These include streamlining and improving the regulation process for shale applications to ensure decisions are made in ‘a timely way’ and developers and local authorities are supported through the process.
This will entail setting up a new Shale Environmental Regulator and a new Planning Brokerage Service.
This will focus exclusively on the planning process and will have no role in the consideration or determination of planning applications. The service will not comment on the merits of a case and will also have no role in the appeals process. Other measures in the package include:
- Launching a new £1.6 million shale support fund over the next two years to build capacity and capability in local authorities dealing with shale applications
- Holding a consultation on the principle of whether the early stages of shale exploration should be treated as permitted development, and in particular on the circumstances in which this might be appropriate, and:
- Consulting on the criteria required to trigger the inclusion of shale production projects into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime
Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said: “British shale gas has the potential to help lower bills and increase the security of the UK’s energy supply while creating high quality jobs in a cutting-edge sector.
“This package of measures delivers on our manifesto promise to support shale and it will ensure exploration happens in the most environmentally responsible way while making it easier for companies and local communities to work together.”
These initiatives were welcomed by the UK Onshore Oil and Gas association (UKOOG).
Chief executive Ken Cronin said: “The gas supply disruptions the country experienced this winter highlight the need to increase our homegrown sources of energy. Britain’s physical energy production has decreased significantly over the last 18 years and is set to decline even further – this means ever higher imports, which will result in fewer jobs and tax revenues, are worse for the environment than our own production, and will weaken the UK’s energy security.
“But we can reverse this trend. Onshore shale gas production will contribute to energy security, create jobs, pay local and national taxes, support our manufacturing industry and make a significant contribution to local communities.
“Imported gas currently costs over £13 million a day – money that is not generating jobs or tax revenues in this country.
“To achieve greater homegrown energy production, Britain also needs a policy framework and a planning and permitting system that allows industries like ours to be able to get decisions within timescales that work for all concerned including the local communities we work in.”
The Government’s own security of supply document states:
“Additional domestic sources (such as shale) would be beneficial to GB. They could reduce reliance on imports, have the potential to bring economic benefits by rebalancing the economy, and would increase the diversity of supply available to the GB market.”
GMB, the energy union, also welcomed the moves as an opportunity to evaluate whether shale gas offers a safe and commercially viable future for the UK energy industry.
Stuart Fegan, National Officer GMB, said: “Shale gas production should be permitted, alongside the development of the UK’s renewable and nuclear capacity, benefiting the security of our energy, the economy and the environment.”
“If, as it looks likely, shale exploration is going to happen, GMB will work with the industry and apply pressure to ensure the Industry is as safe as possible.”
Judgement is awaited in the judicial review appeal case against the Scot-Govt ban on onshore oil and gas exploration for shale in Scotland.
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