Government to fast-track fracking applications in England

New powers for ministers to bypass local councils

UK Government Fast-Tracks Fracking in England
The government has announced a series of measures which would fast-track fracking applications in England.

Ministers will be allowed to intervene on shale gas planning applications if they believe local councils are not processing them quickly enough - a decision likely to prove fractious.

Under the new rules, Local communities may be stripped of the chance to decide on fracking in their area, allowing ministers to bypass councils entirely, reports The Telegraph.

Under controversial plans to encourage the faltering fracking industry, Greg Clark, the communities secretary, will now consider 'calling in' any planning application for shale gas exploration as soon as it is submitted to a local authority.

Mr Clark would then decide on the application instead of the council under the new powers to 'fast-track' fracking, which come into effect on Thursday.

The new rules come as ministers prepare to reveal the locations of dozens of areas across England where they have awarded energy companies the right to explore for shale gas and oil.

Previous fracking caused earth tremors

Despite Government hopes of a shale gas revolution in the UK, not a single well has been fracked in the country since 2011, when Cuadrilla caused earth tremors attempting the process near Blackpool.

Ministers fear companies could be deterred by the example of major delays in the planning process for Cuadrilla's recent applications to frack at two new sites in Lancashire and that this could prevent the development of a potentially vital national industry.

Cuadrilla's plans were eventually rejected more than a year after being submitted, despite planning guidance that applications should be decided within 16 weeks.

Under the new rules, councils that 'repeatedly fail' to make a decision within the 16 week timeframe are likely to be stripped of their decision-making power for future applications.