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Ministers unveil ‘fast-track’ shale gas measures

Published: Thursday, 13th August 2015

Shale gas planning applications will be fast-tracked through a new dedicated planning process under measures just announced.

The new measures could involve intervention by Communities Secretary Greg Clark where councils repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications within the statutory timeframe.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd and Greg Clark insisted this week that communities would have a strong say over shale exploration, but also said industry would benefit from a swift process for developing suitable new sites.

Under the new regime, announced on 13 August, the Communities Secretary will “actively” consider calling in on a case-by-case basis shale planning applications and consider recovering shale gas development appeals.

The new arrangements include identifying councils that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications within the 16 week statutory timeframe, with subsequent applications potentially decided by the Communities Secretary.

Clark will also ensure planning call-ins and appeals involving shale applications are prioritised by the Planning Inspectorate.

Ministers have also committed to taking forward work on revising permitted development rights for drilling boreholes for groundwater monitoring.

The administration has reiterated its belief that communities hosting shale gas developments should share in the financial returns they generate and will be presenting proposals later in the year on the design of a new sovereign wealth fund.

Rudd said: “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.”

Clark said: “People’s safety and the environment will remain paramount and communities will always be involved in planning applications but no one benefits from uncertainty caused by delays in planning decisions. By fast tracking any appropriate applications these changes will tackle potential hold ups in the system.”

View the policy statement

Roger Milne