Court rules against new government consultation on fracking policy


Royal Courts of Justice, London. Photo: DrillOrDrop

A High Court judge ruled this morning that the government does not have to carry out a new public consultation on its planning policy on fracking.

Mr Justice Dove was responding to a call by lawyers for anti-fracking campaigner, Claire Stephenson, who won a case against the local government secretary in March 2019. (DrillOrDrop report)

The case concerned the revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which sets the basis for planning decisions and included government support for fracking.

In his original ruling, the judge quashed paragraph 209a of the NPPF.

This said 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;”

The judge accepted Ms Stephenson’s argument that the government had acted unlawfully by failing to consider new evidence, submitted to a public consultation, which challenged the policy.

This evidence included the Mobbs Report, which countered the science behind a written ministerial statement supporting shale gas.

In his ruling in March, Mr Justice Dove said:

“the consultation on the draft revised Framework 204a was so flawed in its design and processes as to be unlawful.”

He said it breached the Sedley principles which set out the requirements for a full and lawful consultation exercise.

He said the Mobbs Report and other material provided by the campaign group, Talk Fracking, was:

“capable of having a direct bearing upon a key element of the evidence base for the proposed policy and its relationship to climate change effects”.

But he said:

“What appears clear on the evidence is that the material from Talk Fracking, and in particular and scientific evidence as described in their consultation response, was never in fact considered relevant or taken into account, although … this material was relevant to the decision which was advertised.”

“It was unlawful to leave that material out of account”, he added.

Ms Stephenson’s legal team had argued that the government should be required to re-run the public consultation on paragraph 209a.

But in his ruling today, the judge said it “would be neither necessary nor appropriate” for him to require a new public consultation.

He said:

“Having quashed paragraph 209a and thereby effectively removed it from the Framework in my view it is entirely a matter for the defendant to choose how he wishes to react to that decision, if at all.

“It does not follow from the judgement either that I should compel the Defendant to undertake a consultation exercise any more than I should compel him to have a policy on fracking.”

Costs, capped at £35,000, were awarded against the government.

Ms Stephenson said:

“We’re really pleased with the outcome of the judgement. Essentially, the government’s policy on fracking has found to be unlawful. It’s a significant paragraph of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which is no longer legal or allowed to be used.

“This means that future planning applications for fracking will be able to be objected on current scientific evidence, specifically about climate change, and not constricted as before by government policy insisting ‘great weight’ should be placed on oil and gas extraction.

“Time and evidence has moved on and the government should now accept that fracking is dead: it has missed its window and that government support for dirty energy should be dropped. The future is in renewable and clean energy technology. It’s time the Conservatives joined the rest of political parties and oppose fracking.”

12 replies »

  1. Please can we get on with providing home grown energy security of this country, offshore and onshore within the regulatory framework of the governments policies…. enough already! Frac on!

  2. Insert “renewable” after “home grown” in the above statement and remove the “n” from the last word and replace it with a double “f” and I will agree with you….

    However, I suspect neither is very likely with this present tragically fractured farce of a government at the moment and soon it will be far far too late for any fiddling around the edges in any direction.

    Perhaps you can drill into that resultant home grown hot air and gas that pours out of that horizontally and vertically fractured shame?

    However, this is not a drill…..

      • Ha! Ha! Said energy? Is that Port Said energy from Egypt? A bit far away but lots of sunshine to share if you ask nicely, you could always offer onshore fracked gas as an exchange deal?


        I am sure they would welcome your enquiries though? I have an English/Egyptian language dictionary if you have any communication problems.

        Now Port Said is a candidate for solar, tidal and water level differential power isn’t it?

        But sharing renewable energy resources would be far too intelligent for this government wouldn’t it, think of the Severne bore, and many other tidal races right here in England though, now that really is a bore worth harnessing, much better than the fossil fuel boring bores we see here every day.

        Those 500 million year old sunshine fossilised fuels are rare though, and difficult to extract, intermittent and unreliable, not to mention increasingly socially unacceptable too expensive in ecological climate change and financial terms.

        Have a nice totally renewable day, I do.

  3. Does anyone have a full copy of the actual court order they can share, or a link to it?

    Big congrats to DoD by the way – great work on this.

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