Government consults on consulting the public about shale gas schemes


Exhibition held by Ineos for a shale gas exploration site at Marsh Lane, Derbyshire, 31 January 2017. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The government is seeking views on whether shale gas companies should be required to consult local people before they formally submit plans for an area.

A public consultation on the proposal opened this afternoon and runs for 10 weeks.

It was announced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government three hours before a parliamentary debate on a related change to planning rules for shale gas.

Mark Menzies, the Conservative MP for Fylde, secured the debate on local involvement in shale gas development. He is expected to oppose government proposals to classify non-fracking shale gas schemes as permitted development, bypassing the need for a planning application. The debate is also likely to discuss a parallel proposal to designate shale gas production as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (or NSIP), where decisions are made by the local government secretary, rather than a local authority.

These proposals, and today’s, were originally announced in joint written ministerial statements on 17 May 2018. The government said they were designed to speed-up decisions on shale gas schemes. Petitions against the permitted development and NSIP proposals have been signed by more than 300,000 people. Many mineral planning authorities have also opposed them. Consultations on these proposals closed on 25 October 2018.

Today’s consultation asks:

  • Should community consultation before a shale gas application be made should be compulsory?
  • What process should be used for the consultation?
  • What, if any, shale gas developments should be subject to compulsory pre application consultation?

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said:

“Sufficiently early engagement with communities at the pre-application stage may give local people an earlier say in the planning process. It can also make developers aware of issues of importance to the community that may need to be resolved through the planning process.

“The Government recognises that early engagement with local authorities on shale gas applications, including capitalising on formal pre-application discussions, is critical in building confidence in decision making, securing support for development proposals and setting realistic timeframes for decisions.”

It added that

“requiring applicants to conduct community pre-application consultation prior to undertaking shale gas development could further strengthen the role local people play in planning process.”

Councils and individuals opposing the permitted development and NSIP proposals have argued they would “undermine democracy” and “bypass scrutiny”. DrillorDrop report


At the moment, shale gas developers are not required by law to do pre-application consultation, although several companies have held exhibitions and delivered leaflets about their plans. DrillOrDrop report

If the government implemented its proposals to include fracking production in the NSIP regime then shale gas companies would be required to follow a statutory consultation process, MHCLG said. This process comprises requirements to:

  • Produce a statement of consultation describing how the developer proposes to consult the local community and then carry out the consultation
  • Make the statement available to people living nearby
  • Allow at least 28 days for the consultation
  • Have regard to “relevant responses”
  • Submit consultation report to the Secretary of State

MHCLG said it was considering making consultation compulsory for shale gas developments that needed an environmental impact assessment. It said the consultation process required under the 2010 Localism Act for larger onshore wind farms could be applied to these shale gas schemes. This process requires companies to:

  • Publicise application to bring it to the attention of the majority of people who live nearby
  • Follow local authority good practice
  • Have regard to responses to consultation
  • Submit details with planning application on how developer complied with consultation requirements, what responses were received and how the developer took account of them.

The consultation on compulsory consultation for shale gas schemes runs until 11.45pm on 7 January 209

The debate on local involvement in shale gas development is at Westminster Hall at 4.30pm. It can be viewed on parliamentlive.tv

26 replies »

  1. “Petitions against the permitted development and NSIP proposals have been signed by more than 300,000 people.”

    Fake news.

    300,000 signatures across 3 different petitions is not the same as 300,000 people.

    The quality of this so called ‘independent journalism’ is woeful at best and glaringly biased.

      • In case you missed it, fracking is permitted so no petition for it is required at this time.

        Generally speaking, petitions are used when opposing the status quo.

      • R8 (hiding behind a code name for some reason or other) has probably personally checked and counted every signature on each of the petitions to weed out any multiple entries, for otherwise how could they come to their conclusion on the numbers?. Their assessment probably comes to 1. But just maybe the petition teams actually weeded out the multiple entries. I for one entered my name on just one and not all three. But in today’s fake news era, we’re all guilty until proven innocent, except with regard to this subject when we’re just all guilty even when we’re innocent. The evidence is irrefutable. There is absolutely no alternative to dramatically reducing our use of fossil fuels if we are to even stand a chance of limiting climate change and its adverse consequences. Yes, it will not happen over night; it will take time, so suggestions that we’re hypocrites because we continue to burn fossil fuels ourselves is simply an absurd attempt at a cheap shot. We are in danger of passing that time, if indeed we haven’t already done so. Time to invest in the alternatives rather than to continue to look for even more fossil fuels. But the pro frackers simply don’t get it; they never will.

        • Well said Malcolm. I am sure lots of fracking petitions were made, and many more to come, dependent upon results.

          All those were made through the back door and consisting of lots of overstuffed brown envelopes, though it is claimed by some that all the pieces of paper in the envelopes had exactly the same signature on each, that of HM Treasury Chief Cashier Chris Salmon, 300,000 such petitions being a mere fraction of the total petitions?

          But that of course is only a cruel rumour propagated by a small number of unscrupulous individuals?

    • A bit like DoD’s reporting – attempting ot insult the intelligence of its readers by publishing false and misleading claims.

  2. Petitions are like smiley faces, R8. Place a machine at child height in a pharmacy, keep everyone waiting a long time and the kids will punch the smiley face button dozens of times once they become bored. Hey presto, the pharmacy is giving great, smiley faced, service!

    Or, alternatively, stand outside a coffee shop, collecting signatures and people would sign their lives away to get away,get in and get their fix. Guess which friendly lot I have spotted doing just that?

    But even with that, the majority is still not opposed to fracking.

    • Indeed, Ellie. You make the consultation as crass as you possibly can to keep us antis bogged down juggling double or triple negatives, then you hide the main question behind a phoney, or is ‘fake’ the word, question, you add a few questions which have blindingly obvious answers, eg. should you have a PD to explore for shale on a military dump, you dress the whole thing up formally as though it were meaningful and you really were going to work your way through the convoluted answers resulting from convoluted questions, and you sit back and announce that the people have been consulted before you carry on doing what you were intending to do all along. You can even call it democratic. What is the point of pre-application consultation unless it contains the obvious question “Should we frack locally? If not, why not?”

      • I forgot an obvious guidance statement for a pre application consultation. “Failure to participate in this consultation will not be construed as approval for English hydraulic fracturing,”

  3. Martin Collyer, is that why pro-frackers such as yourself don’t have petitions? Or is it simply because you know that the number of people who would sign it would be so pitifully small it would be embarrassing? (Rather like turnout at pro-fracking rallies in Lancashire).

      • Now that really is fake news.

        C’mon Paul which policy item might have had more influence on the GE result than fracking? I’ll give you a clue, before the big C started causing earthquakes everyday it was on the news a bit.

        Here’s another clue the Government are making as much of a hash of it as the big C are fracking st PNR.

  4. Why on earth would those who want to see the results from test fracking have any need for petitions, or rallies, Ellie?

    Test fracking is currently a legal, authorised activity. It is happening. Two thirds of the population, as indicated from the Tracker Survey, are not against that continuing. So, what would be the objective-to hang our undies on a fence, having consumed goodness how much of the fossil fuel reserves to get to said fence, and then prance around on top of a few HGVs?

    Maybe if the two thirds was dropping off, but it isn’t. Once you start calming down and looking at the realities, the fog really does start to clear away.

    Eddie Stone


    • Martin

      I am minded to start a petition supporting Brexit.
      A people’s petition maybe.
      But then I thought that it is not required, as the government is working towards that end.

      Ho hum

      Maybe a petition to support offhore wind, coal station closure, HS2, offshore oil and gas development. The list is large.

  5. Consultation with estate agents, property developers and land owners would be interesting!
    Around PNR landbanks are being built on and sold off in massive numbers, assisted by dodgy Government assistance schemes and with the dangers of living near to a fracking site denied by the salespeople!
    Mis-selling of the highest level in my opinion! Never mind PPI!

    • Imposed Nationally Significant Infrastructure and Permitted Industrial Development, or as an acronym INSIPPID….

      It looks like these consultation suggestions have caused the grumbling PR hot desk slaves to wake up and growl out their sneers and bitterness again? Such is the bile and venom from the anti antis when they have nothing intelligent to say,

      But as usual it is the loose and woolly ineffectual wording of the suggestions that are significantly revealing in their inadequacy.

      1.Publicise application to bring it to the attention of the majority of people who live nearby.

      The word majority is interesting, and how will such a phrase of “nearby” be interpreted, and by whome? Just within the gates of the site, where their responsibility ends by their own definition?

      2. Follow local authority good practice.

      So will this consultation be a local authority controlled event? Under what office and department and level of expertise or commitment to what pre prescribed result?

      3. Have regard to responses to consultation.

      What does “regard” mean? Is that a legally defined word with legally defined parameters? Just how much “regard” will be applied? Will the climate change deterioration situation be a permitted subject for discussion and part of the final decision data requirement? Local and national health, water, soil, air, noise, pollution, inconvenience? Who will measure these effects and how will they be “regarded” and minimised if not prevented?

      4. Submit details with planning application on how developer complied with consultation requirements, what responses were received and how the developer took account of them.

      We have seen just how much the “developer” has complied with even the previous planning consultations, and plainly such “regard” as was taken into account so far haven’t we? None at all. Just run cap in hand to the government to overturn any objections and run the decision rough shod through anyway?

      There is an extra item to be considered too:

      5. Who has the final say? By what criteria will such a decision be made?

      Oh yes, we can guess boys and girls cant we? Just a fake spin exercise for the press to publish.

  6. Well, for those who may have offices a little up the road where 40% of the worlds plutonium is stored, the salespeople should find it a doddle.

    Especially, if/when they can add an annual income to come with those properties and that can be offered together with an annual boost to local funding for local needs. Not sure that current commissions would be justified then, but volume would probably compensate.

  7. No matter how much the government consult or try to present fracking differently fracking is fracking. And from the responses from MPs and councils across the country it is obvious that there is broad opposition to the government’s proposals to change the planning system . The idea that yet another consultation or that earlier consultation will fix things is utter nonsense. People are not stupid. Consultation is only valuable if opinions given actually influence the outcome. So far all the consultation results from several consultations have simply been ignored or overturned by government. Attacking the fundenental basis of local democracy over planning decisions and forcing fracking forwards at all costs shows their true intent. And it seems the public have no intention to accept it.

    • Kat T – all consultations I have seen at the local level are shams – basically box ticking to confirm they have been done. Probably the same at Government level. But there is an underlying problem with this methodology – consultations do not represnt the majority of people. Only those that comment and generally they have vested interests, rightly or wrongly. So they are ignored.

      Personally I don’t think O & G exploration / strat wells should be permiited development, even without fracking. The existing planning system can work / does work, the only issue is the excessive time taken to determine most O & G applications – outwith the statutory timescales. INEOS are using this to their advantage – just like wind farm companies have done in the past up here. Straight to Appeal for none determination. Councillors on Planning Committees need to heed the recomendations of their Officers, not play politics or be taken in by lobbying.

      Perhaps we should move on to the Swiss way of doing things with referendums about everything that has countrywide implications?

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