Government shale gas planning changes a “sad blow to public engagement” – Conservative council leader

Cllr Barry Lewis Derbyshire CC

The leader of Conservative-controlled Derbyshire County Council has said government plans designed to fast-track shale gas will cut local authorities out of decisions with the biggest impact on communities.

Councillor Barry Lewis said he opposed the proposal to make non-fracking schemes permitted development, avoiding the need for planning applications. He said he was also against making a government minister responsible for deciding shale gas production schemes.

Cllr Lewis said in a statement this afternoon:

“Local councils are best placed to make decisions about development in their local area. But if these changes to the planning system go ahead it will mean important decisions affecting our communities about fracking are taken by central Government.

“And if the planning system is short-cut by no longer requiring proposals to investigate for shale gas to be given planning permission, it will be a sad blow to public engagement through local decision making.”

Marsh Lane village from Bramleymoor Lane 170426 DoD

The village of Marsh Lane from Bramleymoor Lane where Ineos proposes to explore for shale gas. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Derbyshire is waiting the imminent outcome of a public inquiry on Ineos plans for shale gas exploration in the village of Marsh Lane.

County councillors voted by 9-1 in February 2018 to oppose the scheme to drill a 2.4km exploration well 400m away from homes.

The council argued at the inquiry in Chesterfield in June 2018 that heavy vehicles visiting the site would have an unacceptable impact on rural roads. It also said local people would be disturbed by night-time noise and the proposal would affect the openness of the green belt.

Ineos said the scheme should be approved because the government supported the development of shale gas.

180620 Marsh Lane10

Ineos representatives at the Bramleymoor Lane public inquiry, 20 June 2018. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Cllr Lewis said:

“These are sensitive applications. They are classed as ‘temporary’ but can include long periods of testing and drilling with tall rigs and associated buildings.

“Our planning process is a democratic process. These changes could see local councils completely cut-out of the decision-making process at every stage for shale gas proposals with the greatest effects on the local communities and countryside.”

Under the current system, shale gas companies have to apply for planning permission from the council at each stage of the development, from exploration, through appraisal to production.

The government is currently consulting on its proposals. The deadline for comments is 25 October 2018.

Derbyshire County Council said today it was preparing a formal response. A report will be considered by the council’s cabinet on 11 October 2018.

National opposition to government proposals

Cllr Lewis’s comments support the results of a recent poll of Conservative council members.

The research, commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Friends of the Earth (FoE), found that 80% of Conservative councillors in areas where fracking companies have a licence to explore for shale gas believe planning applications should be required before drilling.

It also found that 65% of Conservative councillors believe local authorities should grant final planning consent for shale production projects.

Petitions against the government’s proposals by CPRE and FoE have so far attracted almost 215,000 signatures at the time of writing.

The Mayor of Malton, Paul Andrews, announced this week he was launching a legal challenge to the Written Ministerial Statement which announced the change of policy on planning for shale gas

16 replies »

  1. Still no comments?

    Surely, not because It’s a sad ineffectual comment from a conservative who really tows the line?

    Someone support the guy, I’m sure he’s prepared to resign over the matter?!

  2. It’s a shame this website is the only place to be informed about O&G in the UK.

    It’s far too bias and selective.

    There needs to be a more neutral website for sure.

    Or maybe allow more guest posters who are in favour of O&G.

    • You do not have to follow or comment on this site Gregoryyy. There are plenty of industry sites and publications if you prefer only to read pro shale articles/news.
      With regard to Councillor Lewis, not only is he absolutely correct but the acttack on democracy by this government should be of concern to all. This has far wider implications than fracking.

    • Hi Gregoryyy
      Thanks for your comments. We are always on the lookout for informed guest posters, and would like to feature more contributions from those in favour of fracking in particular and onshore oil and gas in general. In the past we have featured interviews with senior Ineos executives and Ken Cronin of UK Onshore Oil and Gas. Do let us know if you have any specific suggestions.

  3. If “public engagement” didn’t mean ignoring the Planning Officers and refusing on cobbled together grounds there might be some sympathy for this guy’s stance. However, many will find such deliberate waste of money that could be better spent is not a good look for a Tory! But then we have SCC and Northampton, that would suggest some Tory councils need to manage their expenditure a bit better. Perhaps start with banning the Bourbons and replacing with Digestives?

  4. This goes beyond a planning committee deciding not to accept a planning officers recommendation (which they are entitled to). These proposals interfere with local development plans and other, wider development decisions. And don’t forget the councillors were proved to have been absolutely correct to have gone against the planning officers recommendation and advice at Wressle. Here the planning officer was found to have been wrong and the independent planning inspector also criticised the EA.

  5. Jack’s reminder is timely. We continue, in arguing about whether or not to boost and reinforce fossil fuel destruction of our planetary environment via fracking, to ignore the fact that, as Jason Hickel puts it in ‘The Divide’, “the whole edifice is at risk of collapsing unless we throw everything we have into the fight against climate change” . Fracking cannot be consistent with these duties to mitigate and address the causes of climate change – predominantly our use of fossil fuels and our unwillingness to act now to insist upon alternatives. Barry Lewis’s call to enlist informed democratic voices in this fight against corporate tyranny and greed supported by governments is very welcome, as is Paul Andrews decision to challenge this – specifically ‘permitted development’ – in the courts.

  6. And then John, the Planning Officer has to try and make a case at an Appeal, when he/she doesn’t believe there is a valid case to be made!

    So, lots of expensive legal nonsense, and new “expert” witnesses-all at tax payers expense-to support a case where the Officer responsible for arguing the case doesn’t believe there is one, realising that UDI amongst Councils will not win an Appeal. No wonder the Government is fed up with it when the Councils then whinge they don’t have enough money left to balance the books.

    The Councils are playing this, assuming the companies concerned will value their future relationship with the Council so much that they will not ask for costs. If these decisions are not sorted shortly, one of these Councils will get a very expensive shock and then expect to be baled out. It would cause great excitement amongst the antis, but the locals would end up with services cut. The Councillors would likely end up moralising about their conscious and still get re-elected by their small group of buddies.

    • Martin, I’m afraid John will be out of if he recommended acceptance and the council will have to bring in an outsider to argue their case.

  7. The councilors brought it all upon themselves with their childish attitudes during planning applications.

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