Local authorities are best placed to decide on fracking plans – MPs report

fracking KM Eddie Thornton

Fracking equipment at the Third Energy site at Kirby Misperton. Photo: Eddie Thornton

Moving decisions on fracking plans to a national level contradicts the principles of localism and would probably exacerbate mistrust between communities and the industry, MPs said today.

A report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee warned the Government against its proposal to bring fracking applications under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) regime.

The committee concluded that Mineral Planning Authorities were best placed to understand the local area and how fracking could best take place.

These conclusions were opposed by the shale gas industry body. But they were welcomed by the Local Goverment Association, two environmental campaign organisations and MP Kevin Hollinkrake, whose constituency includes a proposed fracking site.

Ministers outlined the proposal in a Written Ministerial Statement issued in May (details). A promised consultation has not yet been announced.


Committee hearing on planning guidance on fracking inquiry Source: Parliament TV

The committee’s chair, Clive Betts MP, said today:

“Taking decision making powers away from local planning authorities would be a backward step. It would remove the important link between fracking applications and Local Plans and be hugely harmful to local democracy and the principles and spirit of localism.

“It is Mineral Planning Authorities that have the knowledge of their areas needed to judge the impacts of fracking, not Ministers sitting in Whitehall.

“Any move to alter this process also seriously risks worsening the often-strained relationship between local residents and the fracking industry. The Government has failed to provide any justification as to why fracking is a special case and should be included in the regime in contrast to general mineral applications.”

The report said the NSIP regime was unlikely to speed up the application process for fracking. It warned that if the Government went ahead, there should be an urgent National Policy Statement to ensure that the cumulative impact of applications was considered automatically and every decision was consistent with Local Plans.

Permitted development

The committee also opposed proposals to treat non-fracking shale gas applications as permitted development, without the need to go through the planning system. The report said:

“Shale gas development of any type should not be classed as a permitted development. Given the contentious nature of fracking, local communities should be able to have a say in whether this type of development takes place, particularly as concerns about the construction, locations and cumulative impact of drill pads are yet to be assuaged by the Government.”

Definition of fracking

The committee said it was “highly concerned” about plans to use the definition from the Infrastructure Act 2015 in the revised National Planning Practice Guidance. The report said:

“We call on the Government to amend the Infrastructure Act definition to ensure public confidence that every development which artificially fractures rock is subject to the appropriate permitting and regulatory regime.”


Daniel Carey-Dawes, Senior Infrastructure Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said:

“This report is a major blow for the government’s plans to fast track fracking across England’s countryside. The report correctly highlights that local authorities are best placed to understand their local area and that the proposals would result in a significant loss of local decision making and exacerbate existing mistrust between communities and the fracking industry.

“The government must now heed these warnings and abandon plans to fast track fracking. Failure to do so risks leading to the industrialisation of our countryside, all for the benefit of an industry that has no environmental, economic or social licence.”

Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth campaigner, said:

“MPs are right to denounce government plans to make it easier for fracking companies to drill without planning permission and slash the involvement of local people.

“It’s absurd that the government wants to apply rules originally designed for harmless activities like putting up a garden shed to include drilling for oil and gas.

“Fracking is highly contentious and bad news for our climate and environment: at the very least local people deserve to have a say.

“The government should listen to MPs and throw out these proposals.”

The Local Government Association, which represents local councils, said:

“We are pleased that the Committee has listened to councils and backs our call for any decision to host fracking operations to be a local one. Fracking operations should not be allowed to bypass the locally democratic planning system through permitted development or national planning inspectors.

“This needs to be up to local communities to decide on.

“People living near fracking sites – who are most affected by them – have a right to be heard. Local planning procedure exists for a reason, to ensure a thorough and detailed consultation with those communities.

“Planners also protect local environments and ensure appropriate and affordable homes are delivered for our communities. That’s why ultimately, council planners should be able to set fees that reflect the needs of their local area.”

180430 select committee Ken Cronin

Ken Cronin giving evidence to the committee

Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of the industry body, UK Onshore Oil & Gas, said:

“We do not support the Committee’s recommendations opposing Government proposals on permitted development rights and national planning.

“The report fails to address a main concern of both the industry and local communities, which is the fact that planning applications for even the simplest of wells now take up to 18 months to conclude and that many of the professional planning officers’ recommendations are ignored. This leaves communities with uncertainty and local taxpayers with a huge bill to foot, and is against the experience of the previous 10 years where most applications were decided in less than four months and against a statutory timescale of three months.

“On national planning, the Government’s recent Written Ministerial Statement reiterated its position that ‘shale gas development is of national importance’.

“However, the Committee has taken the view that shale gas sites should not be treated as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs). With gas providing half of British electricity, over 80% of our heating and vital feedstocks to industry, we find it concerning that the Committee would seek restrict our opportunity for homegrown production to replace our rapidly increasing dependency on imported gas and oil.”

Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton and a member of the committee, welcomed the report’s conclusions:

“I am delighted that the Committee Chair, Clive Betts, agreed to my proposal to hold an inquiry as I felt it was important that Parliamentarians have a clear understanding of the potential impacts of shale gas exploration.

“North Yorkshire County Council, together with North York Moors National Park and City of York Councils have developed an excellent Minerals Plan that includes strong protections for the landscape. These include a maximum density of well-pads, clear prohibition of surface developments in AONB and the National Park and also buffer zones around these areas.

“It is Mineral Planning Authorities that have the knowledge of their areas needed to judge the impacts of fracking, not a Planning Inspector in Bristol.

“I am pleased that the Committee agreed that Mineral Planning Authorities are best placed to understand the local area and how shale gas development can best take place. I am concerned that these proposals could allow for a range of fracking related activities without a need for planning permission, if they are treated as permitted development.”

The Green Party MEP for south east England, Keith Taylor, said:

“I’m happy to see MPs have recognised the blindingly obvious; cutting local authorities out of the planning process in order to fast-track fracking is ruinous for both democracy and our planet. It’s vitally important that the Government heeds this latest warning. Sacrificing local democracy to pursue an evidence-free policy aimed at pleasing their friends in the oil and gas industry, was never a good idea.”

“The fact that Ministers believe the pursuit of climate-destructive unconventional oil and gas extraction is an excuse to ride roughshod over local residents and their representatives is frightening enough. But in places like Lancashire, it’s not just belief; it’s already happened. The Government is making a mockery of its commitment to localism.”

Other recommendations

witnesses slider

Council officers giving evidence to the committee. Source: Parliament TV

The report called for an online ‘one-stop shop’ for all fracking guidance and policy documents, to be hosted by a newly-created Shale Information and Coordination Service.

The current disparate guidance hinders understanding, transparency and engagement with fracking applications, the Committee said.

It also recommended combining the service with the Government’s planned planning brokerage system. This should be available to members of the public and organisations, as well as local authorities and the shale gas industry, the report added.

On climate change, the report said the Government must clarify how Mineral Planning Authorities should balance competing objectives to meet international commitments on greenhouse gas emissions with Government support for shale gas.

It also said the Government should assess the implications for existing fracking guidance of a report by Professor Peter Styles on fracking in former coal mining areas. It called for clarification on how scientific and technical developments, as well practical experience at fracking sites, were reviewed and, where appropriate, incorporated into existing guidance.

The report concluded that a single regulator was inappropriate for the shale gas industry.

“The regulatory roles and powers of the existing regulators should be maintained to protect the independence of the regulatory regime, avoid conflict of interests and ensure regulatory specialisms are maintained.”

There was also a call for more funding for mineral planning authorities dealing with fracking applications.

53 replies »

    • … except when it is deluded or ignoring other national commitments like environmental and climate change impacts.

  1. But it isn’t PhilipP.

    Home produced gas will have better impacts than imported gas, environmentally, climate change, plus taxation to pay for UK public services.

    Maths really are a problem for you antis.

    Hook, line and sinker. Now, make a note so your relief is aware of the error that needs correcting-again.

    • Let’s see your homework Martin. You’re obviously speculating on UK Shale being a big commercial success. New shale gas fields and related industry infrastructure will commit the UK to ongoing, long term dependence on gas, long term investment/subsidies, 2.6% overall emission losses (maybe worse), and untold environmental costs. Better to tap large reserves (without the impacts of fracking) for the meanwhile and taper down dependency while focusing new investment on cleaner energy. Climate change impacts, and costs overall will dwarf any short term gains (if any at all).

      • Here you go Philip P, some bed time reading:

        Click to access fes-in-5-for-web.pdf

        The updated 2018 National Grid forecasts are due out on 12th July – perhaps the Consumer Power (most likely) forecast will no longer include an contribution from UK shale?

        Ruth / Paul –

        Why not do an article on this document when it comes out? I have no idea if shale will still be an option but it is an important planning document. A bit like the BP Energy Outlook which the whole world uses but doesn’t seem to get a mention on this BB?


        It will make a change from the mega boring JRs and anti protest injunction court cases? Something real and important for a change?



        • Well the charts didn’t come out too well….. the first is natural gas forecast and the second is liquid hydrocarbons in the evolving transition scenario.

          Sherwulfe – what were you saying earlier today about billions of people not aspiring to our middle class consumerism?

            • Sherwulfe – this context:
              “The biggest picture is that billions of people on this planet do not aspire to what we have, dirty technology, pollution, sugar! These are the future; if we do not join them we will destroy ourselves. Rome was not built in a day, but sure as hell didn’t take long to fall.”

        • Any report that comes out and references energy input from UK shale is complete nonsense. There is no UK shale.

          If you are trying to add a complete unknown into energy security then the first and most logical thing to add would be the renewable energy potential of the UK.

          Renewable energy potential is calculable. UK shale is not.

          Time to dump shale with it’s high energy recovery costs and environmental issues and get on with maximising the UK,s huge renewable potential which is falling rapidly in price as more developments and technologies flood onto the global market.

          • John – please tell the National Grid this – thank you. I expect they will rewrite their 2018 report and delay publishing while shale is taken out and replaced with fairy dust….

      • Philip, I must agree with Martin here. You haven’t offered anything to counter his claim. Instead, you simply tried to divert attention to the question of whether or not UK onshore gas will be viable. You incorrectly assert that new shale gas fields commit the UK to ongoing “dependence” on various ills, but this isn’t true is it? If your perpetual energy machine magically becomes viable in five years, then you can stop all drilling and extraction very easily. The investment in infrastructure has largely been made already. And the environmental costs you cite are less than they would be were the gas imported (that’s the whole point of Martin’s post – you must’ve missed it) so we can’t count that point. Where are the “large reserves” you reference and are they so much larger than the massive resource in the UK? Why would you advocate for tapping a large resource if it is more damaging to the environment to import it to the UK. And the climate change impact from importing gas is more damaging than producing that gas domestically. Focus, Philip.

    • So Martin, [edited by moderator]…. let’s be brutally honest, you and all your pro fracking buddies spout off rhetoric concerning the importance of having our own gas and oil. You try to appease your environmentally conscious opponents with data that is somewhat shaky in the best case scenario. You try to “point score” like an adolescence child trying to fit in with the cool kids.
      The truth of the matter is that you and your fellow pro fracking buddies don’t really give a fig of where the oil ad gas comes from. It is all about the dirty filthy luca with you ….”MONEY” need more “MONEY” and sadly it is with that attitude, the future of our green and pleasant land will be compromised beyond recognition not just now but for generations. Thank you for that…

      • One flew over, if you want to imagine “compromised beyond recognition” then you need look no further than solar and wind farms. They’ll use up around 2,800x the land vs. nat gas, and more than that when you account for visual impact. Of course, you can’t see the well pads if they are thousands of km away, right? That’s your answer, isn’t it? Just make someone else deal with it, right?

  2. ‘Frack it or import it’ – this is a blatant lie, there are far better options.

    Nearly half gas consumed in the UK is produced from conventional UK sources, the other half is currently imported.

    I live a comfortable life in a heated flatshare with a hot shower everyday, all gas-fired and yet I only consume less than a third the national per capita average gas consumption. Likewise I’m frugal with my consumption of electricity, and goods that might be manufactured using gas. Without any detriment to my quality of life.

    If everyone used gas frugally like me, we wouldn’t need to import gas, we would be a net exporter and have a plentiful supply from conventional domestic sources to last us through a couple of decades’ swift transition to renewables that we ought to be pressing on with instead of all this fracking nonsense.

    We shouldn’t be fracking for gas OR importing it. Like oil and coal, we’ve got plenty already, we just waste most of it. And we already EXPORT a quarter of it because we don’t have enough gas storage.

    There are those who have no choice but to waste gas because they can’t afford proper insulation and double glazing because UK plc is too busy subsidising fossil fuel industries instead.

    Then there are selfish or ignorant people who are wasting it by heating large houses that they don’t share with many people and/or second homes, leaving windows open and buying too many brand new manufactured goods and materials.

    Such unnecessary luxuries are paid for by the quarter million people already dying from climate change in the least resilient countries where they don’t even use fossil fuels. This injustice has got to stop – please be frugal with energy, and join the resistance against new fossil fuel extraction industries.


    • Richard, if only the entire world could be just like you! Be careful not to fall from your high horse!

    • I salute you Richard.

      This is the way forward, and yet the ‘gasheads’ will only throw sarcastic remarks at you as they are afraid, understandably, for their jobs.

      [Typo corrected at poster’s request]

  3. In complaining about length of time to achieve planning consent, Ken Cronin conveniently ignores the fact that the general quality of planning applications for exploration and extraction is pretty poor, as evidenced by frequency that planners seek explanations and evidence to support applications.

  4. Ahh Philippe, mon brave!

    I see your little game now, as EDF raise their UK energy price ANOTHER 6% from August, due to a 13% rise in wholesale prices since APRIL. Cream off the income to funnel into the French health service whilst Jean keeps telling the poor ignorant people of the UK, not to worry, there is plenty of cheap oil and gas sloshing around the world. Sacre bleau! Almost as intelligent as Monsieur Macron thinks he is.

    My sums?

    Can’t compete with your dual records, but here we go.

    One dollop of UK gas replacing one dollop of imported gas (either from USA or the Middle East) equals less carbon emissions from transport and UK tax income from UK production. Not the whole equation, but the basics are enough.

    I’m not “speculating” on UK shale at all. I leave that to the antis. However, I would like to see it tested. Seems the antis have the same approach to the Swansea lagoon-the difference is they want that “tested” via the tax payer. They could always fund it themselves, but that will not happen.

    • plus ça change ! Concentrating on the transport and leaving out the rest was clever. Perhaps nobody will notice.

      • Ah mon Dieu. Ainsi, plus le combustible fossile est cher, meilleur est le prix de l’énergie propre!

        Thirty times more subsidy for fossil fuels than renewables; come on you gre-ens! Goal! Love this world cup shit!

    • I wonder if the anti antis who are concerned about importing gas from Norway have houses full of goods made in China.

      I suspect they have.

      Maybe they should source their goods from the UK before they cry concerns of the impacts of imported energy

      • Good point John and just maybe supporters of shale should consider climate change as a global issue. The more hydrocarbons produced the more burned. The US may have reduced CO2 levels (ignoring methane increases for the time being) is still mining and exporting coal, so this adds massively to the ghg load globally, so the US has nothing to be proud of in terms of global climate change. The countries with conventional oil and gas that can extract hydrocarbons cheaper and more easily than unconventional are continue to extract. The answer to cutting global emissions is not developing and extracting new sources of hydrocarbons. The science doesn’t change, 80% of known reserves cannot be burned if we are to avoid the massive impacts of climate change. You can focus on the smaller issues but the bigger picture does not change.

  5. The conclusion on the definition of fracking are very encouraging. But we believe it still doesn’t go far enough. We have argued in our submission that all stimulation operations enlarging or creating new fractures (including those done at below rock fracture pressure such as matrix acidisation which dissolves the rock without the need to hydraulically fracture it) should be included in the definition of fracking. Currently, acidisation falls into a black hole in terms of regulation and oversight.

        • Brockham – the same acid, the same inhibitors are used. At least they were when I did it. I have acidised plently of water wells in addition to Oil & gas wells. Food grade HCl is used in food manufacturing processes. What toxic waste is brought up? Spent acid – what do you think happens with the acid in a water well?

  6. Or maybe they don’t John.

    You know why? Because consumers have a choice, on most things. It is the antis who want to preclude that choice for the majority and then whinge about democracy being undermined when it isn’t. Funny old world really, but the majority are not as gullible as you think they are.

  7. One flew over-“the truth of the matter”???

    Well, actually it isn’t, but I’m sure the rant has made you feel better.

    Next time, try discussion rather than insults, you may find it actually brings you towards reality. Come on, move outside your comfort zone.

  8. And Richard! Well, keep to the pianos.

    So, you are alright, Richard. Jolly good show. As for the MANY OAPs living in fuel poverty, too proud to ask for help, too poor to keep themselves warm, they can be collateral damage to your smugness, as fuel prices rise again? How many more to die Richard?

    Exaggeration? No. Have a chat to a few carers and check the reality of what they find on their visits. Heating off, or turned down to low. OAPs huddled in blankets, terrified for when the next bill will fall through their letter-box. And your solution? “Oh, the Swansea Lagoon is a great idea. It will increase your bills even more dramatically but Richard and his friends will be happy. You will be helping to save the planet, but you won’t survive to see it. And if you are lucky and end up in hospital you will find them even worse off because we decided for you UK oil and gas shouldn’t be allowed so there is reduced taxation to fund your recovery. ”

    Do you know how to play “Over the hills and far away”? If so, please indulge us.

    • Like the ‘two thirds’ anomaly the ‘fuel poverty’ anomaly is here again. Fuel poverty = poverty; simples.

      If indeed you know a poor sod you does not have enough to eat, heat their home, then instead of sitting at your privileged computer, get off your arse and go and help them!

      • Well said Sherwulfe, all that empty rhetoric is just poorly attempted point scoring at the expense of the poor, who could afford to eat and heat their homes if those same crowing “saintly” energy producers literally gave them the fuel and helped them individually in all other respects.

        One thing you learn after a while is that the anti antis always scream from the rooftops that everyone who opposes the fossil fuel hegemony should go look elsewhere for worse situations, but they never do one damn single thing themselves and worse could not actually give a flying feeble frackers fudge for anyone who is actually suffering, oh, no, that would actually cost someone some money! [Edited by moderator]

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