antis were about to force it out of business??

    I see that Third Energy is considering a £500m flotation! As always, the forgotten elephant is the value of the licences. If the licences hold gas and it can be extracted economically, there will always be finance available to do so, as long as the appropriate regulators allow it.

    Sorry to burst the bubble, but the whole premise of conducting legal and illegal protests to delay exploration until the companies run out of money will achieve nothing, other than criminal records, a platform for some who need it, and a decline in support from the public.

    • The other potential happening re Third Energy is that I Gas are going to take them over with Kerogen money. The flotation might be part of this or a way of getting the price up.

    • Basic recent facts about public support for fracking. Government, who support the industry, survey.

      19% support. Three years ago it was 29%

      30% oppose. Three years ago it was 22%.

      Informed decisions made. Clear results.

      Considering PR and lobbying companies have been paid fortunes from investors money to win our hearts and minds, they are doing a miserable job.

      • Basic recents facts about fracking:

        Cuadrilla – 4 wells approved including fracking, second site to be reconsidered.

        Third Energy – KM8 approved including fracking

        I-Gas – teo shale exploratory wells approved

        INEOS – seismic started, two applications for shale exploratory wells submitted

        Anything refused?

        LibDems / Greens / Labour will ban fracking (don’t believe for one second that Labour will ban it). Conservatives will support shale gas exploration. Conventional onshore oil and gas will be permitted development.

        So if LibDems / Greens / Labour form the next Government, the PR and lobbying companies will have failed. If the Conservatives are re-elected it would appear that they have been successful?

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