How to engage with shale gas/hydraulic fracturing planning and permitting

13 January 2014

UKOOG Members have signed up to the UKOOG Community Charter which advocates open and transparent communications between industry, stakeholder groups and the communities in which we operate. This fact sheet outlines the different statutory and industry led opportunities for communities to be involved in the planning and permitting process.

A central tenet of our Charter is to ensure there is a continued point of contact for local communities and that Operator’s provide sufficient opportunity for comment and feedback on initial plans, listen to concerns and respond in a timely manner. Under the Charter, all operators will undertake to monitor and evaluate the engagement process.

Currently there are six separate ways that individuals, landowners and communities can engage in the process of shale gas discussions in their area:

Pre-Application Consultation

The Operator, prior to the submission of any formal planning application that involves hydraulic fracturing, will engage directly in pre-application consultation with local communities, through a combination of public events such as exhibitions, face to face meetings and surgeries, and the publication of up to date information through websites, press releases and letters. Local community liaison groups may develop out of this process, which can then go on to provide an ongoing relationship between the Operator and the community.

Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA)

The purpose of compiling an ERA for shale gas projects is to provide at an early stage a comprehensive review of all potential safety and environmental (including health) risks relevant to the proposed shale gas activities, and to show how these will be mitigated and managed. As part of pre-application consultations, each Operator will engage directly with local communities on the contents of the ERA. This document will then inform the Environmental Impact Assessment and the environmental permits as outlined below.

Pre-planning notices

In the 21 days prior to a planning application being submitted the Operator will write to the known landowners, display a Notice in the Parishes to which the application relates and circulate an advert in the local newspaper, to inform landowners of their intention to submit an application and an address for comments to be sent.

Planning Authority Consultation

Following submission and validation of the planning application, the minerals planning authority will launch a period of public consultation which will last 21 days, that will seek views on the proposed development from stakeholders and the local community. The mineral planning authority will make electronic and hard copies of the application documents available for public inspection.

Environmental Impact Assessment

(EIA) Building on the results of the ERA, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of developments involving hydraulic fracturing is used to assess the significance of potential environmental effects resulting from the proposed development, and identify mitigation measures. The Industry will carry out an EIA for all exploration wells that involve hydraulic fracturing, the scope of which should be agreed with the mineral planning authority. Pre-application consultation on the EIA and proposed development will be held with the local community and once consulted upon, the Operator will submit an Environmental Statement (ES) which details the findings of the EIA, to the local mineral planning authority as part of the overall planning application.

Environmental Permitting

It is likely that shale gas operations will require a number of permits from the Environment Agency covering different environmental areas. Operators will apply for permits and as part of the process, the Environment Agency will publish them on their website and seek the views of the public over at least a four week period.

The process of engagement with the public and the opportunities for comment and input are a part of the overall regulatory roadmap in the UK which can be summarised as follows: