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United Kingdom announces extra measures to support shale gas development

17 May 2018

A new £1.6 million shale support fund will be launched over the next two years to "build capacity and capability" in local authorities dealing with fracking applications - and a planning brokerage service for shale applications will provide guidance to developers and councils to help with "timely decision making".

Shale gas explorers will be able to drill test sites without applying for planning permission and fracking sites could be classed as nationally significant infrastructure, meaning approval would come at a national rather than local level.

The government also said it will open a consultation on whether exploration wells will be allowed to be drilled without the need for a planning application.

Fracking companies have complained to the government that it takes too long to get permission to drill and that hostile councils fail to comply with the statutory time limit requiring applications to be determined within 16 weeks.

The British government announced new measures on Thursday to speed up shale gas planning applications to support the development of the industry in Britain.

Green co-leader Caroline Lucas said: 'These latest measures utterly undermine the Government's green rhetoric - and show that the Tories simply can't shake their support for fossil fuel firms'.

Fracking opponents have reacted with anger after ministers unveiled measures to help projects through the planning system, which campaigners said would make drilling a shale well as easy as building a conservatory.

'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'. There is no benchmark yet for drilling into shale basins in the country and Cuadrilla was the target of widespread protests from opponents of hydraulic fracturing.

The Scottish government outlawed fracking a year ago after a public consultation found overwhelming opposition to it.

The government's plans would "pervert the planning process" and force fracking on communities says Friends of the Earth.

Industry welcomed the government's move. In the last two years our exploration operations are responsible for driving nearly £9m into the Lancashire local economy and creating 60 local jobs.

Making the already rigorous regulatory framework clearer and removing uncertainties and potential inconsistencies around planning will be beneficial to both local communities as well as operators. In the U.S., where fracking is a common mode of natural gas extraction, it takes around four weeks to receive permission to drill a test well, whereas in the United Kingdom it can take up to three years. "These timelines must improve if the country is to benefit from its own, much needed, indigenous source of gas", Cuadrilla said in a statement.

"The announcement is a step in the right direction and there is much more that needs to be done".

United Kingdom announces extra measures to support shale gas development