MPs launch inquiry on planning guidance for fracking

The communities and local government parliamentary committee has launched a new inquiry on whether the planning guidance for fracking applications needs to be updated.

The inquiry will also examine whether there needs to be a comprehensive document bringing all existing planning guidance together in relation to hydraulic fracturing or shale gas extraction.

It will also consider whether planning applications for fracking should be determined by national authority, rather than at a local level.

‘The debate over fracking has aroused strong views on both sides, but with large reserves of shale gas prevalent across northern England, applications for its extraction are only like to grow over the next few years,’ said committee chair, Clive Betts.

‘It’s important all parties, from applicants to local authorities, are clear about the planning process, so we will be looking at whether the guidance is adequate or whether the government could do more to bring all the relevant directions directions together.

‘The guidance needs to be as clear and straightforward as possible so those involved in the decision-making process can judge whether any bids for fracking are in the interests of the local community and the country as a whole,’ he added.

The issue of fracking in Britain has proved to be highly controversial. Exploration for shale gas in Wales and Scotland has been effectively banned, after both the Welsh and Scottish governments introduced moratoriums on fracking.

Cuadrilla

In England, Cuadrilla has been involved in a lengthy planning battle over fracking in Lancashire.

In 2015, the county council refused the company planning permission, but its decision was later overturned by the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, after an appeal and a planning inquiry.

In January, Cuadrilla announced that it has completed drilling a vertical pilot well to a depth of over 2.7 km through both the Upper and Lower Bowland shale rock intervals at its shale gas exploration site at Preston New Road in Lancashire.

‘We are very encouraged by our early analysis of the data and confident that there is a very sizeable quantity of natural gas in the Bowland Shale,’ said Cuadrilla chief executive, Francis Egan.

‘In addition we can confirm that the rock composition is very suitable to hydraulically fracture. This give us great confidence as we start drilling what will be the first horizontal well drilled into UK shale rock.’

The deadline for written evidence to be submitted to the communities and local government committee is 14 March.

Jamie Hailstone

Jamie Hailstone

journalist

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