Fracking may soon be as easy as building an extension, warn critics
FRACKING could be given the go-ahead without the need for planning permission under reforms that critics claim would make it as easy as ‘building an extension’.
Business Secretary Greg Clark yesterday set out plans to streamline the ‘disappointingly slow’ planning process and create ‘the world’s most environmentally robust onshore shale gas sector’.
He pledged a consultation on allowing firms in England to use procedures similar to those for home extensions to carry out exploratory drilling for gas deposits. It will consider whether shale gas exploration should be treated as ‘permitted development’, which would not require planning permission from the local council.
These rules currently allow people to build conservatories or extend their lofts without the say-so of their town hall.
But environmentalists were angered by the plans, saying it would in effect make it as easy for drilling firms to get the green light for fracking as it is for homeowners to build an extension. Friends of the Earth spokesman Rose Dick- inson said: ‘The Government’s plans pervert the planning process and could make England’s landscape a wild west for whatever cowboy wants to start drilling and digging up our countryside.
‘Permitted development was meant to help people build a fence or a conservatory, not drill for gas.’
In a statement to Parliament, Mr Clark said there were potentially ‘substantial benefits from the safe and sustainable exploration and development’ of onshore shale gas.
‘a potential new shale gas exploration and production sector in the shale basins of England could provide a new economic driver,’ he said.
‘We also see an opportunity to work with industry on inno- vation to create a UK model – the world’s most environmentally robust onshore shale gas sector – and to explore export opportunities from this.’
He added that a consultation will soon begin on whether ‘non-hydraulic fracturing shale exploration’ should be treated as permitted development.
Other elements of the plan include the creation of a Shale Environmental Regulator.
Greenpeace UK’s head of
‘Make landscape a wild west’
politics Rebecca Newsom accused ministers of ‘trampling over democracy to prop up this collapsing industry’.
She said: ‘Communities and their local councils across the UK have said no in every way they can, but the Government have turned a deaf ear.
‘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.’
Lynn Calder, commercial director of Ineos Shale, welcomed the announcement and accused some environmentalists of living in ‘a la-la-land where renewable energy is a magical force that is always available’. She added that ‘labyrinthine planning rules make it next to impossible to access the energy right beneath our feet’.