• “Appalling” lack of consultation over fracking plans

    20th July 2013 | News | Claire
  • Technical guidance for planning authorities on deciding applications for the exploration and extraction of shale gas has been published this morning by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

    The guidance covers whether operators need to provide Environmental Impact Assessments, how planning will interact with other bodies involved with the regulatory regime covering shale gas including the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive, and site restoration.

    Planning applications for exploration of shale gas should not take account of hypothetical future activities since they will be the subject of separate planning applications and assessments, the guidance says.

    However, when assessing planning applications for actual production of shale gas, the fact that exploratory drilling has taken place on the same site should only be a material consideration in that it establishes the presence of hydrocarbon resources, it notes.

    Planning authorities should not consider demand for, or alternatives to, oil and gas when determining applications as government policy is clear that energy supplies should come from a variety of sources, it says.

    Planning authorities should give great weight to the benefits of minerals extraction, including to the economy, it stresses.

    In a written ministerial statement, Baroness Hanham, parliamentary under secretary of state for communities and local government, said: “Effective exploration and testing of the UK’s unconventional gas resources is therefore key for understanding the potential of this industry.

    “The government is creating the right framework to accelerate shale gas development in a responsible and sustainable way.”

    There is no consultation on the guidance. In a debate in Westminster Hall last night, Green Party MP for Brighton Caroline Lucas said that the lack of consultation was “pretty appalling.”

    “Even from a perspective of due procedure, I cannot see how the decision to deny communities a say in their new planning rules is remotely in line with the government’s own definition of circumstances in which consultation is unnecessary,” she said.

    The government has also published a consultation on the tax regime for shale gas. The new allowance would reduce the tax on a portion of a company’s production income from 62 per cent to 30 per cent at current rates.

    It reiterated its pledge, made as part of the spending review, that communities near fracking sites will receive from operators at least £100,000 per shale gas well site during the exploration phase, and no less than one per cent of overall revenues.