Policy Summary: Fund to help authorities handle shale gas applications

Policy: Shale Exploration - Support for Mineral Planning Authorities

Shale gas: support for councils
Shale gas: support for councils

Issued by: Department for Communities and Local Government

Issue date: 1 December 2016

Background: In the 2014 Autumn Statement, the government announced that £1.2 million would be provided to help mineral planning authorities handle shale gas applications for the 2015/16 year. In March 2015, it published a prospectus inviting authorities to bid for the funding.
Earlier this month, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced a new tranche of funding worth £800,000 for the same purpose.

Key points: The DCLG has published a new Shale Gas Prospectus setting out how mineral planning authorities can bid for the new £800,000 of funding, which is available this financial year (2016/17).

The prospectus states: "The government recognises shale represents a new area for mineral planning authorities and that it will present complex and challenging issues for them in processing shale planning applications. [The funding] will support mineral planning authorities in processing and considering shale planning applications in an efficient, timely and effective manner."

The complex nature of shale gas development, the document says, could mean that an authority "might need to draw on additional technical expertise" or "additional support" to "manage and assess representations made on the application efficiently".

To be eligible for funding, the authority must confirm that the bid "relates to a proposal, planning application or planning permission for development involving the boring for oil or gas from shale and is for a site within an area covered by a Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence".

Authorities can bid when they reach "defined trigger points" at three key stages in the planning application process: pre-application, post-receipt of an application, and post-decision. The prospectus sets out further details on the trigger points, which must be reached on or before 17 February 2017.

Different levels of funding are available during these three stages of the application. For the pre-application stage, the maximum bid level is £30,000; for post-receipt of an application it is up to £110,000; and post-decision, up to £20,000. Funds will be allocated "on a first come-first served basis".

Bidding authorities must provide "robust and clear evidence to justify the sum bid for, with clear costings for each element or workstream comprising the total bid amount". They must also show evidence that the appropriate trigger point has been reached.

In addition to the funding, mineral planning authorities can also "request complementary support from the Advisory Team for Large Applications (ATLAS) to help them with the development of their community engagement strategy". Interested authorities should flag this up as part of their funding bid, the prospectus says. Councils can also seek advice from the Planning Advisory Service.

The document can be found here. 

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