The Rt Hon Sir Greg Knight MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Telephone: 0207 219 4077 or 0845 0900 203
Thank you for contacting me about shale gas and the extraction of it.
I note your concerns. However, the government believe that Britain has a strong regulatory regime for exploratory activities that will be updated as the industry develops. With these protections in place, the government believe that, subject to planning permission, it is right that we explore and make use of shale gas and oil.
Because of concerns expressed by me and others, the Government is providing further reassurance for our most valued areas. Regulations will protect some of the country’s most beautiful areas, including National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Fracking cannot take place at depths of less than 1,200 metres in these areas. The Government is also committed to banning fracking from wells drilled at the surface of these areas and of Sites of Special Scientific Interest, in order to safeguard these beautiful landscapes.
In addition to the regulations and the surface restrictions, consent cannot be granted for fracking until the environmental impact of a development has been taken into account. Operators are also required to monitor the levels of methane in groundwater.
So far as local community involvement in fracking decisions is concerned, local communities must remain fully involved in planning decisions. Planning authorities must make plans available to local people and ask for their comments, and I think that this is completely right – any new development should have the confidence of those closest to them.
In order to avoid the uncertainty caused by delays, the Government has asked local authorities to make a decision within a 16-week timeframe. This is in line with all major industrial projects. The Government has already established a £1.2 million support programme to help local authorities ensure that they have the resources they need to make decisions in this timeframe.
That being the case, when local authorities fail to make a decision, Ministers will consider calling applications in, so that developments are not crippled by uncertainty. It is the government's belief that this system will deliver timely planning decisions and work effectively for both local people and developers.
Where a community hosts a shale development, it is right that the local area and people be able to benefit from that. In the Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015, the Government committed up to 10 per cent of shale gas tax revenues to a Shale Wealth Fund, which could deliver up to £1 billion of investment in local communities hosting shale gas developments.
If any proposals are made for shale gas development locally, then your local East Riding councillors will have a vote on whether the proposal should go ahead and it is to them that any representations should be made. I am not a member of the council and unfortunately, I do not have a vote in planning decisions on this or any other matter.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.