MP welcomes fracking regulator plan

Cuadrilla's drilling rig at Preston New Road
Cuadrilla's drilling rig at Preston New Road
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The Government’s proposed fracking planning changes has provoked more reaction.

It wants to speed up planning decisions on fracking and has suggested making exploration drilling a ‘permitted development’, which would not need planning permission.

It wants to set strict time limits on decisions. and is to consult on whether the government should rule on permission to frack rather than local authorities.

It also wants to create an over-arching new shale environmental regulator.

Other proposals include the launch of a new £1.6m shale support fund over the next two years to help local authorities speed up processing planning applications.

Fylde Conservative MP Mark Menzies gave the move a guarded welcome.

He said: “I’m encouraged to see the creation of a shale gas regulator.

“I’ve been arguing for single over-arching shale gas regulator for five years and now it is a reality; this is extremely good news.

“I’m pleased they have listened to my calls for a better way to look at the regulation of the industry.

“It makes far more sense to have everything under one roof where the Government can ensure there are no gaps in regulatory oversight.

“It remains to be seen what comes out of the proposed planning framework after the consultation ends.

“But I’m pleased to hear the Government say decisions should be fairer for those affected by new developments.

“To speed up the process is fine - so long as due diligence is applied throughout that process; the gold standard of regulation must be adhered to.”

The Council for the Protection of Rural England has criticised the proposals.

Daniel Carey-Dawes said: “This announcement signals an outright assault on local communities’ ability to exercise their democratic rights in influencing fracking applications.

“Simplifying the shale gas application and exploration process will have disastrous effects for the health and tranquillity of our countryside, landscapes and environment.”

The pro-fracking business group Lancashire For Shale said the move showed welcome government support for the new industry.

Chairman Lee Petts said: “I think it is very welcome news that the Government is still committed to developing a UK shale gas industry. The reality is that we’re going to continue using lots of gas, for decades more, and that being the case, it’s better if that’s our own gas that we extract here in the UK rather than being so heavily reliant on imports.”