Help for councils to process fracking applications

18 May 18

The government has created a £1.6m fund to help local authorities process applications for shale gas exploration.

The two-year shale support fund will be created to build capacity and capability in those local authorities dealing with shale gas applications, business, energy and industrial strategy secretary Greg Clark said in a written statement on 17 May.

“We are aware that the shale applications and the planning process can be complex for local authorities. Building capacity and capability within local authorities to deal with shale development is a vital step towards speeding up decision making,” he said.

In addition, a Planning Brokerage Service and a Shale Environmental Regulator will be established.

The brokerage service will provide guidance to local authorities and developers on the planning process, while the regulator will bring together three existing regulatory bodies – the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Oil and Gas Authority – to act as one coherent watchdog for the fracking industry.

The government will also consult on whether the early stages of shale exploration should be treated as permitted development, meaning the work can be carried out without the need for a planning application.

Claire Perry, energy and clean growth minister, said the measures would ensure shale exploration “happens in the most environmentally responsible way while making it easier for companies and local communities to work together”.

Judith Blake, environment spokesperson for the Local Government Association, welcomed the funding for councils but questioned the consultation on permitted development.

“We oppose any proposal for shale exploration to be allowed to bypass the locally democratic planning system through permitted development or national planning inspectors,” she said.

“We are clear that it should be up to local communities to decide whether or not to host fracking operations in their areas.”

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