MPs from both sides of parliament have called on the government to announce it has abandoned plans to relax the planning rules on shale gas schemes.
A consultation closed in October 2018 on proposals to make shale gas exploration permitted development – avoiding the need for a full planning application.
But the government has not announced the findings of the consultations or whether the proposal would be implemented. There’s also been no news on a related idea to make shale gas production nationally-significant infrastructure.
During questions in the House of Commons, the Conservative, Andrew Percy, (Brigg and Goole) said fracking was industrial development.
He asked for an assurance that it would be treated like any other industrial planning application in open countryside.
Labour’s Roberta Blackman-Woods said ministers should accept that fracking was environmentally unsound and invest more in renewable energy.
Cat Smith (Labour), who represents Lancaster and Fleetwood near Cuadrilla’s fracking site, asked the local government minister, Kit Malthouse, to:
“commit to listening to communities such as mine in Lancashire and act in their interests to prevent permitted development rights being granted for shale gas exploration.”
Mr Malthouse said the proposals were being considered by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). He said:
“I hope we will be able to issue a response to them shortly.”
Last year, three petitions with a total of 300,000+ signatures opposed the government proposals on permitted development.
A survey for the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Friends of the Earth found that 80% of Conservative councillors in fracking licences thought a planning application should be required before drilling could happen.
Ministers were warned there may not be a parliamentary majority for the proposals and a report by parliament’s Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee concluded that permitted development for shale gas would exacerbate mistrust between communities and the industry.
The committee’s chair, Clive Betts, asked Mr Malthouse:
“Given the amount of opposition on his own side, as well as on this side of the House, and in local communities, is the Minister now considering withdrawing those proposals and instead giving greater powers to communities to decide whether they want fracking in their areas?
Mr Malthouse said he would pass on concerns about the delay in responding to BEIS.