The recently announced changes to the planning application process were released yesterday and go into effect immediately. The plans aim to ensure local people have a strong say over the development of shale exploration in their area whilst also ensuring that communities and the industry benefit from a swift process for developing safe and suitable new sites.
The measures include identifying councils that repeatedly fail to meet the 16 week statutory deadline for processing applications. In these cases the decision can be taken away from those councils and passed to the secretary of state for communities and local government, a power that already exists but is expected to be used more often. Strong safety and environmental safeguards are already in place to ensure shale exploration and extraction is safe and only happens in appropriate places.
In a statement Amber Rudd, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said “As a One Nation Government, we are backing the safe development of shale gas because it’s good for jobs giving hardworking people and their families more financial security, good for our energy security and part of our plan to decarbonise the economy. We need more secure, home grown energy supplies – and shale gas must play a part in that”.
“To ensure we get this industry up and running we can’t have a planning system that sees applications dragged out for months, or even years on end. Oversight by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency of shale developments makes our commitment to safety and the environment crystal clear. We now need, above all else, a system that delivers timely planning decisions and works effectively for local people and developers.”
The new measures include:
- The Communities Secretary actively considering calling in on a case by case basis shale planning applications and considering recovering appeals
- Identifying councils that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications within the 16 week statutory timeframe requirement (unless applicants agree to a longer period). Underperforming councils’ gas and oil planning applications could be determined by the Communities Secretary
- Adding shale applications as a specific criterion for recovery of appeals, to ensure no application can ‘fall through the cracks’
- Ensuring planning call ins and appeals involving shale applications are prioritised by the Planning Inspectorate
- Taking forward work on revising permitted development rights for drilling boreholes for groundwater monitoring
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