Please respond to the government consultation that aims to rewrite the rules so that fracking applications will be even harder for local planning authorities to refuse.
OK, I’m in. Firstly, what’s the NPPF?
NPPF stands for National Planning Policy Framework, the current version of which you can find here. This very important document sets out the Government’s planning policies in the UK and how they should be applied by local authorities. It was first published in March 2012 to give guidance to local councils and planning authorities on how they should view planning applications, and is about to be updated.
So I’m guessing that guidance on fracking is included in this Policy Framework?
It is indeed, and the government’s attempts to further promote fracking (or ‘unconventional hydrocarbons’ in NPPF-speak) in the proposed revision of the NPPF are very concerning, to say the least.
Is the current version of the NPPF weighted against the oil and gas industry, then?
Far from it. For example, Paragraph 144 of the current NPPF, which is often quoted by fracking companies at planning hearings and public enquiries, says, “When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should give great weight to the benefits of mineral extraction, including to the economy.” (in planning circles, oil and gas come under the heading of ‘minerals’).
Hmm. So what is the Government suggesting in the new version?
They want to revise the text of the NPPF so that it is weighted even more strongly in favour the fracking industry – or ‘unconventional hydrocarbons’, in NPPF parlance. For example, it proposes that the notorious Paragraph 144 is changed to the following: “Minerals planning authorities should recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development, including unconventional hydrocarbons, for the security of energy supplies and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy; and put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction.”
Blimey! So they’re ordering planning authorities to ignore the wishes of local people and their elected representatives and approve all fracking applications on the basis of some highly contentious nonsense about ‘supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy’.
I couldn’t have put it better myself. And that’s not the only paragraph that they want to change in favour of the struggling UK fracking industry. Which is why we are encouraging everyone who is opposed to fracking to respond to the consultation. If thousands of people kick up a fuss about this, it will make it much harder for the Government to include these revisions in the new version of the NPPF.
The Draft Text for the updated NPPF that’s up for consultation can be found here, and the consultation proposals can be found here. However, before you go clicking on the links, be aware that the NPPF contains planning guidance on every aspect of national planning policy, such as inner city regeneration, land use, the Green Belt, communications infrastructure, transport and particularly building new houses. So to make life easier, we’ve prepared a quick guide on how you can comment on the sections that directly relate to fracking.
That’s very kind of you.
We live to serve. So, to respond to the consultation you need to write your comments on this online form. We have listed below the chapters that you might want to comment on, although of course you can comment on any or all the other sections too.
When’s the deadline for submissions?
The consultation deadline is 11.45pm on Thursday 10th May 2018. So why not do it now, seeing as you’ve got this far? It won’t take long and then you can feel you have done your bit.
OK. Better get on with it then. So how do I start?
Go to the online submission form, read the introduction and click Next. Then fill in your personal details and say whether this is a personal submission or if you are responding on behalf of an organisation. When you click Next, you arrive at the Contents page. Choose a chapter to comment on – see below – then click Next.
The most important chapter to comment on is Chapter 17, Facilitating the sustainable use of minerals. So select this chapter and click Next. The key sections regarding oil and gas exploration and extraction are paragraphs 201, 204 and 205, and we have copied these onto this downloadable guidelines we have prepared below.
If you want to read the whole of Chapter 17, you can click here and scroll down to page 56.
How do I add my comments to the online submission form?
You will see that in Chapter 17 of the online form there are three questions, 37, 38 and 39. The key question is 37, which asks “Do you have any comments on the changes of policy in Chapter 17, or on any other aspects of the text of this chapter?”. Under that question is a box for your response.
For other ways to respond to this consultation, please see the end of this webpage.
Do you have any suggested responses?
Funny you should ask that. We actually have two options here. If you’re in a hurry, please click on this NPPF Consultation Quick Response document. Here you will find some suggested responses that you can just drop into the space on the form (although if you have time to put them in your own words, that would be great).
If you have more time and want to go into this a bit more deeply, then please go to our NPPF Consultation Detailed Response document. This develops the arguments and gives you more options on what to say, as well as giving some ideas on what to say in response to other parts of the NPPF.
OK, I’ve done question 37. What about questions 38 and 39?
Question 38 asks: “Do you think that planning policy on minerals would be better contained in a separate document?”. We suggest that you answer ‘No’ here, and again we have provided guidelines on how to answer this question in the Quick Response and Detailed Response Word Documents (see links above).
Question 39 is about future aggregates provision and is unrelated to fracking. (‘Aggregates’ are things like sand, gravel, etc.). You don’t need to answer that question if you have no view on this.
From a fracking perspective, Chapter 13 (climate change) is well worth making some comments on, as the NPPF is supposed to be a blueprint for how we can meet our climate change commitments, but at the same time is making the guidelines for hydrocarbons much more favourable than those for renewable energy production. For more information, see the NPPF Consultation Detailed Response document.
Also Friends of the Earth have produced this very useful guide on how to respond to the NPPF, with suggested responses to other parts of the consultation. Well worth checking out.
Is there any other way I can respond to the consultation?
You can also send your comments by email to the following email address:
Or you can send them by post to Planning Policy Consultation Team Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 3rd floor, South East Fry Building 2 Marsham Street LONDON SW1P 4DF.
If you are responding by email or by post, then please make sure you include your full name and address.
Incidentally, on page 4 of the NPPF Consultation Proposals document it says: ‘Should you be unable to complete the online form we ask that you complete the pro forma found at the end of this document’. However, there is actually no pro forma at the end of the document (!) so if you are submitting by email or post, we suggest you just use a Word Document or write comments in the body of the email. Please make sure you say that you are sending a response to the National Planning Policy Framework Consultation, and that you refer to the relevant sections in the NPPF about oil and gas policy (Sections 204-6), and that you are answering Question 37.
Well, that was fun! Are there any more consultations I can respond to?
We’ll keep you posted. There’s bound to be another one along soon. There always is.
Thanks for taking the time to respond to this important consultation. And have a wonderful frack-free day!