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Conservatives want fracking - what about Wiltshire?

October 28, 2018 10:02 PM

The government's drive for more fracking and their determination to over-ride any local opposition has hit the headlines recently. A few years ago licenses were issued for exploration in Wiltshire. Nothing happened at the time, but will the threat return? Here's a message from Friends of the Earth:

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In 2015 Wiltshire was included in areas covered by new Petroleum Exploration and Development licence (or PEDLs), granted by the Government to allow exclusive rights to the operator for the future development of onshore oil and gas, including shale gas exploration using hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). Wiltshire Council responded at the time to a government consultation, raising a number of significant local concerns about the impact of oil and gas exploration activities on the county and on local communities. Although that PEDL has since been withdrawn there would appear to be no reason in principle why it could not be re-issued to another operator.

Changes to the planning system to fast-track fracking

In May, the Government issued a Written Ministerial Statement which set out its proposed amendments to the planning system in relation to shale gas exploration. Amongst the proposals are two key changes which they are currently consulting on.

These are:

  1. Granting planning permission for non-hydraulic shale gas exploration development through a permitted development right. This would remove the need for companies to submit a planning application for exploratory drilling for shale gas.
  2. The inclusion of shale production projects into the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects Regime. This would take decision-making powers on shale gas production away from local councils and hand it to central Government.

Friends of the Earth's briefing explains these in greater detail. The changes represent a significant reduction in the ability of locally-elected councillors to determine the development of fracking in their area.

What will fracking mean for your local area?

The opening paragraph of the Government's consultation document on permitted development states that:

"Domestic onshore gas production, including shale gas has the potential to play a major role in further securing our energy supplies."

New research from Cardiff Business School reveals that to replace 50% of the UK's current gas imports would, under the most likely scenario, require around 6100 fracking wells taking up the equivalent of 4900 football pitches in total. To achieve this would require drilling a new fracking well every day for the next fifteen years.

You can find a summary and the full version of this important research on the Friends of the Earth website.

And shale gas development will most likely happen in areas covered by PEDL licences such as Wiltshire was in the recent past.