UKOOG responds to HCLG select committee report on hydraulic fracturing local planning

5 July 2018

Responding to the report released today by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on hydraulic fracturing local planning, Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG), said:

"The Select Committee has produced a wide-ranging report, which has taken place alongside the Government's own proposals for planning reform on shale gas development which seek to address the current disappointingly lengthy planning process. No one benefits from the uncertainty caused by continued planning delays and we support measures that facilitate timely decision-making.

The onshore oil and gas industry fully intends to respond to the Government's planned consultations, and it thanks the Committee for the time taken to produce this report, which will of course factor into the process.

There are a number of areas highlighted by the Committee report which the industry has some sympathy with, in part around the role of the new regulator, funding of local authorities and the need to have a forum where the general public can access relevant guidance.

However, we do not support the Committee's recommendations opposing Government proposals on permitted development rights and national planning. The report fails to address a main concern of both the industry and local communities, which is the fact that planning applications for even the simplest of wells now take up to 18 months to conclude and that many of the professional planning officer recommendations are ignored. This leaves communities with uncertainty and local taxpayers with a huge bill to foot, and is against the experience of the previous ten years where most applications were decided in less than four months and against a statutory timescale of three months.

On national planning, the Government's recent Written Ministerial Statement reiterated their position that 'shale gas development is of national importance'. However, the committee has taken the view that shale gas sites should not be treated as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs). With gas providing half of British electricity, over 80% of our heating and vital feedstocks to industry, we find it concerning that the committee would seek restrict our opportunity for homegrown production to replace our rapidly increasing dependency on imported gas and oil.

The report also questions a number of the current definitions within statute but fails to give any land-use planning reason why they should be changed. The report as a result fails to consider one of the key reasons why there are so many delays in the planning process, which is that many of the issues raised during the review of a planning application are, in fact, the responsibility of other regulators."

Newgate Communications: Deborah Saw /Andrew Turner
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