Point 5 (Planning) states that as of today:
- Appeals against any refusals of planning permission for exploring and developing shale gas, or against non-determination, will be treated as a priority for urgent resolution. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government may also want to give particular scrutiny to these appeals. To this end he will revise the recovery criteria and will consider for recovery appeals for exploring and developing shale gas. This new criterion will be added to the recovery policy issued on 30 June 2008 and will be applied for a period of two years after which it will be reviewed.
- The Secretary of State will also actively consider calling in shale applications. Each case will be considered on its individual merits in line with his policy. Priority will be given to any called-in planning applications.
- The Government commits to identifying under-performing local planning authorities that repeatedly fail to determine oil and gas applications within statutory time frames. When such applications are made to under-performing local planning authorities, the Secretary of State will consider whether he should determine the application instead.
- The Government has published its response to consultation and will take forward amending permitted development rights to allow the drilling of boreholes for groundwater monitoring. The Government is also inviting views on proposals for further rights to enable, as permitted development, the drilling of boreholes for seismic investigation and to locate and appraise shallow mine workings. These proposals will speed up the delivery of essential monitoring information for safety and environmental protection and free local resources for where the express attention of the local planning authority is required.
This policy shows that it local planning authorities have no power – if a local authority doesn’t give the Government the response they want, the Government will label them ‘under-performing’ and make the desired decision on their behalf. So why bother with the charade of a local authority in the first place? And, why bother with appeals – they will simply be ‘resolved’ to fit the desired action the Government wants. None of this is democratic. Yet sadly it’s what I’ve come to expect from a Conservative Government (for whom I didn’t vote).