Plans to remove the need for planning permission to explore for shale gas and to make production proposals for government to determine have been rejected by Kent County Council.
KCC has this week responded to two government consultations into whether to allow non-hydraulic fracturing exploration under Permitted Development rights and to allow plans for the production phase to become nationally significant infrastructure projects.
This means decisions on whether to grant or refuse permission is taken away from local councils and allowed under a blanket government agreement or a government appointed Inspector.
Both types of development would currently be for the county council to determine.
KCC, in its response, described the plans as “frustrating for local communities” and “contrary to local democracy”.
KCC cabinet member for planning Mike Whiting said: “Local decision making is fundamental to our planning system.
“Whilst recognising that shale gas development may have the potential to assist in securing energy supplies and delivering economic benefits, it is a contentious form of development that does not lend itself to a permitted development process.
“Such development requires decision making at the local level, where the community voice can be properly considered in shaping these proposals and in ultimately determining whether development should go ahead or not.”
Despite the consultation stating government remains committed to ensuring local communities are fully involved in planning decisions that affect them, KCC said it was not clear how that would be delivered if non-hydraulic fracturing is considered permitted development.
KCC has also highlighted that areas including green belt, ancient woodland, Special Protection Areas, Special Areas of Conservation, Ramsar – wetland – sites and areas affecting listed buildings should not be included for permitted development.
Mr Whiting continued: “There is no clear role for the community voice to be properly considered in a permitted development proposal.
“The proposed regime is likely to be confusing and frustrating for local communities which rightly expects full community involvement for this type of development.”
“In the past, Kent has received applications for exploratory boreholes, none of which involved fracking so would be development that would fall within the remit of this consultation.
“From that experience, we are aware of the considerable environmental concerns that were raised, including the detailed information that was sought by the Environment Agency and others in order for it to be able to form a view on the acceptability or otherwise of development for exploratory work.
“As a result of the additional information that was required, the three applications in Kent were withdrawn.
“The experience in Kent demonstrated that there is not a simple list that can be ticked to demonstrate compliance and that the issues raised require a bespoke solution which is tested at planning application stage.”