A group of backbench Conservatives has urged the government to ease the planning laws on shale gas schemes.
In a short report, they called for a “new permissive planning regime” in areas where a majority of residents supported schemes in return for cheaper energy or a share of revenue.
The 1922 Backbench Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee said new shale gas proposals should not be forced on communities. But it said incentives could lead to what it called “a more realistic approach” to development.
The report, published just before the government’s full energy security strategy today, recommended:
“a new, permissive planning regime for all renewable schemes and any shale gas extraction schemes where a majority of residents, on a local referendum, are willing to support them in return for free/highly subsidised energy or a share of revenues to leave it open for a flexible negotiation.”
This suggests the committee is seeking to revive earlier Conservative plans to push fracking schemes more quickly through the planning system.
The committee also said:
“No community or landowner should have new schemes forced upon them, but members believe there are good incentives available that could result in a more realistic and permissive approach to new developments.”
The committee’s chair is Andrea Leadsom, the former energy secretary who announced the moratorium on fracking in England in November 2019.
Also in November 2019, she announced the government was scrapping of plans to make exploratory drilling for shale gas permitted development, without the need for planning permission. A consultation on those proposals was opposed by 97.5%. Ms Leadsom was replaced in a reshuffle just over three months later.
Today’s report said:
“There was strong support from Members for a proposal that developers should provide free or highly discounted energy to communities who, on a local referendum, consent to new projects in their area such as wind, solar, and shale gas extraction.”
The report also has a list of policy proposals, including
- Turning off radiators in unused rooms
- Taking appliances off standby
- Reducing pressure to hot taps to avoid unnecessary heating costs
- Reducing radiator settings on gas boilers
The 1922 backbench committees were established at the request of the prime minister. They are intended to give better access to the policy ideas of backbenchers.
This was the first inquiry to be completed by a 1922 backbench committee. The report followed three meetings in March 2022. There are no details of who attended the meetings.
- Changes to the planning rules for shale gas and onshore wind were not included in the energy security strategy. More details