The UK government has proposed new rules to the planning system, to be issued this week, in a move to remind planning authorities that ministers wish to see the UK shale industry get off the ground. The new guidance will give ministers the power to intervene if local authorities are deemed to be holding up shale gas applications.
Communities Minister, Greg Clark, will write to planning authorities setting out the new guidance for considering planning applications related to onshore oil and gas activities. As part of the guidance Greg Clark will stress the need to “explore and develop our shale gas and oil resources in order to unlock their potential benefits and to help meet our objectives for secure energy supplies, economic growth and lower carbon emissions”.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said: “The government will be writing to planning authorities this week to make clear there is a national need to explore shale gas in a safe, sustainable and timely way… Getting shale exploration up and running is a key part of our long-term plan to build a stronger, more competitive economy”.
The move by the government comes just weeks after the Lancashire county council verdict to block Cuadrilla’s application to drill wells on the Fylde coast, a decision that took over a year to reach.
It also follows a recent decision to change planning rules for onshore wind farms that gives local communities the final say over any projects in their area, causing some to accuse the government of double-standards when it comes to hydraulic fracturing.
Amber Rudd defended the government’s commitment to UK shale gas and oil, arguing the industry could create up to 60,000 new jobs and provide community benefit payments under the shale gas sovereign wealth fund.
“Britain is currently on course to be importing about 75 per cent of its oil and gas resources by 2030 – we need more home-grown energy supplies and shale gas must play a part in that. The choice is not gas or no gas. The choice is how much we rely on gas from abroad or whether we extract more in the UK” she said. She insisted that the industry would be subjected to the strongest environmental safeguards, adding that reforming the planning rules to prevent applications from being dragged out was essential.
Coinciding with the proposal, the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, Andrea Leadsom, visited the IGas site at Doe Green, Warrington, to see what a potential hydraulic fracturing site would look like.
In a statement she said “Home-grown shale gas can help secure our energy supplies. By 2025 we’ll be importing over half the oil and gas we use – shale is vital to reducing our reliance on imports. Today we have launched three informative and engaging online films to give people the information they need to know about the potential shale industry which I hope will go a long way to informing debate”.
Meanwhile, Cuadrilla has said it will move its head office to Lancashire at the beginning of next year, although no firm location has yet been identified.
Francis Egan, CEO of Cuadrilla said: “Relocating our headquarters to the North West is not only a visible symbol of our continued commitment to exploration for shale gas in Lancashire but will enable an even greater focus in growing our supplier base and employees from the area”.
Lancashire County Council rejected two planning applications for Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood in June, despite planning officers recommending the Preston New Road site should be approved, Cuadrilla have said they will appeal the decisions.
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