The British government announced a new package of measures on Thursday to deliver on the government's manifesto pledge to continue supporting the development of shale gas.
A part of the modern Industrial Strategy, the package was announced by Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry and Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire, a press release said.
The package includes setting up a Shale Environmental Regulator and new Planning Brokerage Service to focus exclusively on the planning process but it would not have a role in the consideration or determination of planning applications.
The strategy aims at "streamlining and improving the regulation process for shale applications to ensure decisions are made in a timely way and developers and local authorities are supported through the process," the statement reads.
The Planning Brokerage Service will not comment on the merits of a case and will also have no role in the appeals process.
The government is also launching a new £1.6 million ($2.1 million) shale support fund over the next two years to build capacity and capability in local authorities dealing with shale applications.
The package also includes "holding a consultation on the principle of whether the early stages of shale exploration should be treated as permitted development, and in particular on the circumstances in which this might be appropriate".
- Shale gas could 'lower bills'
Energy Minister Claire Perry said British shale gas had the potential to help lower energy bills and increase the security of the U.K.’s energy supply while creating high quality jobs in a cutting-edge sector.
"This package of measures delivers on our manifesto promise to support shale and it will ensure exploration happens in the most environmentally responsible way while making it easier for companies and local communities to work together," she added.
Greg Clark, secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, underlined that a surge in natural gas imports was a driving force behind the package.
"The ongoing decline in our offshore gas production has meant that the U.K. has gone from being a net exporter of gas in 2003 to importing over half (53 percent) of gas supplies in 2017 and estimates suggest we could be importing 72 percent of our gas by 2030," Clark said in a written statement to Parliament.
"Our current import mix, via pipelines from Norway and Continental Europe and LNG terminals that can source gas from around the world, provides us with stable and secure supplies.
"However, we believe that it is right to utilize our domestic gas resources to the maximum extent and exploring further the potential for onshore gas production from shale rock formations in the U.K., where it is economically efficient, and where environment impacts are robustly regulated," he added.
By Hale Turkes