UK govt launches fracking fund and planning service to help councils, developers
To speed planning permission for fracking projects in England, ministers have launched a fund to help local authorities deal with shale applications and a new 'planning brokerage service' to help both developers and local authorities with the application process.
Recent decisions on shale exploration planning applications have remained "disappointingly slow", said Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), in a written statement to parliament in conjunction with his colleagues in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government that outlined a range of measures "to facilitate timely decisions" on fracking for shale gas.
"Shale gas development is of national importance," Clark said, regurgitating the government view about the potential "substantial benefits" from exploration and development of onshore shale gas resources.
He stressed that his statement "should be considered in planning decisions and plan-making in England" and calling for mineral planning authorities, referring to the county council, unitary authority, or the national park authority in question, to "give great weight to the benefits of mineral extraction, including to the economy".
The letter confirmed the BEIS department and MHCLG's launch of a £1.6m "shale support fund" for use over the next two years "to build capacity and capability in local authorities dealing with shale applications".
Alongside this, the new planning brokerage service will focus exclusively on the planning process for shale applications, to "provide guidance to developers and local authorities on the planning process to help facilitate timely decision making". The service will have no role in the consideration or determination of planning applications.
Environmental charity Greenpeace was not impressed with Clark's fracking statement, to say the least.
“After seven years of fracking doing less than nothing to help our economy, the government’s still going all out for shale, and still trampling over democracy to prop up this collapsing industry," says Rebecca Newsome, Greenpeace's head of politics.
"Communities and their local councils across the UK have said no in every way they can, but the government have turned a deaf ear to everyone who doesn’t own fossil fuel company. In their commitment to extract more gas than we can afford to burn, 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.”