ISSUED BY: Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
ISSUE DATE: 31 October 2018
Background: In May, the housing secretary James Brokenshire announced a series of measures to speed up the determination of onshore shale gas planning applications. This included a promise to consult on making pre-application consultation for shale gas proposals a statutory requirement. The government has already consulted on whether new permitted development (PD) rights should be introduced for non-hydraulic fracturing shale exploration, allowing such development without the need for a planning application. It has also consulted on the criteria required to trigger the inclusion of shale production projects in the streamlined development consent order planning regime for nationally significant infrastructure projects (NSIPs).
Key points: The consultation paper seeks views on "whether applicants should be required to conduct community pre-application consultation with the local community prior to submitting a planning application for shale gas development". Currently, the document says, after an application for shale gas or any other kind of development has been submitted to the relevant mineral planning authority, it undergoes a period of publicity and consultation that normally lasts for 21 days.
Recent decisions on shale exploration planning applications "remain disappointingly slow", with some taking up to 83 weeks when determined by mineral planning authorities, the government says. The document states: "The government recognises that early engagement with local authorities on shale gas applications, including capitalising on formal pre-application discussions, is critical in building confidence in decision-making, securing support for development proposals, and setting realistic timeframes for decisions. It is also of great importance that the views of communities are taken into account at an early stage, to give local people more opportunity to influence and shape decisions about shale projects affecting their area."
The consultation document ?also asks whether compulsory community pre-application consultation for shale gas development should follow ?an existing pre-application consultation process. The proposed process could resemble the pre-application consultation requirements for either NSIPs or onshore wind development, it suggests.
The document further seeks views on whether compulsory pre-application consultations for shale gas developments should apply "where certain criteria or thresholds are reached", or whether they should "cover all shale gas development where a planning application is required".
The consultation runs for ten weeks from 31 October 2018. In addition, it says the government will issue responses to the two previous shale gas consultations, on PD rights and the NSIP regime, "in due course".