Frack­ing may soon be as easy as build­ing an ex­ten­sion, warn crit­ics

Daily Mail - - News - By Daniel Martin Pol­icy Ed­i­tor

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’.

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