Latest Public Sector News


Shale gas bids to be ‘fast tracked’ away from councils

Shale gas planning applications will be fast-tracked under a new government decision to override the influence of “slow and confused” councils with greater ministerial power over local administration.

The measure, announced today (13 August), will give councils an ultimatum of 16 weeks to determine oil and gas applications.

If authorities fail to deliver within the assigned statutory timeframe, communities secretary Greg Clark reserves the right to take over all future decision-making in that area.

Ministers will also identify “underperforming” councils that repeatedly fail to make quick decisions in order to transfer administrative powers over their planning applications to Clark.

He said: “People’s safety and the environment will remain paramount and communities will always be involved in planning applications but no one benefits from uncertainty caused by delays in planning decisions.

“By fast tracking any appropriate applications, today’s changes will tackle potential holds ups in the system.”

Energy and climate change secretary, Amber Rudd, added that the industry can’t have a planning system that “sees applications dragged out for months or even years on end”.

“Oversight by the health and safety executive and the Environment Agency of shale developments make our commitment to safety and the environment crystal clear. We now need, above all else, a system that delivers timely planning decisions and works effectively for local people and developers,” she said.

Ministers emphasised that clear shale is a national priority in order to move the country to a low-carbon economy and said applications “can’t be frustrated by slow and frustrated decision-making amongst councils, which benefits no one”.

However Friends of the Earth planning advisor, Naomi Luhde-Thompson, said: “Bulldozing fracking applications through the planning system, against the wishes of local people and councils, will simply fan the flames of mistrust and opposition.

“Local authorities have been following the rules. These changes are being made because the government doesn’t agree with the democratic decisions councils have been making. Rather than riding roughshod over local democracy to suit the interests of a dirty industry, ministers should champion real solutions to the energy challenges we face, such as boosting the UK’s huge renewable power potential and cutting energy waste.”

Under the new measures, Clark will be able to call in on a case by case basis any application for shale explorations.

Ministers will also add shale applications as a specific criterion for recovery of appeals “to ensure no application can fall through the cracks”.


C. Keates   13/08/2015 at 14:10

I believe the reason that govt has taken this step is that ouncils have been ignoring the Planning Framework, and Councillors have been turning down applications because a vocal minority of their residents have been making noise. There are alot of myths about the "damage" that fracking might cause (water pollution, and even earthquakes!) none of which have been proved, but which now seem to have morphed into "fact". This country is in hock to other countries for energy supplies, notably Russia, and we have all seen what Russia can do when things don't go their way. The US is increasingly moving towards energy self-sufficiency (yes, there's still a long way to go, but at least they are moving!) which is more than can be said for the nimbys and myth-peddlers which hold us back in the UK. If you really want to object, at least please get the facts right!

Concerned Councillor   13/08/2015 at 22:36

Alternatively, national politicians are blinded to public opinion by well heeled lobbying firms, and the vested interests of certain politicians with vested interests. We don't have to pump chemicals into the watercourses and disrupt the geology in this crowded isle for the sake of squeezing the last oil out of the ground. Renewable energy is a much more sustainable way of reducing reliance on imported dirty energy. But again, the current administration are undermining the renewable energy sector, probably for the same reason. Increasingly we have a very poor democracy, and removal of local scrutiny and control.

Icini123   14/08/2015 at 11:19

There are no viable alternatives to carbon based fuels that can be accessed without subsidies, which plunge industry into uncompetitive situations and many consumers into fuel poverty. We need to frack. The trick is regulation and both national and local government are highly influenced by the oil industry who seem to regard profit before people or a vocal minority over common sense. A completely independent body needs to examine the geology and the technology proposed for each site. They are all different. Councils could then grant approval based on science, not on emotion and apply conditions to protect local people.

Concerned Human   20/08/2015 at 07:10

@ C.Keates : damage/pollutions - "none of which have been proved" Do you read ? Do the research. Masses of normal humans in Aus and US whose lives have been ruined by Fracking...and some have been threatened to 'keep their mouths shut'. Common sense says if you continually fracture the earth it will cause damage, let alone the carcinogenic chemicals which are being pumped down into it, some of which will seep into the ground. And with hundreds of Frack pads running the beauty of the countryside who would want to visit, or even live here ! We are TOO SMALL AN ISLAND for thousands of Frack sites. As usual it's heads in the sand, all out for company profits and no thought for our environment, health or our childrens' future.

Peter   20/08/2015 at 10:15

C really know nothing. We have NEVER imported gas from Russia...check your facts. Apart from the fact that concrete, that lines the bore holes, will defifinitely fail over time, thousands of gallons of hydrochloric acid are used to clean the hole before the millions of gallons of frack fluid are pumped into the ground. The government admits it does not have the means to clean this fluid, which contains radoactive materials and heavy metals. Not a lot of this frack fluid can be recovered. Any questions?

A Simpson   20/08/2015 at 11:30

why is it that no-one believes we Brits are better than the USA and/or Australia at managing drilling processes? On the land we own there is a nodding donkey site. It has been there for well in excess of 40 years and was fracked originally. The bore hole concrete is monitored at regular 3 monthly intervals, along with the bore hole piping, and so far neither have shown any sign of failure. The farmers use many more chemicals on the land around us than would be used to frack 10 wells, if not more, and none of this, let alone 'not a lot' is recovered. Why should there be any questions?

Bailey 61   20/08/2015 at 17:17

High volume hydraulic fracturing is NOT the same thing as fracturing (A SIMPSON). We have only ever had 1 HVHF well in the UK at Preese Hall in Lancashire, which led to seismic activity and the deforming of the bore hole structure. We should all be very concerned about fracking, but we should also be very concerned about a Government that puts the interests of big business before its electorate...that attempts to challenge the democratic process in order to get its own way.....and that is ( according to recent granted licences for fracking), making the North of England a sacrifice zone for fracking.

Laura   21/08/2015 at 11:06

There are many many alternative ways of energy and one that can be FREE-- why hasn't these been explored??? simple - all down to Greed and Politics for power and control! here's one of many links FYI:

Add your comment

public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News


Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >


Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >