Planning Guidance on Fracking inquiry

As the number of planning applications for shale gas and oil extraction is likely to grow in the coming years, and as some fracking sites are moving beyond exploration to production, the government decided to review whether the planning guidance on fracking and the existing planning regime are fit for purpose for all parties.

The inquiry undertaken by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee focused on whether the existing planning guidance for fracking planning applications should be updated, improved and consolidated, how Mineral Planning Authorities balance local and national need in determining fracking planning applications, and whether such applications should be dealt with under the Planning Act 2008 as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects.
Some of the main conclusions and recommendations are as follows:

  • The definition of fracking used in the planning context should not be liquid or volume based.

The Government’s suggestion that the Infrastructure Act definition of fracking will replace the current definition in the revised National Planning Practice Guidance was found by the committee to be highly concerning. The Infrastructure Act 2015 definition does not reflect the technologies on the ground nor the public understanding of fracking, leading to a lack of understanding among key stakeholders and significant concerns about loopholes in the current regulatory regime.

  • The revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) should clarify and consolidate the Government’s fracking policy.

The proposed changes in the revised NPPF were found to lack detail and create ambiguity about the Government’s position on fracking which requires clarification. Particular attention should be paid to how fracking sits with the UK’s commitments to climate change in order to make clear to Mineral Planning Authorities how they can balance competing objectives, and respond to the public’s concerns.

  • The Government should clarify the process by which fracking planning guidance documents are updated.

A number of existing fracking guidance documents are out-of-date and there does not seem to be a clear process for reviewing scientific and technological developments, as well as practical experience at fracking sites, and, where appropriate, incorporating such development into existing guidance.

Author: Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee 

Date: July 2018

This item updates DCP Section 25.131

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