UK Shale Gas - the next instalment

30 October 2013
Practice Groups:
Real Estate Land Use
Planning and Zoning
Energy &
Projects and
Environmental, Land
and Natural
UK Shale Gas - the next instalment
Revised requirements relating to planning applications for onshore oil and gas
and the need for Environmental Impact Assessments
By Jane Burgess, Sebastian Charles and Paul Tetlow
The UK government are currently considering responses to the consultation paper issued last
month into their proposals to revise the current requirements relating to planning applications for
onshore oil and gas in England. This is the latest initiative by government to streamline and
simplify the procedures for energy companies to extract shale gas and follows on the heels of the
planning guidance published in July this year, alongside proposals for a new tax regime for shale
The proposals appear to recognise the difficulty energy companies have in defining with any
clarity, at the time of submission of a planning application, the extent of the land underground
where drilling will take place and the potential route of any lateral drilling. Amendments are
proposed to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Town and Country Planning
(Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010, to remove the requirement to
notify owners and tenants of land, below which underground drilling may occur, of any planning
application for the exploration or extraction of shale gas. The requirement to notify owners and
tenants of development of land above ground, i.e. the erection of drilling rigs, associated plants
and infrastructure and temporary buildings is retained. The existing publicity requirements for
such applications will also continue to apply with additional requirements in areas of England
where no parish exists.
A standard planning application form for onshore oil and gas developments including shale gas
operations is also proposed, to ensure consistency between local planning authorities in processing
such planning applications.
Revisions to the Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications,
Requests and Site Visits) (England) Regulations 2012 are also canvassed within the consultation
paper, to ensure that only above ground workings are taken into account in calculating any fee
payable for onshore oil and gas developments including shale gas.
In contrast to the stance taken by the UK government to streamline the planning process for shale
gas, the European Parliament’s recent vote for mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments
(EIAs) for unconventional gas projects including shale gas, has created uncertainty in the shale
gas industry. The proposed amendments to the EIA Directive, if adopted by the European
Parliament and the European Council, would require the preparation of an EIA for any exploration
of shale gas involving the application of hydraulic fracturing, regardless of the amount of gas
extracted. This would represent a change to the current requirement for an EIA for the
commercial extraction of gas in excess of 500,000m3 daily. The move has divided the Council of
the EU with member states gearing up for an intense debate on the issue. Such a requirement for a
mandatory EIA for shale gas exploration involving hydraulic fracturing could not only slow down
the planning application process for shale gas by up to a year or more but threaten the UK s
energy strategy and its economic revival on the back of shale gas.
UK Shale Gas - the next instalment
Should you require further information about any of the matters contained within this alert or any
advice on how these reforms may impact on your development proposals, please contact the
authors or your usual K&L Gates contacts.
Jane Burgess
020 7360 8271
Sebastian Charles
020 7360 8205
Paul Tetlow
020 7360 8101