Politics

Government announces plans to speed up fracking decisions in England + detailed reaction

fracking KM Eddie Thornton

Fracking equipment at Third Energy’s KM8 site at Kirby Misperton. Photo: Eddie Thornton

Ministers are considering taking fracking decisions in England out of local control and allowing shale gas exploration wells to be drilled without the need for planning applications.

A written ministerial statement issued this morning said the government would consult during the summer on whether non-fracking shale gas exploration should be treated as permitted development. This would mean operators would avoid the need to go through the normal local planning system.

The statement, issued by the Energy and Local Government Secretaries, also said there would be a consultation on treating fracking applications as National Significant Infrastructure Projects. This would mean planning applications for fracking schemes would be decided by a government-appointed inspector, rather than local planning authorities.

Greg Clark speaking

Energy Secretary, Greg Clark

In another development, the ministers, Greg Clark and James Brokenshire, said the government was setting up a single shale gas environmental regulator. This would bring together the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and Oil and Gas Authority, they said.

The statement was welcomed by the shale gas industry. Opponents said it would pervert the planning process and represented an assault on the ability of communities to influence decisions. See Reaction in the second half of this post.

This is the second ministerial statement which has aimed to smooth the way for shale gas through the planning system. A statement in 2015 gave ministers the chance to intervene in planning appeals and to monitor the performance of local authorities in dealing with onshore oil and gas applications.

Today’s statements extended these measures for another two years and repeated the government’s view that shale gas development was of national importance. The ministers said:

“We believe that it is right to utilise our domestic gas resources to the maximum extent and exploring further the potential for onshore gas production from shale rock formations in the UK, where it is economically efficient, and where environment impacts are robustly regulated.”

They said

“We also see an opportunity to work with industry on innovation to create a “UK Model” – the world’s most environmentally robust onshore shale gas sector – and to explore export opportunities from this model, a core theme of our modern industrial strategy.”

They said mineral planning authorities – usually county councils or unitary authorities – should give great weight to the benefits of shale gas extraction. The authorities should take the statement into account when considering shale gas planning applications.

The ministers said the proposed changes would “facilitate timely decisions” on shale gas developments. This was needed because:

“recent decisions on shale exploration planning applications remain disappointingly slow against a statutory time frame of 16 weeks where an Environmental Impact Assessment is required.”

They added that the changes would “support a decision-making regime that meets the future needs of the sector.” The proposals would implement commitments made in the Conservative general election manifesto. They would apply only to England, they said.

On the single regulator, the statement said it would act as “one coherent single face for the public, mineral planning authorities and industry”. The regulator would be established during the summer, it added.

The statement said the government would establish a £1.6 million shale support fund over the next two years to build capacity and capability in local authorities dealing with shale applications.

The government would also “strengthen community engagement by consulting in due course on the potential to make pre-application consultation a statutory requirement”.

It would additionally work with the shale gas industry to improve the offer to local communities that host shale gas sites.

The shale gas industry complained to a committee of MPs last week that decisions on exploration wells were taking too long (DrillOrDrop report). But one local authority planners told the same committee on Monday that it was incorrect to say that councils were dragging their feet (DrillOrDrop report).

Based on evidence to the committee’s inquiry, there does not appear to be much support for the idea of national decision-making on fracking applications. The vast majority of responses had rejected the idea of taking fracking decisions out of local control.

The government has also been consulting on proposed changes to the guidance for how planning applications should be decided.

The ministers said in today’s statement that a revised National Planning Policy Framework would have new guidance on cumulative impact, local plan making and confirmation that planners can rely on the advice of other regulators.

Reaction

Campaign groups

Campaign to Protect Rural England
Senior Infrastructure Campaigner, Daniel Carey-Dawes

“This announcement signals an outright assault on local communities’ ability to exercise their democratic rights in influencing fracking applications. It reads like a wish list from the fracking companies themselves. The government may want to provide ‘sweeteners’ for communities affected, but nothing will change the fact that this will be a bitter pill to swallow.

“Simplifying the shale gas application and exploration process will have disastrous effects for the health and tranquillity of our countryside, landscapes and environment. Our countryside is the breathing space for us all – it must not become an industrial testing ground for a fracking industry that has no environmental, economic or social licence.”

Caroline Lucas, Co-leader of the Green Party

“Britain’s fracking experiment was on life support and now the Government is trying its best to shock it back into life.

The truth is that fracking is a redundant technology that would lock us into climate breakdown, carve up our countryside and put the economy on the wrong track.

“If we’re serious about building an economy fit for the future we need to reprogramme our energy system to one which harnesses the power of the sun, sea and wind – rather than throwing resources at this failed fracking technology.

“These latest measures utterly undermine the government’s green rhetoric – and show that the Tories simply can’t shake their support for fossil fuel firms.”

Frack Free Lancashire

“This ministerial statement shows that the government is prepared to ride roughshod over local democracy. It is hopelessly conflicted over its climate change obligations and is relying on magical thinking about non-existent Carbon Capture and Storage to justify its capitulation to the shale gas lobby.

“Dr Frackenstein’s sickly monster is lying on the operating table and the government is trying to jolt some life into it in spite of huge national opposition and a growing body of scientific evidence against fracking. 79% of the UK public supports renewable energy, whereas only a measly 18% support fracking.

“It can only end badly; either for us or for them.”

Friends of the Earth

“Planned changes to the planning process, including allowing drilling for gas as ‘permitted development’, would mean that fracking companies could drill straight away, minus the need for a planning application, environmental impact assessment or proper local democratic participation.

“This could put 17,820 km² of England’s countryside, which already has shale licences, at immediate risk of drilling – an area nearly the size of Wales.

“Permission to frack would also be the remit of a central government agency and not local councils; the representatives of local people.

“The government initially introduced the concept of permitted development so that home-owners could make modest improvements or extensions to their property without the need for a planning application.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Rose Dickinson, added:

“The government’s plans pervert the planning process and could make England’s landscape a wild west for whatever cowboy wants to start drilling and digging up our countryside.

“Permitted development was meant to help people build a fence or a conservatory, not drill for gas.

“With all the inherent risks of fracking anyone would think that the government would at least want the process done properly and fairly, rather than wrestling what modest power local people have to object away from them.

“If there was a referendum on fracking, it would be banished to the dustbin of history – and that’s where these proposals belong. Instead, the Conservatives are planning to railroad it through against the wishes of local people and the wider public.”

Greenpeace UK
Rebecca Newsome, Head of politics

“After seven years of fracking doing less than nothing to help our economy, the government’s still going all out for shale, and still trampling over democracy to prop up this collapsing industry. “Communities and their local councils across the UK have said no in every way they can, but the government have turned a deaf ear to everyone who doesn’t own fossil fuel company. “In their commitment to extract more gas than we can afford to burn, they are trying to remove planning control from everyone who understands their local area and make exploratory drilling as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory.”

Industry

Cuadrilla Resources
Chief Executive, Francis Egan

“We very much welcome the Government’s announcement today highlighting the national importance that shale gas development has in delivering a safe and secure energy source, whilst meeting the country’s Climate Change obligations.

“We are pleased it is also recognised, as we ourselves are proving in Lancashire, that shale gas can and does deliver important economic benefits. In the last two years our exploration operations are responsible for driving almost £9m into the Lancashire local economy and creating 60 local jobs.

“In particular we welcome the measures the Government has introduced on making the planning process “faster and fairer” and providing additional resources to help local authorities. Our planning permission to drill and test just four shale gas exploratory wells in Lancashire was granted after a lengthy and costly three year process. These timelines must improve if the country is to benefit from its own, much needed, indigenous source of gas.”

IGas

“IGas welcomes the Government’s support and commitment to our industry as laid out in the Written Ministerial Statement (“WMS”) from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government today.

“The statement itself constitutes a material consideration in planning decisions and reiterates that shale gas development is of national importance. Government will publish revised planning practice guidance on shale development in the summer alongside the launch of a consultation that will consider allowing exploration wells to be drilled under permitted development (i.e. without the requirement of a planning application) and consult on the inclusion of shale production projects into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime.”

Ineos Shale

“We have been discussing these issues with the government, and we appreciate they have taken our concerns seriously and moved quickly to begin to address the issues preventing the UK accessing its own gas.

“The government’s announcement today that they will review the planning processes regarding shale is a step in the right direction and there is much more that needs to be done. We will work with government to try and help them put in place a regulatory environment that makes a UK on-shore gas industry both safe and commercially sustainable.”

“The UK planning system has been targeted by environmental activists, leaving local planning authorities reluctant to allow any shale-related activities.  The vast majority of applications are turned down, even where council officers have recommended they should be approved. In other words, such decisions are political, not evidence-based.

“Every application defeated by anti-shale activists simply means more imported gas from foreign countries. By 2030 the UK is forecast to be importing up to 72% of its gas, with much of this coming from Russia and the Middle East.

“Environmentalists believe that UK shale gas is bad for the environment, but such thinking is misconceived.  The Mackay and Stone report showed that UK shale gas wells drilled over the next 20 years could save 117 million tonnes of CO2 compared to the UK being reliant on LNG imports.

“Environmentalists want us to abandon fossil fuels altogether, but that simply won’t be possible for several decades. Renewable energy from wind and solar is easily and regularly disrupted by ‘acts of god’ – basically the wrong kind of weather. Wind farms are notoriously unreliable, typically only operating at 30% capacity.  The UK also has an extremely limited ability to store energy. If the UK wants to continue to have electricity, lighting and heating available 100% of the time, it simply cannot rely on renewables.”

Commercial director, Lynn Calder, added:

“Some environmentalists inhabit a la-la-land where renewable energy is a magical force that is always available. In the real world that simply isn’t the case.  We’ll need fossil fuels to generate energy for years to come. Environmentalists who really care about our planet should be championing low-emission UK shale gas, which is lower in emissions than coal, oil or LNG.”

“The UK potentially has enough home-grown gas to be self-sufficient for years to come. But labyrinthine planning rules make it next-to-impossible to access the energy right beneath our feet. As a result, the UK is becoming ever more dependent on Russian and Middle Eastern gas, with British money funding foreign powers at the rate of £500m a month instead of generating jobs and tax revenues in this country.”

Lancashire for Shale
Chairman, Lee Petts

“I think it is very welcome news that the Government is still committed to developing a UK shale gas industry.

“The reality is that we’re going to continue using lots of gas, for decades more, and that being the case, it’s better if that’s our own gas that we extract here in the UK rather than being so heavily reliant on imports.

“Lancashire businesses that are eager to play a role in a developing shale gas supply chain will be particularly pleased to hear that this industry still benefits from central Government support.”

Third Energy
Chief Executive, Rasik Valand

“We welcome the Government’s strong support and commitment to the onshore gas industry, as set out in the joint ministerial statement.

Making the already rigorous regulatory framework clearer and removing uncertainties and potential inconsistencies around planning will be beneficial to both local communities as well as operators.

Domestic shale gas production can secure the UK’s energy supply by reversing the increasing reliance on gas imports and ensure that the public has the means to heat and power their homes.”

UK Onshore Oil and Gas

“We welcome the Government’s support and commitment to our industry as laid out in the Written Ministerial Statement today.

“The gas supply disruptions the country experienced this winter highlight the need to increase our home-grown sources of energy. Britain’s physical energy production has decreased significantly over the last 18 years and is set to decline even further – this means ever higher imports, which will result in fewer jobs and tax revenues, are worse for the environment than our own production, and will weaken the UK’s energy security. We can reverse this trend.

“Onshore shale gas production will contribute to energy security, create jobs, pay local and national taxes, support our manufacturing industry and make a significant contribution to local communities.

“A recent study commissioned by the UK Government stated that the UK has access to a diverse supply of gas and should be secure against most potential disruptions, but it warned this would only be the case ‘if GB consumers are willing to pay for it’.

“The Government’s own security of supply document stated: ‘Additional domestic sources (such as shale) would be beneficial to GB. They could reduce reliance on imports, have the potential to bring economic benefits by rebalancing the economy, and would increase the diversity of supply available to the GB market.’”

Chief Executive, Ken Cronin, added:

“This country needs a diverse supply of energy which protects and secures UK jobs and UK taxes. Imported gas currently costs over £13 million a day – money that is not generating jobs or tax revenues in this country.

“To achieve greater homegrown energy production, Britain also needs a policy framework and a planning and permitting system that allows industries like ours to be able to get decisions within timescales that work for all concerned including the local communities we work in. Today’s announcement goes some way to ensuring that our energy security is protected and the benefits we have already seen flowing into communities become much more widespread.”

Union Jack Oil
Executive chairman, David Bramhill

“Being at the forefront of the UK onshore hydrocarbon industry, Union Jack is well positioned to benefit from this revised strategy and look forward to the exciting opportunities that await all of our stakeholders.

“The future remains very bright.”

“The statement not only highlights the importance of securing stable domestic gas supplies while minimising harmful environmental impacts but also the substantial economic benefits that the development of onshore gas production can bring to local communities and the UK as a whole.”

Politics

Barry Gardiner, Shadow Energy Secretary

“TYPICAL! Tories make it easier to frack. They can drill test sites WITHOUT planning permission. Your community will have ZERO right to object. It makes a mockery of everything @claireperrymp says about tackling climate change?”

Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, the seat including Third Energy’s KM8 site

“Have serious concerns about potential new measures on shale gas, particularly permitted development and transfer to national planning system. Have spoken to ministers and will be submitting evidence to consultation and urge others to do same

Caroline Lucas, Co-leader of the Green Party

“Britain’s fracking experiment was on life support and now the Government is trying its best to shock it back into life.

The truth is that fracking is a redundant technology that would lock us into climate breakdown, carve up our countryside and put the economy on the wrong track.

“If we’re serious about building an economy fit for the future we need to reprogramme our energy system to one which harnesses the power of the sun, sea and wind – rather than throwing resources at this failed fracking technology.

“These latest measures utterly undermine the government’s green rhetoric – and show that the Tories simply can’t shake their support for fossil fuel firms.”

Lee Rowley, Conservative MP for North East Derbyshire, which includes proposed Ineos shale gas site

“The Govt is proposing to consult on changes to the planning rules on fracking. Afraid I don’t agree with these proposals and will say so when the consultation opens. Have spoken to Minister briefly this morning and am seeking a fuller meeting with them.”

Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for South East England

“This process has been a sham; the Government can’t claim with any credibility that it has assessed even a handful of the responses to the hefty consultation on these anti-democratic plans that it closed only last week.”

“Ultimately, the Conservative government, for all its empty green promises has proven determined to defy the evidence and local communities and hasten the climate breakdown by fast-tracking a fracking enterprise for which it has been unable to demonstrate either an economic or energy security case. It is with absolute certainty that experts and climate campaigners say: there is no possibility that the UK will meet its legally-binding climate targets if fracking is rolled out across England.”

“The proposals are pure ideology, seeking to blindly promote fracking despite the evidence. The Government has not even made a cursory attempt to balance the contested benefits of a risky industry against the all too real and established disadvantages of environmental degradation and the climate breakdown. The Tories continue to cement their disregard for evidence-based policymaking.”

“The predictable consequences of this anti-democratic move, which seeks to cut local authorities out of the decision-making process, is that the firms that are already failing to mitigate the environmental and social impacts of their activities will continue unabated and without local scrutiny.”

“There is no doubt that our democracy, our communities, our environment, and our planet will suffer.”

91 replies »

  1. “The vast majority of applications are turned down, even when council officers have recommended they should be approved. In other words, such decisions are political, not evidence based.” INEOS Shale.

    That is now factually evident for all to see. It could not continue. Taken a long time, but at last some sensible response.

    Yes, I would like to see whether fracking for gas in the UK is viable, but even more, I am fed up with paying for the minority activists to try and prevent that. My local, and national, taxes can benefit those more deserving than a few activists, many of who when arrested show that they themselves are not paying taxes to fund the costs they are deliberately incurring.

    “Improve the offer to local communities”. Yes, much needed and was always going to be required. First, though, a need to establish real output economics including a much diminished cost to bring into production.

    • ‘We have been discussing these issues with the government’ – INEOS. This says it all; ‘talking’ has many connotations….

      It’s interesting that the people have also been talking, louder and louder and it will get louder still.

      I really think this governance believes that they can oppress this nation to extort more and more for those who already have too much; nature has a balance, it always swings back to the middle. With a cocked up Brexit, a forced shale policy , an NHS and Education system on its knees and poverty rife, it won’t be long now. hang onto your hats folks, the jeering of the few will be drowned out by the many.

      • wah wah wah.

        whats stopping you from leaving Sherwulfe? Don’t like the way things are going? Leave. simple.

          • I love the way you think; makes me smile 😉

            For Greg or yyy

            And;
            the ground it is a shaking
            There’ll be an eruption yet
            So those around us baying
            Really think that we’re upset?

            This farce will count for nothing
            When the people are awake
            And all your flaming comments
            Will not a difference make

            And as the threat is growing
            More stand up strong and tall
            And soon there will be justice
            The writings’s on the wall

            So;
            hang on to your illusions
            For now, they’ll help you sleep
            But remember it was said here
            All our promises we will keep

            To free us all from all danger
            And banish those who will
            Ride roughshod over masses
            Attempt to make us ill

            It;
            holds no longer children
            Believers in a state
            That seeks only to milk us
            No longer this our fate

            The people are arising
            It’s time to make our stand
            We will all join together
            Take each other by the hand

            Begins;
            we’ll slay the dragon
            With it’s fiery, angry heart
            To live in peace together
            And this will be the start

            The fight is never over
            And this I promise you
            The soldiers of the planet
            Will make light work of you

            The planet is a wonderful place; there is a wonderful place in all of us; just have to find it 🙂

    • MARTIN

      Taking note of your above post , it would appear that UK tax and the way it is spent is an issue that is very close to your heart .

      I can now understand why you spend such an unparelled amount of time on this forum ..

      Your unfaultering passion to support the more deserving in society is really very touching and one which we should all applaud.

      I can not even begin to conceive the amount of time you must of spent fighting for the UK taxpayer as a result of the £100 Billions wasted bailing out the banks , £100 Billions wasted on wars, the Millenium Dome, need I go on ??

      PLEASE LADIES and GENTLEMAN, stand with me, raise your glasses and toast this fine upstanding gentleman , champion of the UK tax payer … I give you Martin Collyer.

  2. The Government is jumping the gun before the revised National Planning Policy Framework is due to be enacted in July 2018. It makes a farce of Consultation which KELFF took part in objecting to the proposal to have central control of the fracking process at the Select Committee stage and KELFF’s objections to Chapter 17 of the revised NPPF which will make it easier to frack in one go from exploratory stage to full fracking. The Government has again written roughshod over local democracy and the vast majority who objected to these proposals,

    • I agree davidpenny53; which says a lot about the lip service this governance give.

      If these changes go through, the repercussions for those elected by a minority will be severe. An ageing population of blue voters will not last forever.

      The very nature of these changes raise many legal questions, not least equality. Will be interesting to see how the law responds.

  3. This is indeed good news. It is vitally & strategically important that our nation can appraise its natural resources and make an informed decision based on geotechnical information derived from exploring and testing shale in the context of our own geology & regulatory regime.

    • I sure hope the first ‘permitted development’ well is placed squarely in Tunbrige Wells [ha what an apt name for a place]

    • Shhhhhh Don’t mention our cheap North sea natural resource, 20 billion barrel reserves and experienced 400,000 workforce and secure infrastructure.

      Blinkers on, fingers in ears, and say the word Russian as often as possible.

      Desperate times from a dying sham industry

  4. This has got to be hard to hear for all the anti fracking brigade… WHICH MAKES IT ALL THE BETTER TO HEAR HAHA!

    • …..and with that, Little Red Riding Hood screamed and the woodsman ran in and cut off the head of the great pretender!

  5. Aww you can just imagine the pain felt by our resident army of errrr (insert word of choice here) who must have thought fracking wasn’t coming to their Shires.

    Anyway, I’m not a fantasist so let’s conduct exploration stage and see where we are at. I suggest looking at AIM market for a little short term windfall based on speculation alone.
    Yummy yummy 😋

    • IGAS and Egdon (EDR) only Public companies exposed to UK shale I believe.

      Bring it on.

      – from an evil investor.

    • Saruman ( Sharkey) and Wormtongue scour The Shire out of hate and revenge:

      ‘Sharkey (Saruman) is the biggest ruffian of the lot, seemingly,’ answered Clark. … ‘All the ruffians do what he says; and what he says is mostly hack, burn, and ruin; and now it’s come to fracking. There’s no longer even any bad sense in it. They cut down trees and let ’em lie, they burn houses and build no more.’

      The Scouring of the Shire, slightly modified:
      The Return of the King, LoTR Book 6, Ch 8,

      I’ll let you make your own mind up who that fits most?

      Well worth a read if you have not all ready?

  6. absolutely nothing wrong with admitting that.

    I saw huge growth potential a few months back and finally things are starting to lift off.

    Don’t be jealous with me the same way you are jealous of those evil capitalist ‘Oilys’ who are benefitting.

  7. Naive and dangerous. Humans versus physics and corporations versus nature. You can guess which side(s) will win. The lack of competence in dealing with the physics of climate change – when the perils of not reducing carbon footprints are well known – and the foolishness of raising hopes of getting gas economically from non ideal geology (without substantial risks) beggars belief.

    What could go wrong?

    Our local and national taxes should not be wasted on this environmentally damaging, polluting, greenhouse gas producing, non sustainable, unwanted infrastructure.

    • The good news PhillipP is this industry will self destruct. First well fracked 50 seismic events; USA ponzi scheme and increased methane emissions. All sensible countries have called a moratorium or banned it. It cannot end well.

  8. ‘“The Defense Department regrets to inform you that your sons are dead because they were stupid.” ‘

    • Only £££ of duped investor’s money Helen, as no profits to date from many and no taxes from the rest……

  9. Last night I discovered a firm of North American lawyers who have been handling legal actions against the fracking industry and it’s associates since the mid 1990s!
    They are available for scrutiny on the Internet at
    http://www.frackinginjurylaw.com
    Please take the time to study the contents before commenting on this article.
    You will, I assure you, be astounded at the perversity of those who want to inflict this ecocidal process on the residents of England.
    To me this is nothing short of Treason!

Add a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.