Government consults on further fracking planning changes

The drilling of boreholes to monitor shale oil and gas extraction operations could become permitted development under plans in a government consultation published yesterday.

Fracking: a drilling rig in the US (pic Daniel Foster via Flickr)
Fracking: a drilling rig in the US (pic Daniel Foster via Flickr)

In a written ministerial statement, planning minister Brandon Lewis said the change "would grant permission for the drilling of boreholes for groundwater monitoring for petroleum exploration, enabling limited works to be carried out to establish baseline information on the groundwater environment in advance of, or in parallel to, any planning application or applications coming forward for such development".

The consultation document says that the Infrastructure Act 2015 requires "that, as one of a number of conditions that need to be met before certain high volume hydraulic fracturing can occur, methane in groundwater is monitored over a twelve months period".

"This proposed amendment to permitted development rights would support this requirement, providing further reassurance that the environmental impacts of shale gas are being properly considered".

The document also proposes that the allowable height of drilling structures to be increased.

It says that, currently, "it is not possible to carry out development under permitted development rights related to minerals exploration … if any structure exceeds 12 metres in height. Modern rigs used for the drilling of the boreholes range between 10 and 15 metres in height.

"Therefore we propose to amend the current height restriction for any structure assembled or provided to carry out the development under the permitted development rights … from 12 to 15 metres".

The consultation runs until 16 April.

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