Ministers threaten to take fracking decisions away from councils

13 Aug 15

Ministers could take the power to decide on fracking applications away from local authorities that do not make decisions on developments within 16 weeks, it has been announced.

Communities secretary Greg Clark and energy and climate change secretary Amber Rudd said today that, if local authorities can not meet the statutory timeframe for decisions, they will be called in by Whitehall to ensure developments were not “frustrated” by slow decision-making.

Under the plans, the government will identify councils that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications within 16 weeks. If councils are deemed to be underperforming, then all applications for gas and oil developments could be determined by Clark.

In addition, he will now actively consider calling in shale planning applications on a case-by-case basis.

Clark said there was huge potential across the country for safe and sustainable use of shale gas, to provide a clean long-term energy source and create British jobs and growth.

“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 today’s changes will tackle potential hold ups in the system.”

Rudd said the safe development of shale gas would be good for jobs and energy security and would form part of plans to decarbonise the economy.

“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,” she added.

“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.”

Ministers said that, as planning decisions were a quasi-judicial process, they would always be considered with due process and a fair hearing, and local communities would remain fully involved.

However, today’s measures will prevent the long delays that mean uncertainty both for business and for local residents.

Responding to the announcement, LGA environment spokesman Peter Box said: “People living near fracking sites - who are most affected by them - have a right to be heard. Local planning procedure exists for a reason, to ensure a thorough and detailed consultation with those communities.”

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