Government faces second legal challenge over new planning rules on fracking

180628 Block around the clock11 RCTP

Block Around the Clock outside Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road shale gas site, 28 June 2018. Photo: Reclaim the Power

A second environmental group is taking legal action against the government over its new planning policy on fracking and onshore oil and gas.

DrillOrDrop reported last month that Talk Fracking had taken the first steps towards a High Court challenge over the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Now Friends of the Earth wants to go to court to force the government to carry out an assessment of the new rules. It says the government should consult the public and make any changes based on the comments.

The NPPF provides guidelines to local councils for deciding planning applications and setting local policy

The revised version was published by the Local Government Secretary, James Brokenshire, on 24 July 2018, the final day before the parliamentary summer holiday (DrillOrDrop report).

The new guidelines require mineral planning authorities (MPAs) of local councils to have  policies that “facilitate” the exploration and extraction of onshore oil and gas. MPAs should also recognise the benefits for energy security and supporting the transition to a low carbon economy.

Like Talk Fracking, Friends of the Earth is arguing that Mr Brokenshire failed to carry out a strategic environmental assessment of the new planning policies.


Friends of the Earth said today this failure had “left the public in the dark over the major environmental impacts of the new changes, and whether less damaging alternatives have been considered and discarded (or considered at all).”

“If an SEA is carried out the NPPF may well be significantly different.”

On fracking, Friends of the Earth said:

“By requiring planning authorities to plan positively for shale extraction, the approach gives the go-ahead for fracking and will make it virtually impossible for councils to refuse schemes they and their communities do not want or consider right for their area.”

Friends of the Earth said it was also concerned that new rules on wind energy could block the development of new schemes. The new rules also failed to ban coal projects.

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, 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, said:

“The government pays lip service to leaving the environment in a better state for future generations but in reality does the opposite. Publishing a new national framework for development in England without any assessment of its major environmental implications begs the question of what happened to good governance.

“We’re taking legal action over the complete failure by the government to environmentally assess the major impacts of this new planning framework, which we think is unlawful and shows contempt for people and our planet.”

Friends of the Earth sent a formal pre-action letter on 1 August 2018 to Mr Brokenshire but has not received a response.

The Scottish government is currently carrying out a strategic environmental assessment of its policy to not support planning applications for fracking.

  • The government is facing a separate legal challenge from a Yorkshire councillor, Paul Andrews, on the Written Ministerial Statement on shale gas and fracking, issued in May. DrillOrDrop report

1 reply »

Add a comment

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

You are commenting using your 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