Government presses ahead with planning policy changes on oil and gas – despite “limited support”

180125 Harthill meeting DoD6

Councillors in Rotherham voting unanimously on a motion to refuse planning permission for Ineos shale gas plans at Harthill, January 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The government has made changes to national planning policy on onshore oil and gas even though most of the people who took part in a consultation disagreed with them.

The revised National Planning Policy Framework, published yesterday, requires English councils to recognise what are described as the benefits of onshore hydrocarbons, including shale gas, for energy security and transition to a low carbon economy.

Councils are also required to “put in place policies to facilitate their [onshore hydrocarbons] exploration and extraction” and “plan positively for them”.

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is used by planners and council committees in England to decide on planning applications and draw up local plans.

The government said in its response to the consultation on oil and gas changes:

“There was limited support for the inclusion in the Framework of policies for the exploration and extraction of oil, gas and unconventional hydrocarbons (which includes shale), with most responses objecting to potential shale development as a matter of principle.”

Although no shale gas is currently being extracted in England, the government response continued:

“Shale gas, which plays a key role in ensuring energy security, is of national importance.

“The Government is committed to explore and develop our shale gas resources in a safe and sustainable way. We have therefore carried forward this policy in the Framework, which would apply having regard to the policies of the Framework as a whole.”

Nearly 1,000 people or organisations responded to the proposed changes on minerals policy.

The government said:

“Individuals and some interest groups disagreed with policies relating to oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons. These groups considered that these polices should be omitted due to disagreement with the principle of fossil fuels, shale development, and fracking.

“Some individuals considered policy to be unbalanced towards the economic benefits of mineral development and stated that equal weight should be given to economic, social and environmental considerations.”

20180108 Balcombe vote

Councillors voting unanimously in favour of Cuadrilla’s application to flow test an oil well at Balcombe in West Sussex, January 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Key NPPF changes on oil and gas

New clause on benefits

The revised NPPF added a new clause (paragraph 209a):

“Mineral 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;”

“Plan positively”

The revised NPPF (paragraph 209b) said Mineral 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 previous version (paragraph 147) said just:

“Mineral planning authorities should when planning for on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons, clearly distinguish between the three phases of development (exploration, appraisal and production)”

“Provide for appropriate monitoring”

The revised paragraph 209b also requires of mineral planning authorities:

“ensuring appropriate monitoring and site restoration is provided for;”

This replaces a requirement in the previous version to:

“address constraints on production and processing within areas that are licensed for oil and gas exploration or production.”

Unacceptable adverse impacts

The previous version of the NPPF (paragraph 143) listed some of the unacceptable adverse impacts that planning authorities should avoid. It said in preparing Local Plans, local planning authorities should:

“set out environmental criteria, in line with the policies in this Framework, against which planning applications will be assessed so as to ensure that permitted operations do not have unacceptable adverse impacts on the natural and historic environment or human health, including from noise, dust, visual intrusion, traffic, tip- and quarry-slope stability, differential settlement of quarry backfill, mining subsidence, increased flood risk, impacts on the flow and quantity of surface and groundwater and migration of contamination from the site; and take into account the cumulative effects of multiple impacts from individual sites and/or a number of sites in a locality.”

The revised version (part of paragraph 204) has dropped the list of impacts and said just:

“Planning policies should set out criteria or requirements to ensure that permitted and proposed operations do not have unacceptable adverse impacts on the natural and historic environment or human health, taking into account the cumulative effects of multiple impacts from individual sites and/or a number of sites in a locality.”

Minerals remain in the NPPF

The government had asked whether planning policy on minerals would be better contained in a separate document.

Of the 838 responses, only 19% supported this, while 62% opposed. The document said:

“A large number of individuals raised concerns that removing policies from the
Framework would encourage fracking and would take away control of mineral
production from local authorities.”

The government said minerals would remain in the framework. It said this would allow minerals (which also include coal, aggregates, sand, clay etc) to be considered alongside other landuse planning policies.

More planning changes

Yesterday’s announcement came on the final day of parliament, before the summer recess.

The consultation on the NPPF changes began in March 2018, before the announcement of other planning changes made in joint written ministerial statements in May 2018.

These proposed making non-fracking shale gas applications permitted development (without the need to apply for planning permission) and classifying major production applications Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, to be decided by the Secretary of State.

A consultation on these changes continues until October 2018.


Responding to the NPPF changes, Kate Gordon, Friends of the Earth senior planner, said:

“What we build, and how we build it – from new homes to power stations – has an impact on our health, our lives and the environment around us.

“The new planning rulebook was a chance to put an end to dirty coal, boost renewable power and energy efficiency, and put climate risks front and centre – to create a more sustainable environment for us all to enjoy.

“Instead, in the middle of a heatwave, the government has further threatened our already warming climate – and yet no strategic environmental assessment was ever made of the plans.”

Friends of the Earth’s Head of Legal, Will Rundle, added:

“We are considering our options to legally challenge this failure to environmentally assess the major impacts of this new planning framework, which we think is unlawful and shows contempt for people and our planet.”

Baroness Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson, said:.

“So much for giving local people a voice. This Tory government couldn’t care less about local people. Fracking is simply the government trying to offload its responsibility for developing renewables at scale. This is totally unacceptable but what we’ve come to expect from a government with no principles.”


2012 NPPF

Revised 2018 NPPF

Updated 27/7/2018 to include section Minerals remain in the NPPF

63 replies »

  1. Big brother here we come. Government redefines language and black is white, bludgeon local councils into submission. Well, there are hundreds of peaceful ways to subvert dictatorship. Some of them are rather effective.

  2. [Edited by moderator] You rather put up ugly wind farm solar panel farm that blite the countryside .And import oil ga from half way around the world .At ransoms from Russia These oil well pump will be out of sight underground mostly

    • Are you for real, Gordon?

      [Edited by moderator] If you don’t like wind or solar, that’s okay; 85% of participants of the latest government survey do.

      The UK does not import gas from Russia, get your facts straight.

      • Another ID that has all the charm wit and wisdom, not to mention lack of sensitivity of the similarly offensive Dr Cri(**)en ID near rabid posts?

        That “characterises” the entire anti anti output recently.

        Again we have to wonder just what sort of “people” (i use the word in its very loosest and debateable meaning) we are dealing with here, and if we want to hand over any sort of control and influence over our lives and that of our children in any way whatsoever to such as these?

        There are posts such as those when I wonder if the last 70 odd years were a waste of time and just delaying the inevitable and that nothing was actually achieved after all these years? Rather the opposite, these influences have taken over our government and social institutions and that the lunatics are now running the asylum?

        Try as I might, I can’t see any way out of this decaying diseased moral and ethical descent into gross totalitarian hegemony that recalls the events of the 1930’s?

        Operation Paperclip has a lot to answer for doesn’t it……

      • 44% gas import from Russia and Norway by pipe line .Google where doesn’t Uk gas come from
        Get your fact right mate

            • https://www.yahoo.com/news/russian-energy-minister-says-heard-uk-may-reduce-085908882–finance.html?guccounter=1

              “Gazprom, which holds a monopoly on Russia’s gas pipeline exports, supplied a total of 16.3 billion cubic meters of gas to Britain last year, slightly less than a year earlier, but still accounting for a fifth of the country’s total gas consumption.

              Gas exports to Britain represent only 10 percent of Gazprom’s total exports to western Europe. Germany remains its biggest buyer in Europe, taking a third of overall Russian gas exports.”

              Well Sherwulfe, even I thought it was a lot less than this. Perhaps the article is BS – but it certainly needs clarifying.

            • Just checked Good Energy – quote is the same as Ecotricity – 50% more than I ma paying now – a “no brainer”….

            • Paul – the BBC article is clever – net “energy imports” is not just gas imports? What about coal, electricity from interconnectors, uranium, trees…..

              “In the early part of this decade, the UK’s reliance on imported energy had an upward trend, according to the ONS, but then started falling. Net imports accounted for 36% of energy use in the UK in 2016, down from a peak of 48% in 2013,”

              Who is correct ? Russia / Reuters ? BBC? Difficult to tell where our none Norwegian gas imports come from.

              But personally I don’t care; my position is to reduce imports from anywhere as much as possible if cost effective – increase our North Sea production (but all the majors are leaving) and assess the commerciality of our onshore reserves – if we have any?

            • Bulb are significantly cheaper than GoodEnergy and Ecotricity – thank you for the link. I will check them at renewal. Still appears to be more than my current deal but who knows in a few months time. Hopefully they are still in business then. I used to be a long term OVO customer – but their prices rocketed although not as high as Ecotricity but also “green”.

              I’m sure you know that 90% of the gas is not green/renewable; Bulb only claims 10% as “green gas” but 100% green electrcity.

        • Less than 1% of our gas comes from Russia,


          The anti antis have been that pummelled that all they can do now is hope newcomers don’t do basic checks to see all the spin and nonsense from a desperate industry with a handful of gullible followers.

          Maybe the new shale commissioner……..(sorry I need a moment while I stop crying with laughter)……. can be instructed to keep up the preposterous myth that UK shale is vital to keep the lights on.

        • Gordon
          A few people have linked to the BG picture showing 44% comes from European pipelines and attributed a fair slice to Russia.

          While the diagram shows 35% of European gas coming from Russia, we only take 20% of our gas from the European Grid, and do not contract to take Russian gas from that grid at present.

          At most ( if the molecules of gas were completely mixed ), we would import 7% of our gas from Russia ( excluding LNG ), just as our electricity at the switch is a mixture of whatever is generating electricity at that moment in time.

          Hence it can be argued that we do not rely on Russian Gas via the European gas grid ( or do not import it ), primarily because we do not contract with Russia to buy it. We buy it from other suppliers who feed into the grid.

          How it all pans out in the future will be interesting as European gas production shrinks ( ie Groningen ), Norwegian production shrinks and so does UK N.Sea production, leading to more reliance on imported LNG, renewables, energy efficiency measures and whatever else turns up.

      • Ha ha ha sher

        Still rolling that BS out, of course we import gas from Russia. LNG from Yamal into Milford Haven and piped gas from Europe.

        Grow up sher

          • ‘Lies, lies and damned lies’; PR spin to get the shale industry justified – and both of you clearly part of the team.

            Thank you for you application for the post of shale gas commissioner. Unfortunately, despite little response, you have been unsuccessful this time. We wish you luck in you quest for a new position in the future; we believe the Trump administration is looking for recruits due to the high turnover of staff.

  3. You forgot the Beast from the East, Sherwulfe.

    Get your facts straight. You have caught your buddies habit of telling people what to do, and then doing so without being too careful with your own facts. Pots and kettle, come to mind-especially from those who have been moderated in the past.

    Of course there are individuals on this site who have different views to others. It would be pretty boring if there were not.

  4. Hmm, seems “we are dealing with” some who bother to check their facts. “When the fog is cleared the tractors fill up with red diesel (rather than vegetable oil) and head off to make hay whilst the sun shines”. (My Eric Cantona moment.)

    • Unfortunately most the tractors will remain idle this year due to the poor grass growth or wildfires due to sustained high and dry weather contributed to by climate change……ah yes, keep putting your head in the sand, but be make sure you have sun cream on your ar$e.
      Perhaps the diesel should be blue and then we can pretend it is climate friendly?

  5. Do you ever get out Sherwulfe?

    Plenty of tractors out in the UK countryside. Maybe doing jobs a little bit earlier than normal, but still getting out and about. A few heading round the corner from me, to bring the last of the hay in before the thunder storms arrive. 26th July hardly that early either.

    Panic setting in when one piece of misinformation is followed by another. Probably that insomnia again, exacerbated by the noise of all those Green bottles accidently falling.

  6. No, Sherwulfe, if I was on a payroll I might be posting day and night. Hmm, more pots and kettles.

    [Comment edited at poster’s request]

  7. Oh dear Sherwulfe. You lose the point and then try and claim a foul! Man up, old chap-in the UK we don’t go for bad losers.

  8. Don´t forget the giga pollution if 7 billjon people want solar- and windenergy. The pollution as result of mining commodoties to produce them is very bad for our climate and environtment worldwide.

    • And another PR apprentice…..
      Q How many PR apprentices does it take to change a light bulb?
      A. If the light bulb is a figment of your imagination, then as many as you need as they are all virtual. If the light bulb is real, none, because the only real person left the building years ago………

  9. Oh really, Sherwulfe! All of us in in PR are we?

    Oh goodie! More highly paid jobs created by UK fracking. We will shortly require a Union.

    • Get one now MC to negotiate your redundancy and no pay out when it all goes wrong; Here’s on for you – NUGUIPS The National Union of Guises, Untruths, Incogneto, Pretense and Sockpuppets.

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