Government seeks to strengthen planning case for onshore oil and gas

180228 KM Steve Spy

Tankers visiting Third Energy’s fracking site at Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire, 28 February 2018. Photo: Steve Spy

Local councils in England are to be required to develop policies that “facilitate” onshore oil and gas developments, under revised government guidelines.

The proposed revisions, published yesterday, also require planning authorities to “recognise the benefits” of exploration and extraction when deciding applications and “plan positively” for them.

People can comment on the changes in a consultation which runs until 10 May.

The Department of Communities, Local Government and Housing said the changes were to “provide clear policy on the issues to be taken into account” by planning authorities. The changes also built on Written Ministerial Statements of 16 September 2015, the Department said. These statements repeated the government’s view that there was a national need to explore and develop shale gas oil resources and sought to speed up onshore oil and gas decisions.

Changes in detail

The proposed changes are to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which sets out the Government’s planning policies for England and how they should be applied.

The NPPF, first published in March 2012, currently says (at Paragraph 144):

“When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should

“give great weight to the benefits of mineral extraction, including to the economy.”

The Government wants to change this to:

“Minerals planning authorities should:

“recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons, for the security of energy supplies and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy; and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction;”

In another proposed change, the existing NPPF (Paragraph 147) says:

“Minerals planning authorities should also:

“when planning for on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons, clearly distinguish between the three phases of development (exploration, appraisal and production) and address constraints on production and processing within areas that are licensed for oil and gas exploration or production;”

The revised version, in a new paragraph 204, says minerals planning authorities should:

“when planning for on-shore oil and gas development, clearly distinguish between, and plan positively for, the three phases of development (exploration, appraisal and production);”

The new proposals additionally make a small change to the NPPF on underground working.

The existing paragraph 148 says:

“When determining planning applications, minerals planning authorities should ensure that the integrity and safety of underground storage facilities are appropriate, taking into account the maintenance of gas pressure, prevention of leakage of gas and the avoidance of pollution.”

But the new paragraph 205 adds to this underground exploration and extraction:

“When determining planning applications, minerals planning authorities should ensure that the integrity and safety of underground exploration, extraction and storage operations and facilities are appropriate, taking into account the maintenance of gas pressure, prevention of leakage of gas and the avoidance of pollution.”


The changes were largely overshadowed yesterday by new policy announcements on housing. The parliamentary statement by the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, did not refer the onshore oil and gas revisions, nor did any of the questions to him.

There was no reference in the proposals to take shale gas fracking out of local control and make the Secretary of State responsible for decisions. This is currently the subject of an inquiry by a parliamentary committee and was part of the Conservative Party 2017 election manifesto.

There was also no reference to another manifesto proposal to make non-fracking onshore oil and gas developments permitted developments which would not go through the full planning system.

The consultation continues until 11.45pm on Thursday 10 May 2018. Responses can be submitted:

  • online: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/NPPFconsultation
  • by email using a consultation form and sent to planningpolicyconsultation@communities.gsi.gov.uk
  • by post to Planning Policy Consultation Team Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 3rd floor, South East Fry Building 2 Marsham Street LONDON SW1P 4DF

144 replies »

  1. Kisheny you seem to have bought the “LNG from Russia” as fact without querying that. But certainly we are NOT decades behind the rest of the world in renewables. We have the knowledge, technological ability and geography to meet the challenge. BUT what is happening is that now renewables are becoming more self-sufficient and profitable, the government can no longer use the “needs subsidy” argument in reducing its support for them. That support is more than money. It is political support and political will. The government has withdrawn that support, and placed all its eggs in the fracking basket. For whatever reason – I have my own opinions on that – the government refuses to move away from fossil fuels. Its nuclear strategy is in tatters. It is running around like a chicken with its head chopped off. It is fear of acting positively. It is above all a Luddite mentality. Let us hope the change comes soon.

    • Hi Alan I am in the Offshore oil, gas and renewaables industry. Last year proud to be part of the team that installed the Hywind turbines. I am more than acutely aware of the subsidies required to encourage and develop fields. Let me be careful what I say. This is a purely financial based decision on the part of Companies installing these projects. If it doesn’t balance on paper it will not get done, they are not driven by some moral high ground.

      Renewables and gas combo is the winner (gas kicking dirty coal into the long grass)

      Later this week wind speeds are dropping, over the past week coal and nuclear having been going max helped well by wind; and gas throttled back for electricity production because of quantity and price.

      This weeekend as wind drops gas will pick up the slack

      In the U.K we must take responsibility for the energy we use, by shipping in LNG from whoever (Qatar, Russia, U.S.A shale) incurring greater harm to the enviroment using this process (extraction, liquifying, transport,regasification). Passing the buck to another Countries GHG emissions is immorale at best.

    • If planners are to recognise the benefits of shale then the industry will need to have proof of said benefits.

      None have been shown in eight years.

      I doubt planners will be swayed by ‘it is likely’ or ‘could’ or other vague wording as proof.

      No proof then nothing to recognise or give weight to.

  2. Alan-perhaps it might be wise to DYOR, rather than make it clear you haven’t bothered and therefore the information doesn’t exist!

    Yes, the recent gas shortage declined as the weather improved-what a surprise. Industry reducing output to help achieve that so more taxation for us going forward. Rough closing down because it is too dangerous and costly to maintain to keep it open. Good job INEOS managed to keep the Forties pipeline open-absolute stars.
    Alternatives start to look attractive when you just ignore these sort of considerations.

    Our local solar farm was covered in around 4 inches of snow. Wonder how much energy that produced?

    • Pricked my ears when you mentioned solar farms Martin. I have a farmer friend who has started to rent one of his fields out. He told me it was a foreign investor importing chinese panels and steel frames installed by a group of Bulgarians brought over to do it. Foreign investor wins, local economy loses.

      A byproduct from gas produces fertilizer which I am sure would have been better use to my farmer mate.

      Fertilizer Made with Natural Gas Is Lifting Our World


  3. Regarding the fracking initiative this government has shown a lack of preparation, homework and public information that dwarfs the lack of preparation, homework and public accountability over Brexit. All this seems too little too late.

    • The Labour party issued the exploratory drilling licences in 2008. The industry and the Government wether it was Labour or Tory want this industry to produce our gas for our people and not have to rely on Russia to save the day.
      Well regulated British industry, British workers, Billions of British pounds supporting British services (councils, NHS, new schools, new housing, better infrastructure). Revenue made from the Russian shipment will go to Russia. Revenue made by Hywind turbines will go to Norway, foreign investment on UK solar panels will go abroad.

  4. Martin, I take it your patronising demand you are not able to produce the evidence?

    Frankly I don’t give a duck’s bottom. If you are unaware of British Gas’s dalliance over the years you should really go and find yourself a stronger argument than a shipload or two, as I said before. I, also, will have no part in xenophobic discussion. If you want to bring the imports of LNG into the UK then do so. You don’t because you want to stoke up debate by trivialising the issues, and consq it seems.

    • Alan and Martin please both of you just take a minute. This board is about putting questions on to further produce debate for all and not just a one on one. Hopefully through this medium a middle ground could arise and keep everybody happy as this will effect everybody in one way or another…

    • ‘our gas for our people and not have to rely on Russia to save the day’ … sounds like a great soundbite Kisheny but what is being continually overlooked is that shale gas extraction is high cost and high impact. The USA managed to get past the critical mass point by nature of it’s shale strata being better suited to the method than almost anywhere else in the world. Also it’s population density on average is far lower than here, with vast tracts of land to mess with. Meanwhile their mentality has been conditioned towards accepting O&G as tied in with the growth of the national interest (as with the automobile). They’ve always been gung-ho in the States about drilling holes in their countryside.

      The same hopes and promises (as yours) were upheld for Poland and other parts of Europe, and even China, that have come to virtually nothing. Odds are the American success story, economically speaking, won’t be replicated here, and a deaf ear is being turned to the advice that the UK shale formations are far more convoluted and faulted than desirable for straightforward extraction without greater risks. And in being so have probably released their easily accessible gas a long time ago.

      Many impacts in the States are being overlooked that will have to be paid for later, that’s even before looking at the climate change implications.

      • Thanks for the compliment Phil. You’re on track with China, they will become heavily gas dependent in the future and BP are helping them with shale but as you mentioned it’s the geology…

  5. 10 years since the licences were issued, tens of millions spent and all we have at the moment is one rusty rig among flooded fields at pnr

    • I drive by that rig quite often, it’s not rusty… The Labour Party if they’d have stayed in power would have got this moving faster from their initial start in 2008? Yes you’re probably right. Fair point…

  6. No fracking. The middle ground is renewables, with battery back up. Rapid decarbonisation leaves no room for shale. Plastics are now recognised as disastrous for wildlife. Renewable resources are more popular, solar and wind are getting cheaper, more sustainable. Third Energy is taking down the sound barrier. This is not the action of a company that believes it will return to frack. INEOS is facing a landowners blockade. Bye bye fracking.

    • Renewables with gas back up not batteries. 8 year old kids paid 8 pence a day to mine cobalt in the Congo probably isn’t the battery production route.
      Who will pay for all the millions of batteries anyway and extra wind turbines and pay for everybody to switch to ASHP from gas for their homes. Wow big ask, then if the wind doesn’t blow for a few days?
      Even if you sorted that EVs are round the corner, more batteries needed, more kids in the Congo working? No tax revenue from vehicle fuel duty?
      Even Diane Abbot would dodge that one, she even dodged out of Question Time last we dropping out on Monday with no explanation at all. If it had been because of medical conditions I would out of respect not bring it up.

  7. Alan-I don’t know how it is trivial to point out that we have (potentially) a load of gas under our feet but are currently having to import from many countries that are certainly not supplying any stability to our energy supply. Not only energy security is compromised but it also means we are ignoring the taxation income that could be generated from UK production. And then we are also increasing the carbon footprint by transporting this gas.

    Maybe, in the future the UK will not have gas in the energy mix, but at the moment it does and for the foreseeable future it does. There are indeed many alternative energy systems but many have their own problems. Some will develop and many will disappear. Whilst this goes on, gas will still be in use. I spoke with my son last night who is currently building brand new houses marketing at over £500k each. Every one of them has a gas boiler and radiators. I was a little surprised because I can see merits in underfloor heating, not least in being able to furnish a room more easily. I certainly don’t see those who make that sort of financial commitment are going to accept an imposition of a new heating system at their expense to accommodate the desires of a minority.

  8. Martin, so how come the government is giving away this income through tax breaks? And you have the carbon footprint issue upside down. Your son bears a heavy responsibility. He should be working on low-carbon housing for people who need it, not expensive new build for folks who have half a million to spend and don’t give a shit about climate change. He – and you – are part of the problem. You follow the old route. You can’t justify your earlier statements so keep throwing new stuff in the mix. Stick to the point. This article is about planning and local democracy. Your spiel is about scaremongering and survival of the fittest.

  9. Can’t believe they are still wheeling out this ‘transition to a low-carbon economy’ line and insisting that councils accept this is a fact. It isn’t. Because it is not true. This needs to be challenged by every council and organisation in the country.

    • Yup that’s a first past the post voting system for you. Fact is local parish councils voted against fracking, Fylde Borough Council voted against it Lancashire County voted against it. Regardless of the political make up. How does that help your turkeys voting for Christmas argument? It doesn’t. Not one jot.

    • Don’t try and teach anyone here to suck eggs. We don’t need any reminder of what is happening on our own patch.

      And FBC, Tory-ruled since year dot, voted recommendal to refuse Cuadrilla’s applications. So just what is your point? You have really lost the plot. You are floundering around uttering inaccurate statements and irrelevancies. If you are a paid-up member of the industry fine. But we don’t need your ignorance. You are not doing yourself any favours, nor the industry you work for and promote, by your comments. If you can not see that local democracy and local councils, whether red, blue, green or purple, are being undermined by the current government I can recommend Specsavers.

      • I live near the Cuadrilla site and have done for many decades. I can tell you as a fact there is not a big opposition to this site. On most days there are just a few PAID protestors at the site. When the weather permits in the next few months there will be organised opposition from people out of the area causing disruption, causing millions of our local money being spent on policing and fake injury calls to require ambulances at the scene.
        Local councils up and down the Country oppose many things at local level, housing being a main one. Even wind turbines in certain Scottish areas.
        A Councils default setting on anything is No…

        • Kishney you are wrong about the local opposition mate, you are clearly living in a little pro bubble because you work in the O&G industry and that is being propped up by the other pro bods on here. You stated that the Fylde had shown it was pro-frack by the General Election result but the MP for the constituency, the Local Authority and the Local Council, all of which are Tory have objected to the industry.

        • As I’ve already said, I’ve been at the gates of Cuadrilla at PNR now most days since January last year. Your fantasy that people are being paid to protest is ludicrous. Where is you evidence? . Who is paying us? Where is my back pay for the last 15 months? It actually costs me almost £7.00 per day to reach the site by bus since I am unable to use my bus pass until 9.30am. The “evidence” on fake ambulance calls used to convince LCC to allow Cuadrilla to vary their Traffic Management Plan yet again and bring convoys in at night, was also refuted by the Ambulance Service. The brutal treatment of peaceful protectors by the police has been the main cause of ambulances needing to be called.
          It’s your right to support fracking, However misguidedly, since you work in the industry but it is not your right to spread downright lies about people you know nothing about.

          • Pauline a family member of mine is a serving Police Officer in Blackpool, it is common knowledge that there are a number of paid protestors at the site…

            • I wouldn’t believe everything you hear from the police at PNR, who have their own agenda, but maybe if you ask your relative who is paying the protectors at PNR, I will be able to clam my 15 months back pay. I wonder if it will be in roubles.

          • Ambulance staff have accused anti-fracking protesters of faking injuries and making false allegations of police brutality in publicity stunts aimed at preventing drilling for shale gas.

            North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) was called out ten times in July to attend to protesters outside a site near Blackpool where Cuadrilla intends to carry out hydraulic fracturing of wells

            It is incredibly dangerous to us, the local residents to divert and hinder the movement of life saving services and put lifes at risk to use a disgusting tactic to further your political ends

            Please feel free to read the rest of the article from The Times below


          • O.K Sherwulfe

            I’ll take that challenge, for official documentation and an official to state it. Give me a little time. remember the ten arrested last May were from:

            Liverpool, Reading, Standish, Tameside, London, Chesterfield, Preston, Blackpool and Norwich

            So only one local, two if you put the ring out 17 miles…

            • That does not show someone is paid to protest…and before you throw stones in the glasshouse, also would be an idea to research to small number of fracking supporters who turned up outside the Blackpool hearing for exactly one hour; just to ensure non-bias……

    • and accepted; it’s democracy.
      Lancashire CC voted no to fracking, for some reason NOT accepted? Strange that…..

        • Also, since there are some accusatory and derogatory (there is that tory word again?) stones being thrown around in an attempt to blacken the protesters and protectors with unfounded and uproven events, there are some very fragile glass houses in the operator and police camps.

          That is the admitted infiltration of police, and one assumes also the operators, into the protectors camps and to attend protest in order to deliberately stir up dissent and bad feeling and may even be the ones who carry out this fantasy required action in order to discredit the protectors and be the ones who produce the the reportable actions that can be pasted onto the protectors.

          The so called damage to the rig springs to mind, in a locked compound with security, and the police failed to find any evidence that it was vandalism at all and might equally have been carried out by the operators to again discredit the protesters and make a news item to wave around.

          You can see just such attempts regularly just at opportune moments and claims of intimidation and phone threats that are never corroborated and may just come from the same operators in order to get them their secret court injunctions?

          There is however much video evidence of violence and intimidation and harassment by the operators, the police and the so called security and also wrongful arrest, trumped up charges, attempts to delete phone evidence, attempted confiscation of property and driving licenses, driving vehicles into protesters, failure to follow planning traffic and operational time regulations, removal of restriction signs, closure of roads and highways and attempting to blame the protesters, the list goes on and on.

          Do you see now how such stone throwing works in both directions? We may ask ourselves who has most to gain by these infiltration and fantasy accusations?

          Now that, is the right question.

          • There is another aspect to all this which is perhaps even more interesting and that is this recent increase in internet activity after a tory party disclosure that they are deliberately targeting the social media and swamping the usual traffic with paid for trolls and shills and astroturfers, that is a fact. And since then there has been a massive increase in posts making all these accusations against protesters.

            How many of these anti anti ID’s are new to this site and are extremely prolific all the working hours when most of us are too busy with our own lives to sit behind an industry desk all day to troll Drill Or Drop?

            Now that is interesting is it not? Not only that the entire present effort by these new kids on the block is being put not to promoting the process and operation of fracking and its associated avoidances of the word, but instead into attacking and attempting to blacken the protesters and anyone who stands up to them on Drill Or Drop?

            Look at the recent posts and tell me that isnt so?

            Then of course we get the anti Russian and anti Corbyn propaganda, a well known tory attack puppet issue to fling about in the the social media in order to confuse the innocent and the unwary.

            Come on guys, admit it, this recent rapid increase in attacks can only have one well funded source.

            So, it is worth exploring what is on the cards that warrants such pressure?

            Is it to assist in pushing through this proposed injunction and perhaps others, on behalf of the tories for the operators?

            Trying to circumvent support for anti fracking and colour the issues with all sorts of irrelevancies?

            Or just plain dishonest to god hate speech?

            So these weak accusations of paid protestes can be turned right around (i use the word “right” advisedly) and pointed right back at the tsunami of effort perpetrated by both the old and the new kidders on the block.

            • Well said Phil C. There Is an awful lot of mud slinging on the part of the pros which does nothing whatsoever to convince anyone of the safety, desirability or necessity of this business. Since we know that social media content is being used as evidence by the industry to justify these draconian, totally undemocratic injunctions, it seems highly likely that the industry shills and trolls are being deliberately used to create a derogatory image of protectors which if repeated often enough, they believe will stick.

            • Hi Pauline, as you say, it is to justify these draconian, totally undemocratic injunctions and that is the only government effort which has demonstrably supported fracking other than the same old same old watered down speeches.

              Support by the back door isnt it? They cant do it openly so they go behind everyone back to try and push it through by underhanded and secretive methods of social engineering forums.

              Sounds about par for the course for this coalition government.

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