Third Energy’s shale gas exploratory drilling application will be considered by North Yorkshire councillors today. To date, there has been a lack of exploratory drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the UK, meaning that we do not currently have a true assessment of the UK’s shale gas potential. This makes today’s decision vitally important.
The Council’s own planning officers have recommended approval for drilling at this site, stating that there are no planning reasons to oppose this application. The county planning authority is “satisfied that the mitigation of the effects of the development with regard to safeguarding the local landscape and protection against adverse visual impacts are both appropriate and proportionate.” This gives councillors no good reason to block exploration at this site.
Regrettably, past experience would suggest that councillors may end up rejecting planning permission in any case. In Lancashire, for example, planning permission for Cuadrilla’s shale gas application was rejected despite recommendation for approval from the Council’s own planning officers. Spurious grounds of “unacceptable noise and landscape impacts” were cited as reasons for rejecting the application. Rather than objecting to the application on planning grounds, it was blocked due to ideological objections to shale gas. It would not be a surprise if political pressures along with ideological objections to shale gas lead to Third Energy’s application being rejected as well. It is clear that green groups are continuing their campaign to block the application.
As pointed out in the CPS economic bulletin “99p petrol will not last forever”, the Government intervened in Cuadrilla’s Lancashire application, meaning that the Secretary of State, rather than the Planning Inspector, will make the final decision. If councillors refuse planning permission at the Yorkshire site against the advice of planning officers, the Government must intervene again. Unreasonable objections from local authorities cannot be used to frustrate shale exploration across the country, which has the potential to be a huge economic boon for the UK.