Fracking exploration could become exempt from planning applications as part of the government’s plan to reform laws surrounding the controversial practice.
The government is considering granting testing for the gas extraction technique permitted development rights, which would eliminate the need to apply to the local authority for planning permission.
The rights would only apply to shale gas exploration to allow companies to take samples for testing purposes and not for fracking itself.
The definition proposed by government would allow “boring for natural gas in shale or other strata encased in shale for the purposes of searching for natural gas and associated liquids, with a testing period not exceeding 96 hours per section test”.
Any development that would have a significant effect on the environment and requires an environmental impact assessment would not be a permitted, the consultation document said.
The consultation said: “Recent decisions on shale exploration planning applications remain disappointingly slow against a statutory time frame of 16 weeks where an environmental impact assessment is required.
“Where there has been agreement on time extensions, applications determined by mineral planning authorities have taken up to 83 weeks for a decision.
“The government is committed to help ensure every planning application is dealt with as quickly as possible.”
The consultation has been opposed by environmental campaigners and Friends of the Earth has set up a petition against the changes, which has been signed by almost 24,000 supporters.
“The government wants to drastically rewrite planning rules that would make it easier for fracking companies to start drilling in search of climate-wrecking fossil fuels deep underground.
“Local people and councils will be side-lined. They are the ones that will be most affected by these changes,” the petition said.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government department consultation will run until 25 October this year.
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