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Fracking Rhondda Cynon Taf

Reading an article in the Guardian today about fracking and the impact on house prices Caroline Lucas MP criticised cuts in the government's published draft report exploring the impact that drilling for shale gas may have on UK house prices.

What I reflected on was a letter published with the report and thinking, have we in RCT been informed of all information with regard to fracking within RCT.

Do our local representatives know what’s going on? After reading a response from a local councilor in an article by Cosmictigger at the time August 2013 part of the local councilors response was!

“We are not sure as to how far these licences extend into Rhondda Cynon Taf.”

The question is what is the situation with regard to fracking in RCT I think we need an update from RCTC, is there information being withheld?

A letter published with the report said:
"There is a strong public interest in withholding the information because it is important that officials can consider implications of potential impacts and scenarios around the development of the shale gas industry and to develop options without the risk that disclosure of early thinking could close down discussion."

To approve the applications subject to the conditions outlined in Appendix 1.
Application No. 12/1253 - Drill an exploration borehole to test for unconventional gas reserves in the Westphalian and Namurian strata, field on the left hand side of Pantybrad Road, North Of Llantrisant.

The local authorities’ perspective on fracking

David Brammer discusses the role local government has to play in awarding fracking rights and regulating the industry.
What does it mean for a local authority if a company is granted rights to frack in their area?

Proposals for fracking are subject to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Minerals Planning Authority for that area (a county council or unitary authority in urban areas has that responsibility). Consent from the Department of Energy & Climate Change for drilling is only given once planning has been obtained.

Normal planning application procedures appear to be relevant, but the Government is consulting on changing how landowners and tenants are notified. Notification would be required to be served on individual owners of land above ground area where work is needed, but the requirement may be removed for owners of land where only underground operations may take place.

As with all planning decisions, the judgment is based upon the relevant material considerations taken into account when a planning decision is made. In July 2013, the Government provided a list of ‘principal issues’ for consideration in planning decisions for onshore oil and gas sites. The guidance is to assist councils taking such planning decisions and to provide more certainty about the issues they should be talking into account. However, this guidance has also been criticised in the media as being ‘biased towards granting permission’.

People will have seen the well publicised issues from the recent Queen’s Speech regarding the changes in trespass laws, and the introduction of more planning reforms to speed up development.

Are local authorities able to introduce additional requirements (taxes or otherwise) for fracking companies to fulfil?

Not that I can see. However, councils approving local sites for fracking will be permitted to retain all the business rates from the venture—estimated at £1.7m a year. It will be argued by some that this is an incentive which will influence authorities to grant consent and this may also raise issues of alleged bias towards the process.
Does a local authority have any obligations to ensure the safety/appropriateness of the fracking operation?

All drilling operations are subject to notification to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), but this will not directly be the responsibility of the council (although councils do have some health and safety responsibilities).

Additionally, each site is assessed by the Environment Agency (EA).
The UK has one of the most stringent offshore drilling safety regimes in the world and, in 2012, the EA and HSE produced a joint working strategy for monitoring and inspection of unconventional oil and gas operations.
Should local authorities be considering additional health monitoring if fracking is undertaken in their area?

Concerns about fracking include greenhouse gas emissions and incidents of water pollution, although again, these are not directly part of the council’s responsibility. Much of the information regarding environmental and health risks has come from the US. The EA and the Royal Academy of Engineering view associated risks as being ‘unlikely’.

Do fracking companies have any obligations to involve the local authority in the decision-making process?

The fracking companies must involve the council and any other regulatory agency as set out above and where appropriate in seeking consents, but are under no other obligation to consult. It is usual for ‘pre-application discussions’ to take place before any major planning application is submitted.
Some councils have investments in fracking companies, which in turn will lead to further accusations of bias and conflicts of interest. Councils will say that they are very used to dealing with issues such as this and to separating out their various functions and roles where this is required.

David Brammer is head of SGH Martineau's planning practice. He was interviewed by Fran Benson.

If you would like to read more free insight from LexisNexis about legal issues affecting the Built Environment, then please read its new ‘Purpose Built’ blog that covers property, construction, planning and environmental law.
The views expressed by LexisNexis' Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.

Welsh Government must listen to concerns on fracking

The Party of Wales leader Leanne Wood has challenged the First Minister to listen to public concerns about fracking and to use Assembly planning powers to block any drilling for shale gas under people’s homes without their consent.

She has warned that Welsh councils are desperate for leadership from the Welsh Government on the matter, and reminded the First Minister that it is within his power to stop this intrusive practice.

The Party of Wales leader Leanne Wood said:

“The Welsh Government must show leadership on fracking. While the UK Government are offering tax breaks for companies to drill for gas under people’s homes without their consent, councils are looking for leadership from the Welsh Government as to how they should respond.

“The First Minister of Wales should stand up and fight on the side of the people in Wales who have deep concerns about this. The Welsh government could introduce a de-facto moratorium on fracking by using planning system. Plaid Cymru has said that no fracking should go ahead until and unless it can be proven to be safe.

“The First Minister has an opportunity here to do something about his stated concerns about the impact of fracking. We welcome his call for Wales to have full powers over energy and planning, and we will hold him to account on that, but he can do something about this now.

“Plaid Cymru will hold the First Minister to account on his calls for more powers to legislate over energy and planning.”

The Party of Wales Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food Llyr Gruffydd said:

“If we are to develop a sustainable future for Wales, then the Welsh Government needs to have a firmer grip on delivering that. That’s why it is essential that all powers over energy are devolved to Wales.

“We want to build a green economy and move away from an economy dependant on carbon intensive fossil fuel.”