The UK Government has announced a new package of measures to ensure fracking planning decisions are “faster and fairer” for new developments.
Energy Secretary Greg Clark said shale gas could provide a new economic driver as the nation has seen an ongoing decline in offshore gas production – going from a net exporter of gas in 2003 to importing more than half (53%) of supplies last year.
He added “it is right to utilise our domestic gas resources to the maximum extent” and explore potential for onshore production.
The government believes recent decisions on shale exploration planning applications remain “disappointingly slow against a statutory time frame of 16 weeks where an Environmental Impact Assessment is required”.
Under the new plans, consultations will be launched on whether non-hydraulic fracturing shale exploration should be treated as permitted development and the criteria required to trigger the inclusion of shale production projects into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects regime.
A new £1.6 million shale support fund will be launched over the next two years to “build capacity and capability” in local authorities dealing with fracking applications – and a planning brokerage service for shale applications will provide guidance to developers and councils to help with “timely decision making”.
A Shale Environmental Regulator will be created to focus exclusively on the planning process but will have no role in the consideration or determination of planning applications or the appeals process.
Mr Clark said there is an opportunity to create a “UK Model” for the “world’s most environmentally robust onshore shale gas sector” as well as explore export opportunities by working with industry.
Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry added: “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.”
Ms Perry will be headlining the Energy Live Future conference on 31st October in London.