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UK enforces faster shale applications

Planning applications for shale gas will be fast-tracked due to new measures announced on 13 August

Shale gas planning applications will be fast-tracked through a new, dedicated planning process, under UK government measures announced 13 August. They 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. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said the UK needed more, domestically-produced energy supplies – “and shale gas must play a part in that”.

The measures come hot on the heels of the rejection in late June by Lancashire County Council of two such applications by Cuadrilla, after several prolonged extensions to the deliberation process. In August, the UK shale explorer said it would appeal both. One of them had the green light from the council’s own advisor.

Greater traffic, the visual impact and more noise were the reasons the council gave, not the claims that shale gas opponents make about the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing. The UK’s biggest utility Centrica has a 25% stake in Cuadrilla’s projects.

Communities Secretary Greg Clark said there was a “huge potential right across the country for safe and sustainable use of shale gas” and today’s changes “will tackle potential hold-ups in the system.”

The measures include ensuring planning call ins and appeals involving shale applications are prioritised by the Planning Inspectorate; and taking forward work on revising permitted development rights for drilling boreholes for groundwater monitoring.

UK Onshore Oil & Gas (UKOOG), the representative body for the UK’s onshore oil and gas industry, welcomed the announcement about the measures and the statement about the importance of shale to the UK.

UKOOG’s chief executive Ken Cronin said “recent experience has shown that the planning process is unwieldy and the time taken for planning decisions has soared from three months to over a year”. He said it was right that the government was acting to ensure that “the planning process itself is fit for purpose.”

The government is expected this month to award onshore oil and gas exploration licences in the 14th round.

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