Politics

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.

Reaction

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.”

Links

2012 NPPF

Revised 2018 NPPF


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

63 replies »

  1. Just what is the point of consultation if the government simply ignores the outcome? The government has done this repeatedly where fracking is concerned. I cannot help but think that at some point this will backfire. Forcing fracking upon unwilling communities will never be acceptable. You cannot operate an unconventional gas industry on a small scale and no one likes a bully, so there will be a great deal of anger when people realise their “choice” has been taken away and realise what the impacts will be.
    I also question how the government can say that fracking will play a part in helping to achieve a low carbon economy. Once coal power generation ceases in 2025, that reduction will have gone. With the government’s inadequate progress in reducing emissions from transport and housing the CCC has stated that the government is set to fail the next two statutory carbon budgets and Lord Deben has actually stated that there is no place for fracking. No doubt this will lead to a future legal challenge. Despite the government’s push for fracking the opposition will continue, indeed a number of Conservative MPs have voiced their opposition to the government’s planning proposals, including some who are supportive of fracking.
    The few exploratory wells currently proposed do not equal and unconventional gas industry and so despite the government’s best efforts, with continued opposition and climate change becoming ever more critical I believe that time will run out for fracking. Plus a change of government will bring about an effective “ban” through planning policy and climate change legislation.

  2. Another government consultation that has resulted in the government changing the rules to benefit the oil and gas industry, despite the large numbers of people who objected to many aspects of the revised NPPF and huge opposition to the proposed changes. This shows contempt for the process and those that bothered to respond to the consultation – why bother having a consultation at all if you’re just going to ignore all the responses? Many aspects of this revised section are based on highly contentious and unproven statements – such as shale gas helping a ‘transition to a low-carbon economy’, for example.
    Also, the report above stated that “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.” The reason why so many respondents stated that these three considerations should be given equal weight is BECAUSE THIS PRINICIPLE IS STATED IN THE INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH OF THE NPPF! For this to be included as a guiding principle of development as a whole, then ignored when it comes to oil and gas development, is an outrageous betrayal of local communities and hopefully will mean this can be challenged in court.

  3. Consultation does NOT mean that the views received are enforced, as a matter of right (ask any couple.)

    If new opinions are received that outweigh the direction of travel, then one would expect them to be acted upon. It would appear the view was this was not the case in this particular situation. Perfectly normal process and perfectly standard decision.

    Otherwise, we would have dozens of Boaty McBoatfaces, and be the laughing stock of the sane part of the world!

  4. LOL! We already are the laughing stock of the world because of the Brexit shenanigans, Martin. If you can discern any direction of travel there, you’re a better man than I.

    • Total insanity, you can’t have any objections because there are no conditions which allow you to do so. The only considerations you are allowed to make are “positive” (now there is an interesting use of the word?) ones to decide the “advantages”. (another interesting use of the word?)

      Planning committees then become nothing more than neo Stalinist Kangaroo courts from which only one answer will be tolerated or allowed. This is the end of all meaningful public consultation and effectively hamstrings local authorities.

      Objections overruled.

      The only considerations you can make are “positive” ones that approve fracking and it’s associated avoidances of the word!

      All other considerations are excluded or ruled inadmissible!

      Turning local council public planning enquiries into little more than crippled constrained rubber stamp agencies for the oil and gas industry and their private corporation offshore tax haven owners and operators.

      This below also shows why the anti anti posters here are so hypersensitive to the word fracking, it is right here:

      “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.”

      This is totalitarian insanity at work, we used to say it could never happen here.

      Wake up, it has happened here.

  5. Maybe your part of the world Alan, but away from the EU area not the case. And that is heading for 90% of global GDP.

    But, you antis have a problem with dealing with majorities, so why should Brexit be any different?

    (I suggest the direction of short term travel will be controlled and constrained by the self serving within the EU. If anyone outside wanted to examine the motivation of the “club” then not likely to be impressed.)

  6. How many greenies does it take to change a light bulb? They just can’t do it, the whole process of the production of the light bulb would impact deeply on their conscience. Instead, let’s all gather round in a circle, hold hands and light a candle. Oh no!! what about the candle!!

    • Ah another call- centre apprentice….
      Lovin you like the light bulb conundrums….
      You say ‘let’s all gather round in a circle, hold hands and light a candle’ – so by your own admission you are a greenie;strange that?

      Q. How many members of the Conservatives does it take to change a light bulb?
      A: Ten:

      One to deny that any light bulb needs to be changed;
      One to attack the values of anyone who says the light bulb needs to be changed;
      One to blame Corbyn for burning out the light bulb;
      One to tell the nations of the world that they are either for changing the light bulb or for eternal darkness;
      One to give a billion-pound, no-bid contract to Cuadrilla for the new light bulb;
      One to arrange a photograph of Perry, dressed as a janitor, standing on a step ladder under a banner reading “Bulb Change Accomplished” (which worked great until sundown);
      One ministerial insider to resign and in detail reveal how May was literally “in the dark the whole time”;
      One to viciously smear No. 7;
      One PR scapegoat to campaign on TV and at rallies on how Greg Clark has had a strong light-bulb-changing policy all along;
      And finally, one to confuse Britons about the difference between screwing a light bulb and screwing the country

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