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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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