Outdated and inconsistent planning policy and guidance combined with strong local opposition have seen most of the applications for exploratory fracking sites, currently decided by local mineral planning bodies, bogged down in the planning system and challenged in the High Court.
In a written ministerial statement made on the 17thMay this year BEIS Secretary Gregg Clark Clark stated that shale gas development is of ‘National Importance’ and should be given ‘great weight’ by mineral authorities in decision making. Mr Clark also went on to state that where planning decisions were not being decided within the statutory 16-week period by ‘underperforming’ local authorities that these applications would be called in by the minister to make the decision himself.
The statement in May went on to promise further steps that the government would be taking to make the planning process faster and fairer for all those affected by new development, including:
- Review of the National Planning Policy Framework– now completed with the national importance of onshore shale sites being re-iterated.
- Consultation on the treatment of non-hydraulic fracturing as permitted development – consultation live until 25thOctober, documents are here.
- Consultation on the inclusion of shale production projects within the Nationally Significant Infrastructure regime – consultation live until 25thOctober, documents are here.
- Publication of revised planning practise guidance on shale development – nothing published to date.
It is clear that the Government sees the development of this industry as vital to the economy and to national security, but this desire is at odds with the will of many who live locally to the proposed fracking sites. A streamlined planning process for these developments will give investors a glimpse of the stability they crave, but many feel that this may come at the cost of local democracy. Should these projects come to fall under the NSIP regime the added provision of compulsory powers of acquisition for land and property rights are likely to further inflame these views.
We are coordinating a response to the consultations above and would be grateful to hear any views. If you are concerned about the potential effects of these proposals or any associated developments please get in touch for advice.