Friday, May 25, 2018

News: Future Rotherham fracking plans could be taken out of council hands

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Rotherham Council was upset by the way INEOS' oil and gas exploration took the decision out of the hands of its planning authority for a test drilling well but they may not get the chance to determine forthcoming applications if the Government pushes through changes to the way shale exploration plans are dealt with.

The Government said it would consult on whether shale exploration should be treated as permitted development, which enables certain types of work to be carried out without the need to apply for planning permission.

INEOS appealed to the Government's Planning Inspectorate last year for a decision on its proposed test well at Harthill.

Having been given the "hurry-up" by Government, INEOS said that it had encountered "unreasonable delays" in dealing with Rotherham Council on its plans for a drilling rig on Greenbelt land.

A recent planning inquiry heard objections from the Council and from local and national campaign groups whilst INEOS put forward reasons why the plans should be approved.

In Westminster last week a written statement on energy policy was put forward which focused on the planning system and speeding up decisions relating to shale exploration.

In 2015, the Government set out a range of measures to help ensure every planning application or appeal was dealt with as quickly as possible. However, recent decisions on shale exploration planning applications remain "disappointingly slow" against a statutory time frame of 16 weeks where an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required.

For the two INEOS sites in Rotherham - Harthill and Woodsetts, Council planners determined that the proposed projects fall outside the remit of the EIA regulations.

The applications would provide temporary permission for a maximum of five years and the operation would involve various site investigation surveys and site preparation before a period of drilling, coring and testing. A well would be drilled to approximately 2,800 m using a drill rig of maximum 60 m rig height followed by three months of testing.

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The statement set out a range of measures to facilitate timely decisions on shale exploration decisions. To be treated as a material consideration when deciding on plans, it discusses the importance of shale to the UK economy.

For example, the Government said that it would continue to treat appeals against any refusal of planning permission for exploring and developing shale gas, or against any non-determination "as a priority for urgent determination by the Planning Inspectorate, making additional resources available where necessary."

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government will also actively consider calling in shale applications particularly where statutory deadlines have been exceeded.

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: "Shale gas development is of national importance. The Government expects Mineral Planning Authorities to give great weight to the benefits of mineral extraction, including to the economy. This includes shale gas exploration and extraction.

"Mineral Plans should reflect that minerals resources can only be worked where they are found, and applications must be assessed on a site by site basis and having regard to their context. Plans should not set restrictions or thresholds across their plan area that limit shale development without proper justification.

"We expect Mineral Planning Authorities to recognise the fact that Parliament has set out in statute the relevant definitions of hydrocarbon, natural gas and associated hydraulic fracturing. In addition, these matters are described in Planning Practice Guidance, which Plans must have due regard to. Consistent with this Planning Practice Guidance, policies should avoid undue sterilisation of mineral resources (including shale gas)."

A revised planning practice guidance on shale development is set to be published when the revised National Planning Policy Framework has been launched and a planning brokerage service and £1.6m shale support fund is being launched to support planning authorities.

In addition, an early stage consultation is scheduled for summer 2018 on the principle of whether non-hydraulic fracturing shale exploration development should be treated as permitted development, and in particular on the circumstances in which this might be appropriate. Permitted developments derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Parliament.

Consultation would also take place on the criteria required to trigger the inclusion of shale production projects into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime. Included projects are decided by the Planning Inspectorate, the national government executive agency.

Claire Perry, Energy and Clean Growth Minister, said: "British shale gas has the potential to help lower bills and increase the security of the UK's energy supply while creating high quality jobs in a cutting-edge sector. This package of measures delivers on our manifesto promise to support shale and it will ensure exploration happens in the most environmentally responsible way while making it easier for companies and local communities to work together."

Images: INEOS

1 comments:

Tigertech May 25, 2018 at 5:48 PM  

Claire Perry comment does not mention clean growth. Does not give lower bills as renewables come in lower as to security the amount of glass is so small.

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