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