FRACKING AND PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT
On 17th May the government issued a Written Ministerial Statement, which proposes that exploratory drilling for shale gas should be considered permitted development, and therefore would not require fracking companies to go through the normal local planning system. The government has launched 2 public consultation on this propsal and fracking via NSIP (see below) during the summer.
Permitted development is part of the UK planning system which allows small, low-impact work to be carried out without having to apply to the council for planning permission. It is most widely known in relation to low-impact property improvements such as converting your loft into a bedroom, moving a door or window, putting up a fence adding a conservatory or building a garden shed.
Before companies can frack commercially, the usually need to drill an exploratory well so that they can take core samples of the rock, and then they often conduct a series of ‘mini-fracks’ to find out at which depth they would be able to produce commercial quantities of gas. This exploratory phase is currently subject to the planning system and companies have to make an application to the local council for permission to do this type of work. If the government’s proposals are adopted, it is likely that companies will not be required to make an application for planning permission.
This would mean that building a 1.5 hectare or greater size fracking well pad – which could result in noisy day-and-night drilling for up to eight months and require over sixty HGV movements every day – could be approved without local people being able to oppose it, as they can currently.
Campaign to Protect Rural England
Senior Infrastructure Campaigner, Daniel Carey-Dawes
“This announcement signals an outright assault on local communities’ ability to exercise their democratic rights in influencing fracking applications. It reads like a wish list from the fracking companies themselves. The government may want to provide ‘sweeteners’ for communities affected, but nothing will change the fact that this will be a bitter pill to swallow."
“Simplifying the shale gas application and exploration process will have disastrous effects for the health and tranquillity of our countryside, landscapes and environment. Our countryside is the breathing space for us all – it must not become an industrial testing ground for a fracking industry that has no environmental, economic or social licence.”
“After seven years of fracking doing less than nothing to help our economy, the government’s still going all out for shale, and still trampling over democracy to prop up this collapsing industry. “Communities and their local councils across the UK have said no in every way they can, but the government have turned a deaf ear to everyone who doesn’t own fossil fuel company. “In their commitment to extract more gas than we can afford to burn, they are trying to remove planning control from everyone who understands their local area and make exploratory drilling as easy as building a garden wall or conservatory.”a
FRACKING AS A NATIONALLY SIGNIFICANT INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECT
The Written Ministerial Statement also proposed that fracking should become a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (or NSIP). This would mean planning applications for fracking schemes would be decided by a government-appointed planning inspector, not the local planning authority.
This would remove all control of fracking projects from local councils and communities, and may result in thousands of fracking wells being drilled across England and the permanent industrialisation of our countryside. (These proposals only apply to England as the rest of the UK currently has moratoria in place to prohibit the controversial practice).
The government will also be running a consultation on fracking and NSIP during the summer alongside the consultation on permitted development.
“Have serious concerns about potential new measures on shale gas, particularly permitted development and transfer to national planning system. Have spoken to ministers and will be submitting evidence to consultation and urge others to do same"
For more information on other fracking-related proposals in the Written Ministerial Statement, including setting up a ‘one-stop-shop’ shale gas environmental regulator and extra taxpayers’ money earmarked to facilitate fracking applications, please see this Drill or Drop article. There is also a Q&A on the Ministerial Statement on the Frack Free Ryedale website.
What you can do to help stop this attack on local democracy.
Email James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, at firstname.lastname@example.org demanding that the government withdraws its plans to treat fracking as permitted development and a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP)
Email Claire Perry, Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, at email@example.com asking her to do the same.
Contact your MP and local councillors to voice your concerns about permitted development and NSIP, and ask them to contact James Brokenshire and Claire Perry on your behalf.
The Government is planning to run public consultations on their permitted development and NSIP proposals in the summer. guidelines to follow
Sign the Frack Free Declaration and call for a halt to all fracking related activities
Join your local anti-fracking community campaign group.
Do your own research. Google 'fracking problems' and 'fracking + Frock Free United health' to find out more.