• Property owners not to be notified of oil and gas drilling …

    3rd September 2013 | News | Claire
  • Companies would be able to apply for planning permission to drill for oil or gas under people’s property without first notifying them, under government proposals to ease the consent process for oil and gas production.

    In a consultation published today, the Department for Communities and Local Government said that it intends to make changes to planning legislation to make it easier for energy developers to submit planning applications.

    The move follows the publication of shale gas planning practice guidance in July.

    The document includes plans to amend the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010, which set out requirements for applicants to give notice of the application to owners or tenants of any of the land related to the application.

    The document says the government “considers that underground operations for the winning and working of oil and gas are different in character from other existing forms of development” as such operations are at “significant depth below the surface”.

    It also says that, at the time of an application, it can be difficult for the developer to precisely define the underground area of land where drilling will take place and the area of land from which the oil and gas will be removed.

    “This means that, because of the uncertain route of the underground works, the area of land identified in a planning application which is to be developed has to be drawn widely to ensure that it is broad enough to cover any potential route of lateral drilling and area of working. A widely drawn area would necessarily require the notification of significant numbers of owners”, the document says.

    In light of this, the document says, the government “considers that it is unreasonable and impractical to require applicants for planning permission for underground oil and gas working to serve notice on owners and tenants of land across such a widely drawn area”.

    The consultation proposes to retain the requirement to serve notice on individual owners and tenants of land immediately neighbouring the site of the prospective works, but to remove the requirement to notify owners of land beyond this area, including owners of land below which underground operations may take place.

    Elsewhere, the document proposes a standardised planning application form for oil and gas operations to improve efficiency and consistency in how applications are processed “and to make it compulsory for local authorities and applicants to use such a form, or a form substantially to the like effect, so that any application for development which is not on the standard form will not be validated or processed”.

    The document also proposes to clarify legislation to ensure that oil and gas operators pay planning fees based only on above-ground operations rather than workings below ground.

    “This reflects the government’s intention that, although underground workings would normally be considered as part of the site area, development of oil and gas reserves are regarded as an exception where the above ground workings only are taken into account when calculating the fee payable to the minerals planning authority”.

    The document says that, following the closure of the consultation period, “where appropriate, any changes will be accompanied by short planning guidance”.

    The consultation, Revised requirements relating to planning applications for onshore oil and gas, closes on Friday 14 October 2013 and can be found here.