Media Briefing Note: UK Task Force and Government Continue to Fight for Shale Gas Sector

The UK Task Force on Shale Gas, headed by former cabinet minister and former chair of the Environment Agency Lord Smith, yesterday released a report supporting the development of a UK shale industry as a means of enabling the UK's transition to renewables and a low carbon economy.

The report supports the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in tandem with shale gas, recommending tax revenues from shale be used to fund research into CCS and renewables; in contrast to Government's suggested subsidies or tax breaks for shale itself.

In further moves to promote the UK shale gas industry, Government also announced the detail of changes to the planning system to ensure that local authorities make prompt decisions on shale gas planning applications. Authorities that fail to make decisions within statutory timescales will be identified and when further applications are made to those authorities, the Secretary of State will consider whether he should determine those applications himself.

The Government has also confirmed that the criteria used to decide which planning appeals will be recovered for determination by the Secretary of State will be revised so that shale gas proposals are specifically included for consideration.

Commenting on these developments, Louise Moore, environment partner at Hogan Lovells, said:
"The UK Task Force on Shale Gas has demonstrated that shale can provide a vital "bridge" to a low carbon future, and need not hinder, but could indeed support, the development of renewables, carbon capture and storage and other new technologies.

"Public opinion on the development of shale gas remains divided and developers have faced stiff local opposition to projects, but the Government is still looking to a 'shale gas revolution' in the UK. The conclusions of the Task Force may help to give the public more confidence in the future of shale gas in the UK, whilst the confirmed changes to the planning system are a positive step that will be welcomed by the industry."

Claire Dutch, planning partner at Hogan Lovells, added:
"In the wake of the high profile planning refusals in Lancashire, the government has acted quickly.  Without changing the law, it has sent a clear message to local authorities that planning applications will be taken out of their hands if they are not dealt with positively and efficiently. However, in areas where local opposition is strong, local authorities may actually favour the decision being made by Whitehall."

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